I just finished up hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We did it early so that we can actually take a vacation next week while everyone else is stuffing themselves silly. I've never cooked a whole bird of any kind, so I did a bit of research first, and this is what I went with. I actually used PW's brine, which I will post next, but I used Alton's method for roasting the turkey. If you're going to use this method, I would recommend watching the YouTube video "Romancing the Bird" to watch how he does it, because the crucial "Turkey Triangle" is not mentioned in this post, but is required if following this method.
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Click here to see how it's done.
2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Make your brine, using your favorite brine recipe. Cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. Fold a piece of aluminum foil into a large triangle. Put it on top of the turkey, covering the breast and leaving the legs and wings exposed. The point will down between the legs, with the larger part of the triangle covering the breast (watch the video for a better explanation). Press the foil down to conform to the shape of the bird. Then remove the foil carefully and set aside, leaving the shape intact.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. Reposition the aluminum foil on the bird and place back in the oven. Roast until the thermometer registers 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.