1(12- to 14-pound) fresh or frozen turkey (completely thawed)
3/4cup(1 1/2 sticks) butterat room temperature
3tablespoonsfinely chopped fresh sage leaves
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Optional aromatics to stuff inside turkeysuch as whole garlic cloves, quartered onion, cut lemons, oranges, or apples, etc.
1cuppure maple syrup
3cupschicken stock/brothOR turkey stock/broth
An hour before roasting, take turkey out of fridge, unwrap, and remove bag of giblets and/or neck (check both neck cavity and body cavity). Place turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan, breast side up, to allow it to dry and come to room temperature.
Place oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and remove the top rack. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir minced fresh sage into softened butter until well combined. Season well with salt and pepper.
Liberally sprinkle the turkey, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Carefully slide your fingers under the skin of the breast and drumsticks to lift it away from the meat. Slip spoonfuls of sage butter underneath the skin and gently smooth over the top of the skin to spread out the butter in a thin layer. Repeat everywhere that you can reach under the skin until all of the butter has been used.
If you are stuffing your bird, fill it with dressing without packing too tightly (cook leftover dressing in a separate baking dish). If you aren't stuffing your bird, you may place a few aromatics inside the cavity (I used a head of garlic, peeled and separated into cloves, and a large quartered apple for this turkey), but it's not required. Truss the turkey legs.
Combine maple syrup and hot water. Use a basting brush to baste the entire turkey. Place turkey in the oven for 2 hours, basting with maple syrup every 30 minutes. If the breast and/or the tops of the drumsticks turn golden brown before the rest of the turkey, shield them with foil.
After 2 hours, remove the turkey from the oven and insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the meatiest part of the thigh (without touching the bone). Baste the turkey with syrup once more and arrange the strips of bacon over the top of the turkey with no gaps in between them, until they cover the entire breast. Return the turkey to the oven for about 30 minutes, then baste with syrup again (bacon and all). Continue cooking, watching the bacon closely so that it turns crisp but does not burn. If the bacon is done before the thermometer inserted in the turkey reads 165°F, shield the bacon with foil (as well as any other parts of the turkey that are brown enough, which might end up being the whole turkey) and continue cooking until the turkey is done. (Depending on a variety of factors, a turkey typically takes anywhere from 13 to 20 minutes per pound to cook. The 12 1/2 pound turkey in these photos took about 3 hours to cook).
Once the temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F and the juices are running clear, tilt the turkey in the pan so that the liquids run out of the cavity. Transfer turkey to a cutting board, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, skim the excess fat from the pan drippings. Pour the drippings into a medium pot, scraping brown bits at the bottom of the roasting pan from the turkey but leaving behind any burnt maple syrup sludge. Set pot over medium heat and whisk flour into the drippings until smooth. Gradually add chicken stock while continuously stirring. Raise heat to high and bring to a simmer while stirring regularly, until gravy is thickened to your preferred consistency. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
In my experience, thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator always takes longer than the estimated time. I bought this turkey on Tuesday and it was still partially frozen when I went to cook it on Saturday, so I had to finish thawing it using the cold water method.
I prefer leaving the turkey unstuffed so that it cooks more evenly. However, an unstuffed bird will cook slightly faster than a stuffed one. A brined turkey or an untrussed turkey may also cook faster.
Cooking a turkey that's less than 12 pounds will require less than 3 hours to cook. You should probably check the temperature sooner and add the bacon earlier in the cooking process.