*Update– 2014– Recommended method.
17 lb. fresh turkey
1/2 lb. butter
I took it out of the fridge, rinsed inside and out.
Then let it come to room temp approximately, (55 degrees) for 2 1/2 hours.
I made a compound butter with thyme, marjoram, parsley and sage. Pushed it under the skin of the breast and all over the outside and inside. Also added a wad of onion, celery and a cored apple to the cavity. Sprinkled a little Lawry's Seasoned salt on the outside.
I tied string around the turkey to pull in the wings, and another lower down on the body to lift it out later.
I poured a can of chicken stock, water, parsley and added the neck and giblets to the roasting pan.
Roasted the turkey breast side down for the first 4 hours. Cooked first half hour at 400 degrees, then 330 for 2 1/2 hours, then cut to 275 to slow things down a bit. Added foil at midpoint and basted every half hour or so. Last half hour, rolled the turkey over to brown the breast.
I put it in the oven at 11:30 am. Rolled it over at about 4:30 ish, then at about 5, turned off the oven, took it out at 5:30. Temp reading was about 165. Very tender and delicious. No overcooked white meat.
There is a lot of information on how to cook a whole turkey. I have found that the smaller size is usually more satisfactory--less likely to dry out and more tender. The size would be from 12 to 18 pounds. If you have a lot of people to cook for, use up to about a 24 pound bird. The timing varies a lot because of oven temperatures, how cold the bird is and whether or not you stuff it. The guidelines are always printed on the outside packaging. 4 - 5 hours for a 12 - 16 pound turkey at 325º. I usually use a fresh (not frozen) turkey because thawing a large turkey in the refrigerator takes days and it really is a drag to discover that the bird is still a solid chunk of ice in the middle when you are ready to roast it.
Remove innards from turkey (check front and back). Rinse, dry, stuff and truss turkey before roasting. Truss the legs together and tie string around the whole thing to hold the wings close to the body, or you can tuck the wings down and back under the body. Also, stitch the breast flap closed if you stuff the breast. I use a tool with a sharp end and an eye, like a needle to pull the string through. Use cotton string. Salt the outside and place on a rack in a large roasting pan. Roast at 325º or whatever the package recommends. Start a stock, using the innards, the other half of the parsley that gets used in the stuffing, similar dried herbs, an onion and 2 - 3 stalks celery. This gets used to baste the turkey so make about 3 cups of stock. Just let it simmer for about an hour and then start using it to baste.
I always make a lot, whether it's a small or large turkey, because I put whatever doesn't fit in the turkey into a casserole and cook it separately.
1 large package Pepperidge Farm seasoned stuffing
1 small Package Pepperidge Farm Cornbread stuffing
half a bunch of celery, chopped
4 - 6 onions peeled and chopped
half a bunch of fresh parsley
about a teaspoon each dried sage, thyme and oregano
approximately a teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
a half pound of butter
2 apples, cored and cut in half
1 - 2 cans of canned chicken broth (I've tried making this with turkey stock and didn't like it.)
Don't salt the stuffing if you are using concentrated chicken broth because it will be salty enough with the butter and broth.
Sauté celery and onions in the butter until limp, but not brown. Stir in the seasoning. Add to a large bowl containing the stuffing. Then start adding the chicken broth. It may require some water if it seems too dry.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Half a cut apple goes in the end of the cavity after adding the stuffing. You can stuff the breast and the cavity the same way. They always tell you not to pack it in too tightly or....? what. I've never had an explosion. Might be interesting. If you make a casserole with stuffing, just put the halved apples skin side up, cover heat for about a half hour at 350º.
After the first 45 minutes or so that the turkey is roasting start basting. This helps keep the skin tender and from over cooking. You should check the internal temperature halfway etc. through the suggested cooking time. When the breast and wing tips start to look brown, cover loosely with foil to retard browning and remove toward the last. Let turkey stand about a half hour before carving. This should allow enough time to make gravy.