Start to finish: 28 hours
Hands on time: 30 minutes
12- 15 lb turkey, fresh or thawed if frozen
1/3 cup Kosher salt
3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 lemons, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 onions, halved and quartered
1 carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bunch thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup water
Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity and rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. Dry the turkey with paper towels.
Combine the salt, pepper and thyme and rub it all over the inside cavity and outside of the turkey. Wrap in plastic wrap or seal in an oven bag and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 24 hours. If your fridge is full, fill a cooler with ice and tuck the tightly wrapped turkey down inside. Make sure you have plenty of ice in there before you go to bed and check as soon as you get up the next day. It has to stay really cold.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
About an hour before you want to roast it, remove the turkey from the plastic and rinse thoroughly under running cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels and stuff the turkey with the lemons, celery, onion, carrot and thyme. Tuck in the wings and tie the legs together. Allow the bird to warm up about 30 minutes (it will cook more evenly if not freezing cold) and place the bird breast-side up in a roasting pan and brush with the melted butter. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan and roast the turkey for 30 minutes in the preheated oven then turn the oven temperature down to 325°F and continue to roast the turkey for another 2 1/2 hours, basting with the melted butter every 30 minutes.
Check for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer into the meaty part of the thigh. When it registers 175°F. It’s done.
Remove the turkey from the oven and tent with foil. Transfer the roasting pan with the bird to a quiet spot (I use my laundry room) and cover with a few coats to insulate the bird and keep it hot.
You can keep the turkey like this for 2 hours while you continue to cook and bake the rest of the meal. The turkey will be steaming hot and the juices distributed throughout the breast and legs. Transfer the bird to a platter and carve it up while someone else continues to make the gravy.