The Perfect Bird: Carmellini, Serfer, and DaSilva on How to Roast the Best Thanksgiving Turkey
Season: If you brined your turkey, season very lightly with salt and pepper. If you didn't brine the turkey, do as Serfer says: "Season with a lot more salt and pepper than you would ever need." Estimate two tablespoons of kosher salt and about one teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Don't forget to season the cavity.
Forget the internal stuffing: "It's just not worth the effort for the little amount of stuffing that you get," Serfer says. The amount of stuffing is rarely sufficient to feed a lot of people. And, most important, preparing the stuffing inside the cavity results in uneven cooking. That's because stuffing has to reach about 160 degrees before it can be safely consumed. By that time, you'll have a dried-out turkey.
So Serfer recommends making the stuffing separately. It's genius. It's called dressing.
Add aromatics to the cavity: Feel free to add carrots, onion, celery, and herbs inside the bird's cavity. Serfer adds a whole head of garlic and thyme. But don't overdo it or the bird will cook unevenly. It should be only lightly stuffed (with aromatics, no stuffing!).
Double-check the oven's temperature and set a timer: Roasting a turkey takes a few hours, so it's important to keep things progressing smoothly. "Keep the oven temperature as consistent as possible," Serfer says. If necessary, buy a thermometer to double-check the oven's temperature before you put the turkey in. Set a timer so you don't lose track of the cooking time.
Roast: Once your timer is in place, set the bird on a heavy roasting pan, atop a roasting rack, breast side up. Place into a 500-degree oven. Roast for about 35 minutes or until the breasts are nicely browned. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and cover the breasts with aluminum foil.
When roasting, don't baste: "If you make a great gravy and don't overcook the turkey, there's no need for the whole baster thing," Carmellini explains. Basting also involves opening and closing the oven door. Doing so lets the heat out of the oven, which means a longer cooking time for the turkey. That means a dry bird.