Top Tips for Cooking Your Turkey | Living North

Top Tips for Cooking Your Turkey


Avoid a dinner disaster with our top tips for preparing and cooking your Christmas turkey to perfection
'Does the turkey fit in the oven? No, seriously, they’re big birds, and you’d be surprised at the number of us that purchase a turkey only to find on Christmas Day that our oven isn’t big enough'

1. Does the turkey fit in the oven? No, seriously, they’re big birds, and you’d be surprised at the number of us that purchase a turkey only to find on Christmas Day that our oven isn’t big enough. If this dinner disaster does occur use a sharp knife to remove the legs, and cook them in a separate roasting tin for an additional 30 minutes to your bird.


2. Ok, so your oven is definitely big enough for your giant bird, but is your roasting tin? You’re going to want your turkey to fit comfortably in the tin with room to catch the all-important fat and cooking juices. If your tin is too small then you’ll end up with it over flowing. 


3. Pay close attention to your bird’s packaging. The weight of your bird will determine its cooking time. Use their formula to calculate your timings pre-Christmas day, and check them twice. The last thing you want is to hazard a guess at how long your turkey needs when you’ve had a bucks fizz (or two) on Christmas morning. 


4. The latest advice from the British Turkey information service is that, if the turkey is over 4kg, calculate 20 minutes per kg, plus 90 minutes. If the bird is under 4kg, calculate 20 minutes per kg, plus 70 minutes.


5. To stuff or not to stuff? Stuffing is not essential, but if you are planning on doing so, these tips are…  

• Prepare your stuffing ahead and freeze it. You simply need to defrost and bring it to room temperature before actually stuffing. 

• Only ever stuff your turkey just before cooking. If you do it the night before you’re creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

• Stuff the neck and not the body. To add flavour to the body you can add onion, lemon, orange or fresh herbs. 

• To stuff the neck, spoon in the stuffing and seal by tucking in the skin and securing it with a cocktail stick or a darning (very big) needle and thread.

• Bread-based stuffings will swell, so avoid packing them too tightly. 

• Weigh your turkey after stuffing to re-calculate its cooking time. 

• Roll your leftover stuffing into balls and bake to serve alongside. 


6. Be sure to bring your bird up to room temperature before putting it into the oven. This will relax it and make it cook more evenly, and taste juicer. If you put the turkey in the oven straight from the fridge, it will get a shock (seriously) and end up dry. 


7. Always preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes before cooking your turkey.


8. Use a spoon or turkey baster to baste the buttery juices over the top of the bird every 30 minutes during the cooking time. This will help to avoid drying out your bird. 


9. You can cover the turkey loosely with foil, but be sure to remove it just under an hour before the time is up to get the turkey nicely browned. 


10. Your turkey is fully-cooked when the thigh juices run clear. To check, simply insert a small knife where the meat is thickest, between the thigh and breast. The juices that run should be clear, with no sign of pink. Alternatively, test your turkey with a temperature probe, which must be 72 degrees or above when inserted into the thickest part of the breast for two minutes.


11. Ensure you allow time for your turkey to rest once you remove it from the oven. Turkeys between 4-6kg should be rested for 1½ hours, and those from 6-10kg can rest for two hours. The juices will redistribute, and you’ll get moister slices.


12. When resting your bird there’s a desire to wrap it tightly in foil. Avoid this at all costs. Wrapping your turkey will only trap steam and cause your crispy skin (arguably the best bit) to go soggy. Instead, tent it with foil to keep it crisp. 


13. Got a big crowd? You could roast two smaller turkeys instead of one large one. Smaller turkeys fit better in the fridge and in roasting tins, plus they cook more quickly and evenly.


14. You’ve bought it, stuffed it, cooked it, and now you have to carve it. Start by removing the legs – cut between them and the breast then grab each leg by the drumstick to release. Then take off the wings by pulling and twisting them away from the breast. Carve your breast by positioning your knife at the fattest part and slicing down at an angle. Carve and serve the slices of breast thin, the thigh chunky and the drumsticks whole. 

Published in: December 2019

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