For all the attention we lavish on Thanksgiving turkeys, the truth is more work does not necessarily yield a better bird. That’s right: You can skip brining, stuffing, trussing and basting. Instead of a messy wet brine, use a dry rub (well, technically a dry brine) — a salt and pepper massage that locks in moisture and seasons the flesh. No stuffing or trussing allows the bird to cook more quickly, with the white and dark meat finishing closer to the same time. And if you oil but don’t baste your turkey, you’ll get crisp skin without constantly opening the oven.
Remove any giblets from the cavity and reserve for stock or gravy. Pat turkey and turkey neck dry with paper towel; rub turkey all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt per pound of turkey, the pepper and the lemon zest, including the neck. Transfer to a 2-gallon (or larger) resealable plastic bag. Tuck herbs and 6 garlic cloves inside bag. Seal and refrigerate on a small rimmed baking sheet (or wrapped in another bag) for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning the bird over every day (or after 12 hours if brining for only 1 day).
Remove turkey from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, uncovered, back on the baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin (this helps crisp it).
When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. In the bottom of a large roasting pan, add the cider and enough wine to fill the pan to a 1/4-inch depth. Add half the onions, the remaining 6 garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Stuff the remaining onion quarters and the lemon quarters into the turkey cavity. Brush the turkey skin generously with oil or melted butter.
Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer pan to the oven and roast 30 minutes. Cover breast with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Cooking Time and Tips
You’ve purchased, defrosted and seasoned your turkey, which means you’re more than halfway to a golden, glorious centerpiece for the feast. Here are answers to the most frequently asked turkey-roasting questions, so you can put the bird in the oven with confidence.
HERE ARE COOKING TIMES FOR YOUR TURKEY
Size of turkey
Approximate cook time at 350 degrees
9 to 11 pounds
12 to 14 pounds
15 to 17 pounds
18 to 20 pounds
21 to 23 pounds
ADD FLAVOR TO THE PAN
To add flavor to both the turkey (and the gravy, if you’re using pan drippings), you’ll want to add aromatics to the turkey cavity and to the bottom of the pan. Some combination of herbs, peeled garlic cloves, quartered onions and lemons, apples, mushrooms, celery, carrots and bay leaves can be used in both places. Then cover the bottom of the pan with a ¼ inch of liquid (wine, cider, beer, broth, water) so the drippings don’t burn.
BUT DO NOT BASTE (UNLESS YOU WANT TO)
Some people swear by basting, but I never baste anymore. Every time you open the oven door to baste, you let the heat out. Basting also gives you a less crisp skin. Instead of basting, rub fat (butter, olive oil or coconut oil, for example) all over the bird just before you tuck it into the oven. Then leave it alone until it’s time to check for doneness.
HOW TO TELL WHEN THE TURKEY IS DONE
Start taking the turkey’s temperature at least 15 minutes before you think it might be done. To check its temperature, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and under the wing, making sure you don’t touch any bones.
Your bird is done when its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Don’t be alarmed if the thigh meat near the bone still looks pink. Some turkeys are naturally pinker than others and a fully cooked bird will often have that color.
LET IT REST
Once your turkey is cooked, let it rest out of the oven, covered loosely with foil, for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
You’ve almost done. There’s just one more, very important step to go: carving. This video will show you the easiest and most efficient route to take.