I've spent years stressing over turkey. I've found that there's no need to try and carve a hot turkey at the table. Roasting and carving it ahead of time, arranging it on an ovenproof platter over a bed of gravy, and then putting it in the oven before dinner is so much easier.
Use my Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy in this recipe.
Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 2 tablespoons of salt, the thyme and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well and pat it all over with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity of the turkey with plain salt and rub the salt and lemon mixture all over the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish just large enough to hold it and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one or two days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave the turkey in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.2.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the turkey in a medium roasting pan, discarding any juices in the dish. Place the lemon and thyme in the cavity. With kitchen string, tie the legs together and the wings close to the body. Distribute the onions around the turkey. Brush the turkey and onions with the butter and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.3.
Roast the turkey for 1¼ hours, until the breast meat registers 165 F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a platter.4.
Cut off the legs and thighs and put them back into the roasting pan. Covering the breast tightly with aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dark meat registers 180 F on the thermometer.5.
Remove the dark meat to the platter with the turkey, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.6.
Pour 1/4 inch of Make-Ahead Gravy into a medium, ovenproof serving platter (make sure it's ovenproof!). Carve the turkey and arrange it artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side.