Tips for the perfect Christmas Turkey

Turkey

Here's our ultimate guide to how to serve up the perfect Christmas Turkey!

Size - Work out how many people you're going to be feeding and select your turkey accordingly. Whole turkeys come graded by size and weight. A 4-5kg bird will serve 6-7, a 5-6kg one will do 8-10 and a 6-7kg turkey will feed 10-12.

Defrost - A frozen whole turkey needs time to defrost. It has to be thawed completely before going into the oven. Thaw your turkey in the fridge, not at room temperature. Thawing takes approximetly 12 hours per kilo of turkey. (see chart below for different sizes). Clean the turkey by removing the neck, excess fat and giblets, then wipe inside and outside with a paper towel.

Roasting tin - Check that your turkey fits both your roasting tin and the oven before Christmas Day. If necessary, you can remove the legs (joint it just as you would a chicken) and roast them separately.

Stuffing tips - Classic turkey stuffings include variations using cranberries, caramelised onion, bread, nuts and herbs. You can prepare the stuffing in advance (using only cooked ingredients) and freeze, or prepare the night before and store covered in the fridge. Always allow the stuffing to come back to room temprature before using to ensure the cooking times are not affected. Do not stuff the night before as this can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Stuff the turkey inside the neck and body cavity just before cooking. Seal the ends by tucking in the skin and securing with cocktail sticks or darning needle and thread. Bread based stuffings tend to swell up slightly so do not pack in too tightly. Generally 350g will be enough for a 4.5 - 5kg bird. Stuffing should be 71oC in the centre when done. The internal temperature will continue to rise 3 -6oC while resting (final "doneness" temperature for turkey is 74oC).

Cooking tips - To ensure your turkey stays juicy, either smear plenty of butter between the skin of the breast and the meat itself, or cover the breast with streaky bacon or buttered foil during roasting. Baste with juices collected at base of tin at least once during cooking. If covering with foil, remember to remove it for the last 30 minutes of cooking so the skin has a chance to brown and crisp up. When preparing a whole turkey, return the legs to the original tucked position if they were untucked for stuffing. Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place, if not already secured. (Tucking the wings helps to stabilize the turkey when in the pan and while carving.) Do not cook the turkey too high up in the oven as this may cause your turkey to brown too quickly or burn.

Cooking time - Weigh your bird (with any stuffing) on Christmas Eve and calculate your cooking time. (see chart below for different sizes). Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated (175 oC) oven (or follow recipe instructions). 

Turkey weight

No. of servesThawing time in fridgeCooking time for a stuffed turkey
2.5kg/size 25 4-6 2-2 1/2 days 1 1/2-2 hours
4.5kg/size 45 8-10 3 days 3-3 1/2 hours
6.75kg/size 67 10-12 3-3 1/2 days 4 1/2-5 hours
9kg/size 90 15-20 3 1/2 days

6-6 1/2 hours

 

Resting time - Once the turkey has cooked, cover with aluminium foil and then a tea towel and leave to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute through the meat. Keep it in a warm place and it can happily sit for as long as it takes you to cook the roast potatoes (turn the oven up high as soon as you take the bird out) and make the gravy.

Storage - Finally, remember to cool any leftovers as quickly as possible, store well-wrapped in the fridge and eat within 3 days.

Results may vary.