What size turkey do I need? Purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person when buying a whole turkey. You'll have enough for the feast and for leftovers too. Thawing tips: A turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. A whole turkey takes about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds to thaw in the refrigerator.

Do you know where your giblets are? Giblets are the turkey's gizzard, heart and liver. They are tucked inside the turkey in a bag and must be removed before cooking. Check the body cavity and the necck area. When cooked until tender, the giblets are delicious chopped or as pureed additions to gravy.

5 steps to perfection
1. Thaw the turkey and remove neck and giblets from the neck and body cavities.
2. Heat the oven to 325 F for conventional or 300 F for convection ovens.
3. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. If cooking stuffing inside the turkey, fill the body cavity with stuffing now.
4. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone.
5. Roast turkey, uncovered, until meat thermometer registers 180 F. Use roasting timetable in product label to estimate cooking time. If stuffed, make sure the temperature of the stuffing has reached 160 F to 165 F before removing turkey from the oven.

To brine or not to brine Soaking a turkey in brine -- a solution of salt (and often sugar) and a liquid (usually water) -- provides it with a plump cushion of seasoned moisture that will sustain it throughout cooking, she writes. Halve or double this Chez Panisse recipe, but prepare enough brine to cover turkey. Put 2 1/2 gallons cold water in a large nonreactive pot that can hold the liquid and turkey. Add 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup sugar, 2 torn bay leaves, 1 bunch fresh thyme, 1 head garlic (cloves peeled), 5 allspice berries (crushed), 4 smashed juniper berries. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Put turkey into brine. Refrigerate 24 hours. If turkey floats, weight it with a plate and cans to keep it submerged. Remove the bird from brine, rinse and drain. Pat dry. Follow instructions above for roasting, but do not sprinkle turkey with salt. Start checking internal temperature after about 1 1/2 hours. If legs brown, cover loosely with foil. Roast until internal temperature in thigh reaches 165 F. The turkey will gain a bit of weight from absorbed moisture that stays with it through the cooking process. This weight gain translates into moist meat; the salt and sugar in the brine translate into seasoned, flavorful meat.

Smoking on the grill: Smoking cooks by indirect heat. Turkeys 16 pounds or less are suitable for smoking on the grill. Do not stuff the turkey. To grill, start with clean equipment and a good quality charcoal. Build a pyramid of charcoal to one side, ignite the charcoal and let the coals get red-hot. When the charcoal has developed white powdery ash - about 20-30 minutes - place a pan of water in the center of the grill beneath where the turkey will be set. The pan is used to catch the fat and juices that drip from the turkey as it cooks. This prevents a flame-up that could burn the turkey. Carefully push the hot coals evenly around the edge and position the grill rack above. Place the prepared turkey breast-side up on the grill along with an appliance thermometer to maintain safe cooking temperature, then place the cover on the grill. Replenish with about 15 briquettes every hour as needed to maintain 225 F-300 F. If desired, add water-soaked wood chips for flavor. Estimate cooking time at 15-18 minutes per pound. The turkey is done when a thermometer in the inner thigh reaches 180 F.

Smoking in a smoker: The turkey is placed on the food rack above hot liquid in a drip pan. Beneath the pan is a container that holds the hot coals. Start with clean equipment, light the charcoal and when the charcoal has developed a powdery ash - about 20-30 minutes - put liquid into the drip pan. Some smokers have a built-in temperature indicator. If not, place an appliance thermometer on the rack to monitor the air temperature inside the smoker. Then put the cover on. When the thermometer reaches 225 F-300 F, place the turkey on the rack and replace the cover. Do not stuff the turkey. Follow the manufacturer's estimated cooking times. Add fresh charcoal every hour to maintain 225 F-300 F and ensure smoke. Add liquid to the water pan as needed. Turkey is done when a thermometer inserted in the inner thigh reaches 180 F. Water-soaked hardwood or a fruitwood, in the form of chunks or chips, is often used to add flavor to the turkey as it is cooking. A soft wood, such as pine, fir, cedar or spruce, should not be used because it gives the food a turpentine flavor and coats everything with a black pitch or resin. For additional flavor, the turkey can be brine-soaked one or two days in the refrigerator before smoking.

Deep-fat frying Heat the cooking oil in a commercial quality cooker to 350 F. Carefully lower turkey into the hot oil. Allow about 3-5 minutes per pound cooking time. Check turkey with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of the bird should reach 180 F when measured in the thigh. Remove turkey from the oil and drain oil from cavity. Place the bird on paper towels and let it rest about 20 minutes before carving.

Carving made easy Let turkey sit on carving board 15 minutes after roasting, covered loosely with foil. Resting lets meat become more firm and ready for carving. Then: 1. Cut off legs: Cut through the skin where the leg is attached to breast. Pull until thigh bone pops out of its socket; if bird is cooked, this should be easy. Slice off this whole portion, including back meat around the corner, over to the spine. Then, on the carving board, use a knife to separate the drumstick and thigh, then the thigh and back meat. Serve these whole, or carve meat off bones. 2. Cut off the wings: Cut through the skin where the wing is attached to breast. Again, pull until the wing comes out of its socket, and then slice off the wing. Serve the wing whole, or slice the meat from the bones on a carving board. 3. Carve the breast: Begin slicing parallel to the bone, making thin, vertical slices, and remove them from the ribs of the carcass. Slice each of these in half or thirds.