Choose a small, fresh turkey in the 14-pound-and-under category. Large turkeys take longer to cook, making the outer meat likely to overcook and dry out before the interior meat is cooked. If you’re feeding more than 12 people, buy two small turkeys rather than one big one.
Brine the turkey. Two good things happen during brining. Salt draws out the blood, cleansing the bird, and is absorbed into the meat, which becomes juicy and seasoned right down to the bone. Sugar rounds out the salty flavor and helps the turkey brown. If you purchase a frozen turkey, brining greatly improves the flavor.
Two varieties of turkeys should not be brined: kosher turkeys, which have already been salted, and self-basting turkeys, which have been injected with salted broth.