Top Turkey Tips
Turkey is the quintessential Christmas dinner, yet despite it’s enduring appeal and popularity it’s notoriously difficult to cook well. Facing off a giant, uncooked turkey on Christmas morning, knowing that the full weight of expectation sits squarely on your shoulders, is serious pressure.
So with that in mind here’s our ultimate top tips guide to ensure a fuss free experience that you’ll enjoy as much as the rest of the family.
Choose your Turkey Well
Choose the wrong turkey and it all gets a bit harder. Luckily, we’re here to help. Just pop into the shop and we’ll happily discuss your requirements and see you right. Some of the things to consider though are:
- Fresh or Frozen – We always recommend fresh for two reasons. Fresh birds are far less likely to dry out, and we know exactly where our fresh birds have come from.
- Breed – The two most popular breeds in the UK are the White and the Bronze. Considered a more intense flavour, the heritage Bronze is rarer and more expensive because of it’s slower growing cycle. By far the most popular is the White because of it’s larger breast, clean looking skin and more subtle flavour.
- Provenance – Knowing where your poultry was raised and how it was produced should always be a key consideration. Our birds are raised in Colyton and Upottery, and we’ve worked with our suppliers for many years.
- Size – How many are you cooking for? Where are you storing your turkey ahead of the big day? And finally, how big is your oven? With all of that in mind, remember that for a whole bird you need to allow about 500g per person, although minimum sizes are generally about 5kg (11lbs). Expect smaller sizes to sell out quickly this year.
- Whole or not – If you’re cooking for a smaller group, you might want to consider a rolled breast piece instead. Not only will this cook more quickly, it also takes up less space. We’re also happy to crown your whole turkey if required. Allow about 400g per person for a crown, or 300g per person for rolled breast.
Planning and Preparation
As with all cooking, much of your success on the big day will come down to how well you plan and prepare.
- Start by calculating your total cooking time; include time to warm up and for resting. Use the table at the bottom of the page to calculate the core cooking time. As an example, a 5kg whole bird will require an hour to come up to temperature, 3 hours to cook, and an hour and a half to rest. That gives a total cooking time of five and a half hours.
- When do you plan to eat? Are you having a starter, or are you going straight in with the big guns? Working backwards from your target time ensures you’ll be ready to serve when expected. So assuming we want to eat at 1pm, for our 5kg bird we would need to take our turkey out of the fridge at 7:30am.
- What else are you cooking? For the turkey, you’ll obviously want gravy and roast potatoes, plus a selection of sides. Starters? Pudding? Have you got your times for that? When you’ve got the full list, you can start to add them to the plan.
- Is there enough time? Are there things that you can prepare in advance, or get the rest of the family to help out with on the day? If not, you might need to rethink your menu. And will you have enough space in your oven? That’s something that often gets overlooked.
- Check the actual temperature of your oven. Invest in an oven thermometer and you won’t regret it.
- Double check the plan. Then get someone else to check it. Then relax. You’re already better equipped to deal with Christmas dinner than most people, and if there is anything that you’ve missed you’ll cope.
On the day
You’ve done all the hard work so today is to be enjoyed. Get the Christmas tunes on, get everyone in the mood and then set them to work. All of this helps take the pressure off you, and because you’ve got a plan it’s easy to delegate tasks and make everyone a part of the fun.
- Use a trivet of chopped leeks, carrots, celery and onions in the bottom of the roasting tray. These will slowly caramalise with the juices to help kick start your gravy.
- Generous amounts of herb butter, prepared the night before, stuffed under the breast skin and massaged into the legs will help to keep everything tender and moist.
- For bigger birds consider crowning and roasting the legs separately. They cook at different rates and above 10kg the only way to cook them both well is to separate them. It also helps with oven space.
- If you are cooking whole, trussing the bird gives a nicer shape, and by bringing the legs into the body stops them drying out too much. Of course, we truss all of our birds ready for the oven.
- Cook the turkey at a higher heat initially for good colour, then cover loosely with foil to stop it from burning. If you’re larding with bacon do it now. Browning it at the start of the cook loses less moisture.
- Baste! Using a spoon or a turkey baster, baste the juices over the top of the bird roughly every 30 minutes. Just be quick to ensure that the oven doesn’t cool down too much.
- Cook the stuffing separately. If you stuff the turkeys you increase the cooking time, make it harder to get right, and you lose all those lovely juices for your gravy.
- Check it’s cooked using a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh, or a meat thermometer. The juices should run clear, and the internal temperature should be about 70C for a whole bird, 72C for a rolled breast. If there’s any pink in the juices, continue cooking for a further 15 minutes and then test again.
- Once cooked, lift it out of the tray and onto a prepared double layer of foil, shiny side in. Wrap well, and cover with a couple of tea towels, and allow to rest for at least 1h30m, or up to two hours for an 8kg+ bird. For crowns or rolled breast, 40 mins will suffice (depending on size).
- Whilst the bird is resting, get cracking with the gravy. It’s worth the effort of making a stock the day before, using a few old chicken bones or chicken wings, and the giblets that will come with your turkey (we always separate the liver and heart and add to the stuffing). Watch out for our recipe.
- When it comes to carving make life easy for yourself and do it in the kitchen away from prying eyes. Remove the string first, then use a sharp knife to remove the legs by cutting between them and the breast until they come away. Starting at the front of the bird, cut down the middle, either side of the breast bone, and then under the breast until it falls away. You can then easily carve up the breast meat, and slice off chunks from the leg to serve.
- It’s not for us to say, but remember there’s a half bottle of white there that’s just begging to be drunk before lunch is served!!
for 15 minutes
|Main Temp||Per 500g||Per lb||Internal Temp|
|Whole Bird||200C, 180C fan|
Gas mark 6
|180C, 160C fan|
Gas mark 4
|17 mins||15 mins||70C|
Rolled Turkey Breast
+ 1 hour
|200C, 180C fan|
Gas mark 6
|180C, 160C fan|
Gas mark 4
|10 mins||9 mins||74C|