When selecting a turkey, buy a fresh one if possible. Allow about one pound of uncooked bird per person—more if you want leftovers.

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Credit: © Frances Janisch
  • Make turkey stock with the neck and giblets.
  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator one to two hours before roasting.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Dry with paper towels. Lightly season the turkey, inside and out, with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the stuffing loosely into the chest cavity and the smaller neck cavity. Cover the stuffed neck area with the skin flap; if you wish, sew or skewer it shut and do the same to the chest cavity. Truss the bird with twine by tying the legs together, then bring the string around to the neck and tie it, securing the wings to the body.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up, on a greased rack in a shallow roasting pan just large enough to hold it.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt one stick of butter. Dampen and wring out a 14-by-24-inch piece of cheesecloth. Soak it in the butter until the cloth is evenly coated and all the butter has been absorbed. Double the cheesecloth and drape it over the turkey breast (this ensures a moist, not overcooked breast).
  • Put the turkey in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 325°. Roast the bird for about 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird and 16 minutes per pound for an unstuffed one. Using a large bulb baster, baste the turkey through the cheesecloth with the pan drippings every 30 minutes. About 45 minutes before the turkey is finished, remove the cheesecloth. Continue to roast, basting every 15 minutes, until the bird is browned, the juices in the inner thigh run clear when pricked and an instant-read thermometer thrust into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) registers between 160° and 180° (the USDA specifies that cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 180° will kill all bacteria that can cause illness).
  • Transfer the turkey to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 15 and up to 30 minutes before carving (see Making the Gravy).