This might be my favorite Thanksgiving turkey to date. My first time cooking a turkey for the family, on the big day.
Turkey (we used an organic heritage #20 monster)
Montreal Steak Seasoning (a seasoning blend of salt, pepper, garlic, and some other spices)
The night before:
Cut out the backbone, spatchcock (open up) the bird. Set the neck, back, and giblets aside for tomorrow. Season the turkey liberally, skin side and inside, with Montreal Steak Seasoning. Put it on a rack in your pan, and put it in the fridge, uncovered.
The day of:
Try to calculate your cooking time. This is hard, honestly, and will take some finesse. How well do you know your oven? Some recipes work out to 6 minutes per pound, some advise 10 minutes per pound. My 20 pound bird was done in just under 2 hours, and was actually fairly OVERdone (about 20 degrees past what I was shooting for). (Your end-goal is 145 in the breast and 165 in the thigh).
So. In my GE Cafe oven, I cooked the bird for about two hours. Next time, I'd leave 90 minutes. 5 minutes per pound was perfect for me. If your oven is slower, or lets out a lot of steam while you cook, give yourself more time. Here's my time-line, with dinner at 4pm
11:30am - Get the turkey out, put it on the counter. Chop veggies - celery and onions - into big chunks. (Honestly, these were DROWNING in broth/drippings at the end of the cooking time, and completely unusable...but maybe they gave some flavor to the bird??). The veggies go into the bottom of the roasting pan, then the rack, then the bird. Tuck the wing tips in, like he's got his hands behind his head. Nice and chill. Season it a bit more- the salt has melted into the meat.
12:00 pm - Turn the oven to 450.
12:30 pm - Bird goes in the oven!
1:00pm - Turn the oven down to 400. Watch the skin, don't let it burn! Mine got as dark as I wanted it around 1:30, so I turned the oven down to 350.
1:45pm - Start checking the bird. You're looking for 145 in the breast, and 165 in the thigh. You can pull it a few degrees below that - it will continue to cook as you let it rest.
At 2, my bird was done, so I changed the oven setting to Warm (200 degrees) and just left it there.
3:30 - Take the bird out of the oven
4:00 - Carve the bird!
I used this recipe as my base, and followed their gravy recipe, substituting corn starch for flour. (If using corn starch, don't brown it. Just make a slurry of cornstarch and cooled broth, and mix it into boiling broth, then cook it down until it's nice and condensed. I used about 4 big scoops of cornstarch for 6 cups of broth to make gravy.)