Cooking a turkey for Christmas can be a nerve-wracking experience...but don't worry - just a bit of preparation and a sprinkling of knowledge can help ensure you get the best possible flavour from your bird.
Of course, no Christmas dinner is complete without stuffing and a good selection of vegetables. And if you work with what s in season you can find a wide variety ofBritish produce to go with your British turkey.
Choosing the right bird
Choose a size which is enough for you and your guests. Many people order a bird which is too large and takes longer to cook. Ideally, leftovers should be just that. A bird size of 12lbs feeds about ten people.
The weights below will give you plenty on Christmas Day and enough for some inventive cooking in the days that follow:
5kg (11lb) 6-8 people
6kg (13lb) 8-10 people
7kg (15lb) 10-12 people
8kg (17.5lb) 14-16 people
9kg (20lb) 18-22 people
Make a note of the weight as you will need this to calculate the cooking time (see below).
Preparation and cooking times
For 5-7kg total weight allow 30 minutes per kg. Example: 6kg = 180mins
For every additional kilo, above 7kg, allow 20 minutes per kilo. Example: 9kg turkey = 7kg x 30 mins plus 2kg x 20 mins = 250 mins.
REMEMBER: If the turkey is stuffed inside, calculate the cooking time based on the total weight of bird and stuffing. Weigh the stuffing separately, as few domestic scales or balances can cope with huge weights.
Six steps to a sumptuous Christmas dinner:
- Remove your bird from the fridge about two hours before cooking so it is at room temperature for stuffing. To stuff your bird use your hands to push some of the stuffing into the neck end. Put the remainder in the body cavity.
- Check the weight of your turkey and calculate your cooking times. Preheat the oven to 180 °C (356 °F) in a conventional oven, or 160 °C (320 °F) in a fan oven. Oven temperatures vary so check your manufacturer's handbook.
- Mix some freshly chopped herbs with butter and apply this to the turkey breast.
- Cover your bird loosely in foil and place in a roasting tin. When your oven is up to temperature put the turkey on the bottom shelf. You could try putting it upside down on its breast, so the juices from the back and legs run into the drier breast meat and keep it moist. Cooking a turkey uncovered and upside down will reduce the cooking time, so check on things with 30 40 minutes to go.
- Regularly baste to retain moisture and remove the foil for the last 40 minutes of cooking, so the skin turns a golden brown.
- Is it cooked? Pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. If the juices run golden and clear it is ready, if they run pink continue cooking. Once fully cooked, allow excess juice to run out of the turkey then carefully transfer to a warm dish. Allow to rest for around 30 minutes before carving.
You will need a strong, sharp knife. All directions for whole birds.
- Holding the wing by the tip, cut it at the mid section. Repeat with the other wing.
- Holding the leg by the end knuckle, cut through the skin between the leg and the body then twist off. Repeat with the other leg.
- Using knife’s tip cut along the breast bone, keeping the knife close to the bone, until the breast is removed. Repeat steps 1-3 for the other side of the bird.
- Slice the breast to suit.
- Slice dark meat from leg and wing.
- Arrange the meat on a platter and pour the hot cooking juices over the sliced meat. Allow the meat a few moments to soak up all the lovely juices before serving.