Step 1 MAKE THE BRINE | Turkeys are notorious for cooking up dry as cardboard. Soaking the turkey in a mild salt solution before cooking will not only make for a juicier turkey, but it will help to safeguard against dry meat in case the bird is accidentally overcooked. Make sure to check the label of your turkey, or ask the butcher first, to make sure that the bird hasn’t already been brined, or 'treated' (some are, in which case, skip the brine step). To make the brine, whisk 1/4 cup fine salt into 8 cups water until dissolved.
Step 2 REMOVE THE GIBLETS AND NECK| Check both ends of the bird and pull these out. Save and refrigerate them for making the gravy later on. The neck, heart and liver, will add a ton of flavor to the gravy.
Step 3 BAG THE TURKEY IN THE BRINE | The easiest solution to storing the brining turkey is to bag the turkey in a large heavy duty zip lock bag. A 33 cm by 40cm bag will fit a 4.5kg turkey. Place the turkey in the bag, then fill it with the brine solution. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. If you have room in your fridge, place the bagged bird in a large container to keep it propped up and the seal from breaking. You can also place the bird (seal up) in an empty veggie drawer in the bottom of the fridge. Otherwise, place the bag on a tray (seal up) and place the tray on a shelf in the fridge, making sure the bag is propped up. You can tape the bag as well, to keep it sealed. Brine the turkey overnight, or a minimum of six hours.
Step 4 PREHEAT THE OVEN AND PAT AT THE TURKEY DRY | Place the oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 218°C. A turkey with crispy skin is very desirable. One of the secrets to getting this is to start with nice, dry, skin (wet skin will just steam). Remove the turkey from the brine (the sink is a good place), and place it on a rimmed tray to catch any juices. Pat the outside of the body dry with paper towels.
Step 5 ROAST RIGHT SIDE UP | Do you see the position of the bird in the pic? Do make sure that the bird is right side up. That means that the plump breast is on top. The wings will be pointing up. Sometimes the legs are secured with the turkey skin (as in the pic). Leave it this way. If the legs are not secured, tie the ankles together with twine or cheesecloth.
Step 6 MIX THE HERB BUTTER AND SLATHER THE BIRD WITH IT | In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons each of thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley in 12 tablespoons soft butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper until combined into a paste. The herbs will ensure flavorful turkey meat with a lovely fresh flavor. Butter adds moisture to the lean meat, and crisp up the skin. One of the secrets here is to get the flavored butter under the skin, not just on top. To do this, start on one side of the breast and gently work your hand in between the skin and the flesh, loosening the skin as you go. Fit your hand into the pocket that you’re creating and generously rub the herb butter into the meat. Do this on the other side of the breast and then down into each leg area, reaching as far back as you can. Spread any remaining butter on the outside skin. Stick the lemons inside the cavity of the turkey. This will add flavor and help keep the turkey moist.
Step 7 SECURE THE SKIN | Once the skin has been loosened, secure the edges back to the meat to prevent the skin from shrinking as the turkey roasts. To do this, pull the skin over the flesh as taut as you can and pin it with toothpicks. Do this wherever you see loss skin along the edges.
Step 8 PLACE TURKEY IN PAN, TUCK THE WINGS BACK, PLACE IN OVEN | Place the turkey in a large roasting pan with a rack set at the bottom. Ideally, the turkey should be raised a bit off the bottom of the pan, so that the fat and juices can fall below. Exposed wings will overcook and may burn if left at the sides, so tuck them underneath the bird. Grab the tip of the wing, and lift it to the back and under the body.
Step 9 PLACE TURKEY IN OVEN AND START GRAVY | Place the turkey in the oven and reduce the temp to 190°C. While the turkey is roasting, make the stock for the gravy. Place the giblets and neck in a pot and simmer with onions and celery for 45 minutes. Strain and reserve the broth.
Step 10 ROAST TURKEY AND FINISH GRAVY | Roast approximately 15 minutes per half kilo. The inside thickest part of the thigh should reach about 80°C. It’s important to use a thermometer here. Try not to open the oven door too many times while roasting to keep the oven temp consistent. If desired, use a baster to baste pan drippings over the bird about halfway through roasting. Check the temperature of the turkey about 30 minutes before it should be done. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle in. While the turkey is resting, finish the gravy. Serve, garnishing the turkey with the lemons from the inside cavity, and fresh herbs.