Cooking the Turkey
How to roast your turkey (brined or not-brined) the usual way:
Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity, rinse under cold running water and place in a saucepan to make the gravy. Reserve the liver to add to the gravy at a later point.
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Place the rinsed and seasoned turkey breast-side down on a rack in a large, heavy, shallow roasting pan. If cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, fill the body cavity with the stuffing now.
Roast the turkey, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour, then turn and continue roasting with the breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165F. when inserted into the largest section of thigh, avoiding the bone (more on that later).
Baste the turkey once every hour with one-half to three-fourths cup of chicken or turkey stock, or any other basting liquid of your choice (more on that later, too).
Remove the turkey from the oven and place on a platter. Tent the turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Use the roasting timetable below to estimate your turkey's approximate cooking time. If stuffed, make sure the temperature of the stuffing has reached 160 to 165F. before removing the turkey from the oven.
Why Roast the Turkey with the Breast Side Down?
I roast the turkey for about half of the cooking time with the breast down to prevent the breast from getting dried out. If you don't feel like turning the turkey over mid-way through the process, tightly cover the breast with aluminum foil, tucking the edges under the bottom of the bird. (This will seal the moisture in, and protect the breast from burning.) Uncover the breast during the last hour of cooking so that the skin can brown, but be sure you don't baste during this last hour; basting will hinder the skin from crisping.
Basting the turkey with the pan juices and stock helps keep it moist. I say do it about once an hour, because every time you open the oven door, you'll lose heat and slow your cooking time.
If you'd like to try something different, baste with melted butter, wine, or any combination of pan juices or stock with these ingredients. (Before putting the turkey in the oven, you also can rub it down real well with softened butter or olive oil, but that's up to you.)
And, no, you don't need one of those special bulb basters to do the job. Just scoop up the pan juices with a big, long-handled spoon and drizzle them over the bird, or pour the basting liquid directly from a measuring cup.
Oh, and remember, don't baste during the last hour of roasting---this will keep the skin on the breast from getting that pretty, crispy, golden brown.
Testing for Doneness
Using a food thermometer is the safest gauge for checking your turkey's doneness, since bacteria are killed at temperatures of 160F. and above.
To check your turkey during cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. The optimal internal temperature is 170 to 180F. At this point the bird will be moist and both light and dark meat will be cooked through. Keep in mind, though, that the turkey will continue to cook once you pull it out of the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving. That said, remove an unstuffed turkey from the oven when it reaches 165 degrees.
Likewise, if baking a stuffed turkey, the stuffing temperature, too, should reach at least 165 degrees. To check the stuffing, insert a thermometer through the body cavity into the thickest part of the stuffing and leave it for 5 minutes. As with the bird, the stuffing temperature will rise a few degrees after the turkey is removed from the oven.
If you don't have an instant-read thermometer, test for doneness by wiggling the tip of the drumstick. If done, the bone should move easily, and the hip joint should give readily or break. Inserting a knife into the thickest area of the inner thigh also can check doneness. If the juices run clear, the turkey is done.