We don't really eat the skin, but will taking it off before cooking dry the turkey out?
Yes, it would certainly dry out, especially as the majority of the bird is white meat which has a tendency to dry out even with the skin on. The skin keeps the bird moist. You could stuff seasonings under the skin (herbs, chopped garlic or onion) by loosening the skin first: thigh area, breast area, neck area. It is not hard to do. then shmearing the aromatics underneath. That will season and moisten the meat, and those who wish can remove the skin when serving. At any rate, since turkey is usually carved and sliced, the individual pieces do not have that much skin on them--just a sliver each really. (Except the legs and wings.)
You can replace the skin with bacon.
You need something between the meat and the direct heat of the oven, otherwise you get jerky on the outside. The skin is a very convenient barrier.
This is going to sound really strange. When I roast chicken breasts I sometimes remove the skin and then I season mayonnaise with my favorite herbs: sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and other herbs, salt and pepper, and then I slather the mixture over the chicken. It would probably work with turkey.
No, not strange at all! Maybe if nka2 used turkey parts, which would cook faster and therefore have shorter exposure to dry heat.
Paula Wolfert has a recipe for steamed chicken with a variation for a small turkey (6-7 lb)...She says the skin is rubbed with butter and saffron, then the cavity stuffed with either small white onions, wild greens, rice tomatoes olives and cured lemons spiced with cayenne, and has a lovely delicate taste. It must be eaten immediately, not reheated. Steamed in a couscousiere, covered with cheesecloth, over simmering water for 2 hours. Sounds lovely, though maybe a little too unusual for Thanksgiving. Probably you could remove skin prior to steaming.
Yes, do cook the turkey without the skin. It does not dry out and no basting needed. We have been doing it for 20 years or more. It saves time cooking at 400F for the first 2 hours of a half thawed 19 pound turkey and then covering with 20" of tin foil and then 4 hours at 350F until it reaches 180F in all parts of the breast. We hold the legs together with aluminum wire bent around them. We dont use the plastic brace, dont use a rack, dont baste, do cook all the giblets but dont use them but the liver chopped. And we cut away everything not meat and that can reduce the weight of the bird 7 pounds. When we are done we get 6 pounds of meat and 4 pounds of bones and 2 pounds of water in the pan.
Perhaps "dried out turkey" is dreaded because a simple step can correct it. Soaking turkey meat slices when hot with hot pan juices (without the oi) works well. It dosnt seem to work when the meat has cooled to room temperature and the salty juice seems to have better staying power in the meat.
Try it. Turkeys cost so little and gaining the experience will help straiten out all the hype about this subject.