Delia Smith, around 15 years ago, published what I think is the best ever roast turkey recipe. It's meant to make the main component of an English Christmas dinner and it produces a rich, flavorful, moist turkey. It's fairly labor intensive, but when you come down to it, aren't all roast turkey recipes? And this one produces a fantastic bird.
Delia Smith's Traditional Roast Turkey
I think the secret of success is to give the turkey a good blast of heat and and once you've got it going you can turn your oven down and let the turkey cook more gently. It is also a good precaution to calculate your starting time so that the bird should complete cooking at least 30 minutes before you sit down to eat, in order to let it "relax" and let the juices reabsorb.
1 turkey, about 14 lbs
6 oz softened butter
8 oz fat, streaky, high-quality bacon
salt and pepper
(whichever stuffing you are using)
1 packet of extra-wide tin foil
pre-heat the oven to 425.
The morning you are cooking take your turkey out and stuff it, secure the skin with skewer.
Arrange two large sheets of tin foil across your roasting pan – one lengthways and one widthways. Lay the turkey on its back in the center, then generously (a la Julia Child) rub butter all over, making sure the thigh bones are particularly well-covered. Next season the bird all over with salt and pepper, and lay the bacon over the breast with the slices overlapping each other.
The idea now is to wrap the turkey in the foil. The parcel must be firmly sealed but roomy enough inside to provide air space around most of the upper part of the turkey. So bring one piece of foil up and fold both ends over to make a pleat along the length of the breast bone – but well above the breast. Then bring the other piece up at both ends and crimp and fold to make a neat parcel.
Place the roasting pan on a low shelf in the oven and cook at 425 for 40 minutes.
After that lower the heat to 325 and for a 12 lb bird cook for another 3 hours or 31/2 for a 14 lb bird. Then tear the foil away from the top and sides of the bird and remove the bacon slices to allow the skin to brown and crisp. Turn the heat back up to 400 and cook the turkey for another 30 minutes. The turkey will need a lot of basting during this time so you will probably spend more like 45 minutes. To test if the bird is cooked pierce the thickest part of the leg with a skewer. There should be no trace of pinkness in the juices.
Remove the turkey from the pan, and let it sit on a carving board in a warm-ish place for 30-60 minutes.