By Cari Levin
photoFall is in the air. Kids are settled into the rhythm of school and homework. You are once again enjoying the freedom of owning your life from 8 to 3 Monday thru Friday. All is good. And then it hits you, it is “YOUR year” to cook Thanksgiving Dinner.

Visions of cookbooks strewn across the kitchen counter race through your head. What is THIS year’s turkey trend? You escaped the deep fryer, the brine and the infamous ButterBall “pop-up” turkey. Friends swear by cooking it in a brown bag while you continue to wonder why that bag doesn’t catch on fire in a grease filled 350 oven. You’re mother-in-law constantly explains the importance of, “starting the turkey breast side up and FLIPPING it over midway through cooking” and again you can’t help but wonder how safe that is.

Take a deep breathe. Welcome to TURKEY 101. Forget all you have heard and consider this your “Turkey Cheat Sheet.” No tricks.

What you’ll need to feed 12-16 people:
1 turkey(hen) – 16 – 18 pounds, seasonings, a sturdy sheet pan, a large piece of foil and a cube of butter.

What to do:
1. Be sure that if you special order a turkey it is defrosted when you pick it up. A 16 pound frozen turkey can take 3-4 days to defrost.

2. Season the turkey the day before Thanksgiving. I like sea salt, white pepper, fresh parsley, basil and sage.

3. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before cooking.

4. Move the rack in your oven to the lowest shelf and preheat the oven to 350.

5. Place the turkey breast side up on the sheet pan, cut the cube of butter in half and place each half on opposite ends and loosely tent the turkey with the foil. Place it in the oven and cook for 2.75 hours (12 mins per pound) and for the last 30 mins remove the foil, basting once (if you want).

6. Carefully remove it from the oven and let it sit for at least 30 mins before cutting it.

And if at the end of the day you decide that you simply can’t or don’t want to deal with it, I can do it for you!

Cari Levin is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She has spent the past 15 years working as a private chef for celebrities, athletes and all who love good food. You can email Cari at