Calling All Cooks: Thanksgiving SOS

I’m hosting my first Thanksgiving this year, and I’ll admit — I’m freaking out a little bit. I’m a fairly accomplished home chef and I’ve done my fair share of chickens and ducks, but never a turkey. And I’ve never done poultry in a pan without a lid.

Enter panic mode.

I made sure to get my turkey early this year so I would have a decent selection to choose from. We’ll be having 6-8 adults and 3 kids, so I wanted about a 15-16 pound turkey.

Those were gone first.

As I stared at the freezer case of chicken-size turkeys next to giant turkeys that could have been ridden like ponies, I struggled internally over which to buy. An older woman stopped in for a giant turkey — don’t want to leave them hungry she said. A man pulled up a cart and got 2 turkeys — the big ones take forever to cook and dry out, so he buys 2 small ones instead.

Everyone seems to have an opinion. So I sorted through a whole freezer case of turkeys, rating each one on shape and size. I had a towering pile of no’s and a handful of maybes. In the end, I settled on an 18.9 pound monster. My inner nonni told me more was better and I went with it.

I brought my bird home and realized that I didn’t have a single pan in the house that would hold such a turkey. I thought about getting a foil pan, but had terrifying visions of the foil giving out and bending while trying to take the turkey out of the oven, ruining Thanksgiving. We couldn’t have that, so the hunt for a real pan began.

As most hunts do, my quest to find the perfect turkey pan brought me to Walmart. They had an open roasting pan and an electric turkey oven. A quick (ok, not quick) series of text messages to my husband including the pros and cons for each option pointed me towards the open pan.

So now I have an 18.9-pound frozen turkey and an open roasting pan. I also picked up poultry cooking bags, but I’m on the fence about using them. I like the drippings for gravy and I feel like the bags leave a slight hint of plastic (my mother-in-law is partial to them).

I’d like to knock the socks off of my guests and Pinterest has too many opinions. If there are any seasoned turkey chefs on here, PLEASE help! Should I pony up for a lidded roasting pan on Amazon, use the bag or just foil and follow a strict schedule of basting?

Also, can we talk about seasoning? Standard poultry seasoning or is there a special blend that appeals to a wide range of eaters (i.e. traditional and not spicy)?

Thanks in advance for any advice!