I am a member at Vocalpoint.com and read a really good article today posted here by Maureen F. that I thought I would share. Many of you will not need this information, but it might help someone. (There is no giveaway and I was not asked to share this.)
How to cook your first bird.
Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. If this is your first lap around the turkey track, you should probably shy away from doing something fancy like frying your turkey. In flames is not how you want Thanksgiving to go down. Stick to a simple recipe that doesn’t require a lot of prep and is easy to execute.
Determine how big a bird you’ll need. If you want leftovers (and who wouldn’t? After making this meal, you’ll be on strike for a while), plan on 1-1.5 pounds per guest. If you want a lot of leftovers, apply that number to even the youngest of attendees. If math’s not your thing, use this handy Plan Perfect Portions calculator.
Choose your bird. Now that you know how much you need, it’s time to decide whether you want fresh or frozen. But keep in mind that either way, you’ll need room to store it.
• If you want a fresh turkey, order it now. It’s rare to find one available right before Thanksgiving. And be prepared: a fresh turkey is a lot pricier than a frozen one.
• Should you decide to go the frozen route, you can pick your turkey up as soon as you see it on sale.
• Don’t worry about getting a turkey with a pop-out thermometer; you’ll go by time and your own instant or leave-in meat thermometer anyway just to be on the safe side. You don’t want your first turkey to end in your first case of salmonella poisoning.
• Before you buy, make sure it’ll fit in your oven. If you don’t have enough room for one ginormous bird, consider cooking a smaller whole turkey in the oven and a turkey breast in your slow cooker. It’s so easy, so tasty, and the gravy practically makes itself. It’s also the perfect choice for smaller crowds.
Pick your pan. You’ll need one big enough to hold your bird. If it doesn’t have a rack, see if one of your cooling racks will fit inside. If not, ball up some aluminum foil for the turkey to rest on. Keeping it off the bottom of the pan helps it to cook more evenly and gives the pan juices a chance to caramelize a bit. Disposable pans are also an option, but keep in mind your turkey will be heavy and a flimsy pan could spell disaster when removing it from the oven.
Thaw your frozen turkey in the fridge one day for every 4-5 pounds. Count your days back from Wednesday, not Thursday, to ensure a complete thaw. If you’re really behind the 8-ball, you can always ‘quick-thaw’ your turkey in the kitchen sink or a bathtub. Fill either one with cold water, lay your turkey in its wrapper breast-side down, and change the water every 30 minutes or so. It takes about 30 minutes per pound to defrost this way.
Figure out when dinner will be served. Use the suggested cooking time located on the bag your turkey came in, along with any recipe you decide to follow, as your guide. Don’t forget to work resting and carving time into your equation when figuring out how soon to put the bird in the oven. Once cooked, your turkey should rest for about 20 minutes; it could take at least that long to carve it, too.
Give your bird a bath. On the big day, put your thawed turkey in the sink. Look inside both cavities for giblet packets and turkey necks; you’ll want to remove these before cooking. They’re definitely in there, so don’t give up if you don’t find them at first. Thoroughly rinse the bird inside and out, remove any stray feathers or other random plastic parts, and pat dry with paper towels. You’ll want to clean your sink thoroughly after your turkey’s safely in the oven.
Prepare your turkey for roasting. If you do nothing else, rub the outside of the bird with oil or melted butter; for an added level of crispy goodness, get some underneath the skin, too. Then sprinkle inside and out liberally with salt and pepper and your turkey will be delicious. But if you want to get a little fancier, do some web browsing; there’s no shortage of suggestions out there. I followed this recipe my first time. It wasn’t too complicated but made me look professional. One more thing: even though your mom probably did it, don’t cook the stuffing in the bird; it’s too risky.
Take your turkey’s temperature. The general consensus is you should cook it 12 minutes per pound at no lower than 325°. Check for doneness by sticking your instant or leave-in meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, right at the crease where the leg attaches to the body; it should read 165°. Keep in mind the breast cooks faster than the rest, so you may need to cover it with foil the last half or third of the estimated cook time to keep it from drying out.
The article was cut off at the “final stages” section, but as stated above, once cooked, your turkey should rest for about 20 minutes; it could take at least that long to carve it, too.
Hope this helps someone!