There are many recipes for cooking a turkey, but the key to a moist and tender bird, is to cook it slowly (a lower temperature) and to keep it moist.
Older cookbooks written in the 1940s and ’50s, before self-basting turkeys with pop-up timers and 800 help numbers came along, recommend draping soaked cheesecloth over the bird to help maintain its moisture.
For every 3 pounds, you’ll cook the turkey for one hour, or 20 minutes per pound in an oven set at 325°F. So, my 13-pound turkey took approximately 4-½ hours to cook.
The temperature reading should be 165°F when it’s done. Plan another half hour or so for the bird to rest. In all you’ll need to plan 7 hours to prepare the bird, so plan what time you’d like to serve dinner and plan with that time frame.
12-13 pound organic Turkey
1 red onion
1 Fresh Sprig of Thyme
4 Fresh Sage Leaves
1/2 pound of butter
1 cup of olive oil
2 cups of water
1 pint of chicken broth
An hour or to two before cooking your turkey, take it out of the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. Remove the giblets and neck and set aside for stock. Put the turkey in a safe place, out of range of pets.
Once at room temperature rinse the turkey out and pat dry, then season with salt and pepper, inside and out. Quarter the apple and onion and stuff in the bird along with the herbs and then tie the legs together. Place the turkey in a roasting pan without a rack.
The turkey will roast on the lowest rack in the oven; you might need to remove one rack to make room. Preheat oven to 325°F.
While the oven is preheating, melt the butter and add the olive oil and water. This mixture is used to baste the turkey and keep it moist.
Unfold each package of cheesecloth and cut in half. You’ll want to soak enough of the cheesecloth to cover your turkey. I used three of the pieces. You’ll almost wrap it like a mummy, draping the soaked cloth over the bird.
Every 40 minutes (5 times) take the turkey out of the oven (closing the oven door to maintain the heat) and baste with the butter/olive oil/water mixture, soaking the cloth again and immediately returning it to the oven. You can use either a bulb baster or a ladle. The fourth time I soaked the cloth, I used chicken broth, the cloth had dried out and it was easier and faster to pour the liquid over the cloth. Forty minutes after the fourth soaking, I removed the cloth to brown the turkey and basted one last time with the pan drippings. It’s at this point you’ll want to check for doneness.
To check the temperature of the turkey to determine that it is fully cooked, place the thermometer into the thickest point of the breast and when done, all parts of the turkey should register 165°F. Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a serving platter and cover loosely with foil and let it rest for half an hour. By letting the turkey rest, the juices settle and this makes carving the turkey easier.