How To Roast The Perfect Turkey This Christmas

Turkey has always been associated with Christmas here in the UK, yet not everyone claims to like turkey at Christmas, this is possibly down to the fact that they often refer to a cooked turkey as dry.

However if you cook your turkey right it can be tender and very enjoyable, the fact that we only get to cook a Turkey once a year is possibly the reason for it being over cooked and on the dry side.

Below is one of my favourite guides to cooking the perfect Christmas turkey.   

Step one.

When you get your turkey make sure you remove the giblets, which should be in the body cavity, and place the uncovered turkey on a plate in the lowest part of the fridge.

Make sure you know how much the turkey weighs so that you can calculate the cooking time – the timings given here are for a 14 lb (6.5 kg) bird. Late the night before, take it out of the fridge so that it will be at room temperature by the time you plan to cook it.

Next stuff the turkey with your choice of stuffing, the quantity of stuffing will be the same whatever the size of your turkey.

Place about two-thirds in the neck end between the flesh and the skin, then tuck the neck flap under the bird's back and secure it with a small skewer.

Place the rest of the stuffing in the body cavity, there's no need to pack this in tightly.

(Note that it is only dangerous to stuff the body cavity if either the turkey or the stuffing is not defrosted properly, because the heat will not penetrate it quickly enough.)

If both are at room temperature it is perfectly safe, Spread 6 oz. (175 g) of softened butter all over the bird.

Lay about 8 oz. (225 g) of streaky bacon rashers over the breast of the bird, overlapping slightly, then season with freshly milled black pepper and a little salt.

Lay two large sheets of foil across the base of your roasting tin, one widthways and the other lengthways.

Place the turkey on its back in the middle of the foil then loosely wrap it: the parcel must be firmly sealed but with room for air to circulate around the turkey, creating 'an oven within the oven'.

Place in a pre-heated hot oven, gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C), for 40 minutes , this initial blast is so that the heat gets right into the turkey and the stuffing very quickly. Then reduce the oven temperature to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C) for 3½ hours.

This gives will give you some time to prepare the any veg or other items for your Christmas dinner, once the time has expired remove the turkey from the oven, uncover it and discard any excess foil.

Baste with the juices then increase the oven temperature to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C). Cook the uncovered turkey for a further 40 minutes – once the bacon on top of the turkey has browned you can push it down into the tin to allow the breast to get a final browning.

After the final 40 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven. Pierce the thickest part of the leg with a skewer then press the skewer against the leg to see if the juices run clear without any trace of pink.

If the juices are clear your turkey is cooked, You can also give the legs a little tweak – if they feel like they've got some 'give' in them, then the turkey is done.

Finally cover the turkey loosely with foil and allow it to rest for about 45 minutes before serving, and most of all enjoy your Christmas turkey and time with your loved ones.

Cooking times for other sizes of turkey:

8-10 lb (3.5-4.5 kg) – 30 minutes at the high temperature, then 2½-3 hours at the lower temperature, then a final 30 minutes (uncovered) at gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

15-20 lb (6.75-9 kg) – 45 minutes at the high temperature, then 4-5 hours at the lower temperature, then a final 30 minutes (uncovered) at gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

Please bear in mind that ovens, and turkeys themselves, vary and the only sure way of knowing if a bird is ready is by using the tests described above.