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Cooking the perfect turkey

Cooking the perfect turkey

A lot has been said about cooking a turkey. If you’re not a regular cook, I can understand that it can be a little daunting. But you just have to treat your bird like a big chicken – it only needs longer to cook because of its size. The important thing is being prepared!

Less than 4kg weight? Cook for 20 minutes per kg then add another 70 minutes cooking time at the end.

More than 4kg weight? Cook for 20 minutes per kg and add 90 minutes cooking time at the end.

Either way, you also need to allow 30 minutes of resting time after all the cooking. You don’t have to cover with foil, as this makes the bird sweat and stops the skin from staying crisp.

If you’re going to stuff your turkey, only stuff the neck cavity: you can fill the body cavity with a half onion or an orange cut in half.

On Christmas Eve

Take a whole packet of butter and soften it. Season it with some salt and pepper and then add some additional flavour with your choice of finely-chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme and sage, along with crushed garlic and lemon zest. This mixture will be used to stuff between the skin and the meat of the turkey to act as a self-basting mechanism.

Carefully ease the skin away from the top of the turkey, starting at the open end. When you have separated the skin from the meat at the end, carefully insert your fingers and hand between the two and very gently move your hand into the space you have created.

Using your fingers to break any connective tissue at the point of the breastbone, carry on with this gentle pushing and wiggling until you have separated all the skin on the upper half of the turkey from its meat. Be gentle, so as not to tear the skin.

When you have separated the skin from the meat, start pushing in the softened, seasoned butter and ease it over the meat so that it is evenly distributed. Keep the bird in the fridge, then just before you go to bed, take it out and leave it on the side, so that in the morning when you get up, it’s already at room temperature, ready for cooking.

On Christmas Day

The size of your bird will determine the cooking time, I’ve put all the timings here to save you having to do maths. Decide on what time you’re having lunch, and work backwards from there:

  • 2kg (4lb 7oz): 1hr 50mins
  • 2.5kg (5lb 8oz): 2hrs
  • 3kg (6lb 10oz): 2hrs 10mins
  • 3.5kg (7lb 11oz): 2hrs 20mins
  • 4kg (8lb 13oz): 2hrs 50mins
  • 4.5kg (9lb 15oz): 3hrs
  • 5kg (11lb 0oz): 3hrs 10mins
  • 5.5kg (12lb 2oz): 3hrs 20mins
  • 6kg (13lb 4oz): 3hrs 30mins
  • 6.5kg (14lb 5oz): 3hrs 40mins
  • 7kg (15lb 7oz): 3hrs 50mins
  • 7.5kg (16lb 9oz): 4hrs
  • 8kg (17lb 10oz): 4hrs 10mins
  • 8.5kg (18lb 12oz): 4hrs 20mins
  • 9kg (19lb 13oz): 4hrs 30mins
  • 9.5kg (20lb 15oz): 4hrs 40mins
  • 10kg (22lb 1oz): 4hrs 50mins

Fifteen minutes before you’re ready to cook your bird, preheat the oven to 190°C (180°C for fan assisted ovens), 375°F, Gas Mark 5. Once the oven is at temperature, put the bird in to roast.

Check the turkey. Pierce the deepest part of the thigh with a skewer – the juices should run clear. If they do, remove the turkey from the oven and set it aside for half an hour to recover itself. If it’s not completely cooked, simply leave it in the oven for an extra 20 minutes and then look at it again.

Once the bird is rested, carve and serve!