3 Tips for a Delicious Turkey
I don't cook. Most of my meals consist of cold spaghettio's straight from the can and a multivitamin. When my grandmother, the family matriach, passed away leaving the family scattered about for Thanksgivings with nowhere central to gather, I had to get my act together and cook a turkey for the few distant relatives and other stragglers that showed up at my house. In a panic, I called my chef friend who was once the head chef at Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, and asked how to cook a turkey. He was incredibly disgruntled because common poulty is a bit below him ("cook three ducks and a few gaming hens instead") but eventually I got some real answers, and now ever year my turkey (the 1 thing I cook) is generally a success. I dropped it one year, but it still tasted okay..
Get Under the Skin
First thing, gently peel up the skin of the turkey, and shove your hand up in there, like in the picture. Then, take a rub of butter and some spices and lather that breast meat with your buttersauce, under the skin. Butter/juices/spices etc can't really penetrate the skin, so sprinkling sage on top of your turkey isn't doing anything but making a martha stewart photo op. You must get your flavor between the skin and the meat.
Use Lots of Butter
Butter, butter, butter, more butter. I used 1lb of butter spread throughout and within my 28lb turkey. Butter is delicious. It's thanksgiving, don't worry about the calories, just get that butter on there.
Cook on Lower Heat
Start your turkey out at 475 degrees for 20 minutes. Then turn it down to 250 degrees and cook for twenty minutes a pound. It takes longer, but cooking at a lower heat makes your turkey much jucier. At 250 degrees, 20 mintues a pound, your turkey WILL be fully cooked, do not worry.
Cook Breast Side Down
You don't really have to do this one, and there are two different methods here: cooking breast side down the entire time, or flipping your turkey mid cook. The second way is effing hard. I tried it once. I ended up ripping the skin off the turkey, burned myself badly, and nearly dropped the whole concoction. The turkey WAS decidedly more juicy than previous years, but it wasn't worth the effort.
So.. if you are going to risk this, I suggest cook it breast side down the entire time. You risk ripped skin, so if you enjoy skin on turkey, maybe not the best. If you just really want super juicy turkey meat, this can work.
Only Cook Your Turkey to 165 Degrees
Many sites recommend 170 or 180 degrees inside. That's a bit high. FoodSafety.gov reccomends turkey to be cooked to 165 degrees (http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html) at the thickest part. At that temperature, your meat is safe to eat. When you go higher than that, you lose tenderness and juciness. Don't get paranoid about poisoning your guests, pull your turkey out of the oven as soon as it hits 165 degrees.
If all else fails, you can shove a chicken inside your turkey, a duck inside the chicken, and a gaming hen inside the duck, wrap the whole thing in bacon, and set it on fire.