A perfect roast turkey makes a stunning Thanksgiving dinner centrepiece. However, cooking the perfect turkey is something that can scare even the most competent of cooks. Cook it too long, and you have dry, flaky meat. Don't cook it enough, and the results can be far worse.

However, with a little planning, Thanksgiving turkey doesn't have to be a chore. Here's a quick and easy way to ensure your Thanksgiving turkey is perfectly moist, full of flavour and utterly delicious.

1: If you can, buy fresh. Fresh meat always tastes better than frozen. As soon as you get it, remove the giblets and place on a plate at the bottom of the refrigerator. Take it out the night before you wish to cook it, so it's at room temperature before it goes into the oven. If you have to defrost from frozen, be sure to start this well in advance as it can take a long time!

2: Weigh your bird, so you can calculate the cooking time. Cooking time will vary, depending on the size of your bird and your oven, so be sure to use a meat thermometer to check the progress while cooking.

Cooking guidelines:

8-10 lb (3.5-4.5 kg) – 30 minutes at the high temperature, then 21/2-3 hours at the lower temperature, then a final 30 minutes (uncovered) at gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

10-14lb (4.5-6.75kg) - 40 minutes at the high temperature, then 3-4 hours at the lower temperature, then a final 30 minutes (uncovered) at gas mark 6, 400ºF (200ºC).

15-20 lb (6.75-9 kg) – 45 minutes at the high temperature, then 4-5 hours at the lower temperature, then a final 30 minutes (uncovered) at gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

3: Stuff the turkey with your stuffing. Do not stuff to tightly, as the stuffing will expand during cooking. Secure the opening with a small skewer or wooden cocktail stick. If you are not using stuffing, place 1 halved onion and one halved lemon in the cavity.

4: Dress the outside of the bird. Spread with 6oz (175g) butter, and layer with strips of streaky bacon or Italian pancetta. Season lightly.

5: Line the bottom of a large roasting pan with 3x quartered onions, and add 2 cups of water. Place a trivet over the onions and place the turkey on top. Wrap tightly in tin foil – 2 layers is best, and be sure no steam can escape.

6: Place in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C), for 30-45 minutes, depending on the weight of your turkey. This high blast of heat will help get the heat through the bird and accelerate the cooking process. Then reduce the heat to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C) for 31/2 hours.

7: Remove from the oven, uncover and discard the foil. Baste with the juices from the bottom of the pan and then increase the oven temperature to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C). Cook the uncovered turkey for another 40 minutes. Test for doneness; and return to the oven if necessary.

8: Once cooked, leave to rest for at least 15 minutes in a warm place. Strain the bottom of the pan juices and onion, and use the liquid as a base for your turkey gravy.

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