Cooking a turkey doesn’t need to be ‘scary’ or ‘intimidating’, you simply need to be prepared and organised. There are a few things that you can do before you’ve started cooking the turkey that will help:
- Make sure you have a BIG roasting tray; you want it to be nice and deep for putting veg in and also for catching all the fat and cooking juices. BUT not too big that it doesn’t fit into your oven.
- Buy a meat thermometer (we sell Salter thermometers in our shops) – this will ensure you cook the turkey perfectly and don’t over or under cook it.
- Make a note of the weight of the bird – you’ll need this to calculate the cooking time. If you buy one from us the weight will be printed on the side of the box you picked it up in.
- Ensure you have a sharp carving knife and fork ready for action – don’t ruin all your hard work by ‘butchering’ the bird with a blunt knife.
When you’re ready, here’s how to cook turkey…
Citrus roast festive turkey
With this recipe you can prepare the turkey on Christmas Eve, then simply put it in the oven on the big day. Work out cooking times in advance, adding the weight of the stuffing to that of the bird.
Takes 6 hours
6kg (13lb) free range turkey, with giblets
2 red onions, peeled and finely diced
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
200g (7oz) black olives, chopped
6 bay leaves
6 sprigs of rosemary
2 celery sticks, chopped
6 black peppercorns
Freshly ground black pepper
1 leek, roughly chopped and well washed
1 egg, beaten with 200ml (7fl oz) cold water
175g (6oz) fresh breadcrumbs
18 rashes of streaky bacon, rind removed
1kg (2lb 4oz) pork sausage meat 60g (2 ¼ oz) plain flour
Zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons
100ml (3 ½ fl oz) red wine
4 garlic cloves, crushed, peeled and finely diced
1. Place the giblets in a saucepan with 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) of water, the onion, 2 bay leaves, the celery, peppercorns and leek. Bring to a boil and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour; you should end up with 600ml (1 pint) of liquid. Strain.
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Place the breadcrumbs, sausage meat and lemon juice and zest in a bowl. Dice the remaining bay leaves and add them, the garlic, red onions and olives. Remove the rosemary needles from the sprigs and finely chop. Add them to the bowl with the seasoning and egg. Mix well with your hands.
3. Stuff the turkey, placing two-thirds in the large cavity and the rest in the neck end. Weight the stuffed bird and calculate the cooking time, allowing 40 minutes per 1kg (2lb 4oz). Place the turkey on a roasting cradle over a large tin. Weave the bacon over the breast, cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for 40 minutes, reduce the heat to 170C/325F/gas mark 3 and cook for 3 hours 40 minutes. Increase the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, uncover and cook for 40 minutes, basting. Insert a skewer into the thickest part of the leg; if it is cooked, the juices should run clear. If using a meat thermometer, the reading should be 75C.
4. Remove from the roasting tin, keep warm and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Skim off excess fat from the juices, whisk in the flour until smooth, then slowly stir in the stock and wine. Bring to a boil. Adjust the seasoning and pour in any extra juices. Serve.
Traditional roast turkey
This is a really simple recipe – perfect for turkey-cooking beginners! Make sure you use the best ingredients and welfare bird to ensure the best flavour.
Free range turkey (size will depend on how many you are feeding)
5-10 rashers of streaky bacon
Knob of butter
2 onions, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in half
Fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Rub the skin with plenty of butter and pepper and cover the breast with lots of streaky bacon. Scatter a handful of roughly chopped fresh herbs over the skin, then put bigger sprigs inside the cavity along with the halved onion and lemon.
2. Make a big tin foil cross inside your roasting pan, place the turkey in the middle and wrap the foil around to make a loose but closed parcel.
3. Cook at 220°C / 425°F / Mark 7 for 40 mins. Reduce heat to 170°C / 325°F / Mark 3 and cook for approximately a further 3hrs (small turkey), 3.5hrs (medium), 4.5hrs (large) and 5 hrs (X-large).
3. Uncover for the last 30 minutes to crisp the bacon. Stick a long skewer in the fleshiest part to test for doneness; the juices should run clear. If using a meat thermometer the reading should be at least 75°C Rest it for half an hour before carving.
Turkey Giblet Gravy
Don’t throw away the giblets which you get with your bird! These are flavour rich and are easily used to help make enviably good turkey gravy!
Giblets are the gizzard, heart, liver, kidneys and neck of the bird, and sometimes you are lucky enough to have the head and feet to add to the stock pot as well.
Takes 2 hours
1 set of poultry giblets
2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 onions, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 celery sticks, cut into large chunks
2 leek, well washed and cut into large chunks
4 parsley stalks
1. Put all the ingredients in a pan, cover with 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) water and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that comes to the top, partially cover with a lid, then gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
2. Strain the stock into a clean pan, leave to cool, then remove the fat from the top and discard. At this stage you can either leave to cook and refrigerate, or use straight away for turkey gravy to accompany your roast bird (see next stages).
3. Pour a small amount of the stock into the roasting tray used to roast the turkey in to deglaze. Simmer for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the tray as you go.
4. If the gravy is looking a little thin, add 1 heaped teaspoon of corn flour with a little water to loosen it into the gravy mixture. Stir well until thickened. Season to taste and add a dollop of Dijon mustard if you like.