Do you want a fresh or frozen turkey? Fresh turkeys need no thawing and are ready to cook. Frozen turkeys can be purchased weeks in advance, but require several days to thaw. A quick rule of thumb for thawing is to allow one day for every four pounds of turkey. A 12-lb. turkey will take three days to defrost in the refrigerator; however, in a cold water bath (never hot), it takes only 6 hours.
How many are you going to feed? The basic rule is to allow ¾ lb. per person. A 12-lb. turkey will feed five adults and two children with a little left over. That is, if they aren’t all big eaters.
The day before the day of roasting, unwrap the turkey and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a crisper skin. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350°F. oven for a defrosted turkey and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for fresh. A 12-lb. turkey, not stuffed, will take 3 to 3½ hours to cook; stuffed, 3¾ to 4½ hours. Always truss the turkey for more even roasting. Coat the outside with vegetable or olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lightly cover breast with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning, but remove the foil about 45 minutes before you think the turkey is done.