1. Brine it. It’s a bit of work but brining a turkey can make a real difference. To do this you’ll need to add a cup of salt (regular or seasoned) to enough water to cover the turkey in a large plastic bag (a new garbage bag works. I use two or three), a clean plastic bucket or a large crock. Dissolve the salt in cold water, immerse the bird and refrigerate overnight. If it’s cold outside you can store it in the garage but make sure the temperature is below 40°.
2. Cook it breast side down. Professional chefs figured this out long ago. Everyone loves how a nicely browned turkey looks on a platter when it’s cooked breast side up. After one look they head off to the football game on TV, or somewhere else in the house and you’re alone in the kitchen again. Get over it. Put the turkey in the pan breast side down with drumsticks up and you’ll not only get the dark meat cooked, but the natural fat in the dark meat will keep the whole bird moist. In the meantime, keep some water in the pan to keep the breast moist but don’t overfill. If your turkey pan overflows you’ll have a smoke-filled kitchen.
3. Put four or five folded layers of saturated cheesecloth on the turkey breast and cook it breast side up if you must. Saturate the cheesecloth in chicken broth and butter, and baste the cheesecloth once an hour while cooking. Remove for the last 30 minutes to brown the breast. You might want to tent the turkey with tinfoil to keep the cheesecloth moist between bastings.
4. Bacon! Everyone’s favorite condiment. Reach your hand gently under the skin of the breast and move some slices of bacon inside. Top the breast on the outside with more bacon slices. Tent this with a tinfoil tent and remove it for the last 30 minutes of cooking. Yes, it will impart a bacon flavor to some of the bird, but if you’re doing this that’s what you probably want.
5. Let it rest. But don’t get cocky. An uncovered bird can rest for 10 minutes. If you want to rest it longer to finish your gravy and get some other side-dishes ready, totally cover the bird with foil and rest it for up to 30 minutes. Regardless of your other tasks you should always rest roasted foods. It gives the natural juices a chance to transfer back into the meat. Slice it too soon and you’ll lose most of the juices. That will give you the dry bird you’re trying to avoid.
One other suggestion is to always carve the dark meat first. This contradicts most carving instructions, but the longer any slice is exposed to air -the more moisture it gives up.