First, I usually cook a turkey. It's a tradition for my family and I actually enjoy the many ways that a turkey could be prepared. Like chicken, there are plenty of ways to cook a turkey. This year I'm opting to smoke my turkey. I usually roast it but I have rotisseried, deep fried, deboned and stuffed. If we buy a frozen turkey I like to thaw it in the fridge for 7 days before, sometimes 5. You can thaw it under running cold water as well. Most health authorities will not recommend thawing on your counter as it gives salmonella a chance to grow and potentially give people food poisoning.
Stuffing in or out?
I don't normally stuff my turkey. I just think that the stuffing can't get to the right temperature needed to kill all the bacteria. However, that isn't to say that you shouldn't. If you precook your stuffing a little bit just to get it hotter you can add the stuffing to the bird. Cook your turkey for about an hour or so first, then stuff it. Continue to cook them together in your oven.
I find 350F is a good temperature to cook at, and if you have a digital thermometer that you can leave in the bird it will be easier to know when it's done, otherwise check the temperature about every hour, you are looking for 165-170 when it comes out.
Your turkey is not ready yet, so make sure you plan this carefully. Now place tin foil over the bird, don't wrap it, but cover it and let it rest at least 30 minutes. You're doing this because the juices in the meat are still really excited and if you just start cutting into it out goes all that flavor! Let them relax, you can too, have some wine.... Or whine... Depending on how everything else is turning out.
Most turkeys sold in Canadian grocery stores are going to be between 6-11kg (12-22lbs, if you're not sure how many pound you have? Multiply your kg weight by 2.25, OR ask Your phone if it has a personal assistant on it, like Siri or OK Google). Cooking time may vary, but I'd say 2-2.5hrs is a good cook time, 4 max. This where good planning skills will come in handy. In culinary school I was always taught to make a schedule, now I'll do one in my head for the items that will take longer than an hour to cook. I start with what time I think we could be ready to eat, subtract from that how long I need to carve, and rest the item in question. From there I consider what method I'm using, I'll usually research a few websites about the method of cooking I'm using just to make sure I have a realistic time in my head. From there I get the time I need to start cooking. Today for example, we are having guests, I want to smoke my turkey, brine it, rest it, carve it and eat by 5:30 or 6. So brining (I'll discuss later on) will take 12 hours atleast. Cooking takes 3hrs, resting is 30 minutes, carving is about 30 minutes. So that's 4 hours of cooking. I need to start smoking by the latest of 1:30pm. During the cooking time I can start my other sides.
I like to brine because it is a great way of adding flavor to your bird and keeping moisture in it during the hot cooking process. A brine is typically a salt sugar solution that injects moisture. There are lots of great recipes on the internet, I personally like Chef Michael Smith or Alton Brown for their recipes. I have found that those 2 cooks are generally easy to follow and their recipes turn out for me every time.
Happy thanksgiving everyone! Hope this helps!