For more than 20 years now I've been making our Thanksgiving turkey using a wonderful slow-roast recipe I found in "Let's Cook It Right" by Adelle Davis. She says that in 100 % of taste tests, slow roast meats are preferred. By cooking it this way, the meat is amazingly delicious, juicy, and tender. In slow roasting, following an hour of preheating the meat, the oven temperature is set at the approximate temperature you want the meat when it's done.
Please note: Don't stuff the turkey - cook your stuffing in a separate pan.
Calculation: Length of time to roast the meat: number of pounds of the meat x 25 minutes x 3 + 1 hour for preheating the meat. Oven temp for the hour of preheating is 325 degrees. Oven temp for the remaining time is the "done" temp of the type of meat - for turkey it's 180-185 degrees. And don't open the oven while it's cooking - you'll let all the heat out.
Here's an example of how to do it:
This year we got a 16 lb. turkey. I began thawing the turkey in the refrigerator about 4 days ago. This afternoon I'll wash it, take out the giblets, salt it (plus add other herbs if desired), put it in a turkey sized roasting bag (follow bag directions). I place mine BREAST DOWN in the bag, then put that on a rack in my roasting pan (it doesn't need a cover because of the roasting bag - if you aren't using a roasting bag, cover your pan - placing it breast down allows the cooking juices to flow into the breasts and makes even the breasts very good and juicy). Put it in the oven for 1 hour at 325 degrees (to kill any surface bacteria), then turn the oven down to somewhere between 180-200 degrees. The "done" temperature for turkey is 180-185 degrees - my oven's lowest temp is somewhere close to 200 degrees so I use that. Since cooking time is 25 minutes per pound X 3, if I put it in at approx. 4pm today, my 16 lb. turkey will be ready at around 1pm tomorrow. The calculations are as follows: 25 (minutes per lb.) x 16 (my 16 lb. turkey) x 3 = 1200 minutes (or 20 hours when it's divided by 60 minutes in an hour). So that's 1 hour for preheating the turkey at 325 degrees plus 20 hours at the low temp = 21 hours.
After that the turkey can be held in the oven a little longer until I'm ready to eat (for up to 24 hours of total cooking and holding time). I want the turkey to be ready about 1pm* tomorrow. To give it 21 hours, I'll get it in the oven by 4pm today.
This is a no fail recipe. If the meal is delayed, it can wait in the low temp oven, if the meal needs to be earlier, then the oven can be turned up to finish cooking it the tradtional way. It's still just as wonderful.
In the morning you'll wake up to a delightful smell in your house. With this recipe you don't need to learn how to carve a turkey either - it just falls off the bones. Of course that means it won't be a turkey that you can put whole on a platter and carve at the table either. You'll serve it in juicy pieces on a platter - but afterall, what do we want, pretty or delicious?
*I take my turkey out of the oven about an hour before we plan to eat so that I'll have the oven available to bake my various side dishes. I will stick the turkey back in to warm it after that, if I feel I need to. This year I think I'll serve it a little differently. I have an electric fry pan that has a low setting. I think I'll let the turkey cool enough to handle and then put the pieces in the electric pan, cover it, and keep it warm for the hour or so until it's time to eat.