Christmas Cooks Guide: Turkey

From Delicious Magazine

We’ve got the answers to all your turkey dilemmas
this Christmas – whether it’s boning the bird or how best to stuff it,
we’ll show you how.

Christmas cook’s guide: turkey

We’ve got the answers to all your turkey dilemmas
this Christmas – whether it’s boning the bird or how best to stuff it,
we’ll show you how.

Christmas cook’s guide: turkey

What size turkey do I need?

Allow 500g of meat on the bone for each person. This will give you enough for a meal with some left over.

6-8 people: 4kg turkey
10 people: 5kg turkey
12 people: 6kg turkey

Make sure you have the right size roasting tray for your bird and that it will fit in your oven.

For tips on how to buy poultry and understanding ethical eating terms, click here

How long to defrost a frozen turkey?

At a cool room temperature (no more than 17.5°C), it will take about 2 hours for every 450g.

Visit the British turkey website and click on the cooking link to find its Defrosting Calculator, which will do the maths for you.

How do I calculate the cooking time?

You can visit the British turkey website
and click on the cooking link to reveal the Roasting Calculator. Key in
the weight of your bird (after stuffing it), and it will give you an
approximate cooking time – it’s just a guide because all ovens vary so
keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t overcook.

Or follow this:

  • Small birds and crown roasts 4kg or less: 20 minutes per kilo, plus 70 minutes.
  • Birds over 4kg: 20 minutes per kilo, plus 90 minutes.
What’s the best way to stuff a turkey?

Don’t stuff the main body cavity of the turkey as this makes it harder
for the heat to reach the very centre of the bird. This could result
either in the turkey being slightly undercooked in the centre, or in the
rest of the meat being overcooked as you try to cook the bird through.
It’s better to stuff only the neck cavity.

Make sure the stuffing is completely cold before you use it. Also check
that the main body cavity doesn’t contain the bag of giblets.

Put a whole orange or lemon, a halved onion and some herbs (bay and thyme or rosemary) into the main body cavity to add flavour

Should I truss (tie up) the turkey?

Trussing gives the bird a neat, compact shape prior to cooking, and
stops it collapsing. It forces the legs close up against thebody of the
bird, which helps prevent them drying out.

Sit the bird on a board with its neck cavity and wings facing you. Take a
long piece of string – about an arm’s length – and slide it under the
turkey to lie between the wings and the legs, so you have an equal
amount of string on each side.

how to prepare a turkey
Run both ends along the gap between the
legs and the body and under the end of each drumstick. Now bring the
ends of the string to the outside of the bird and over the top of the
drumstick ends, and tie them together as closely as you can.

Pass each end of string under the parson’s nose, in opposite directions,
and tie together once more over the top of the parson’s nose.

how to prepare a turkey
What if my turkey’s too big for the oven?
Cut off the legs, spread with butter,
season, place them in the bottom of the roasting tin and roast for 30
minutes. Then remove the tin, put the buttered and seasoned ‘crown’ on
top of the legs and continue to roast as before.
Six steps to cooking the perfect turkey

1. Bring the bird up to room temperature.

2. Smear softened butter  under the turkey skin and over the legs. Season well.

3. Weigh the turkey, after it has been stuffed, and calculate the cooking time.

4. Put the turkey on a rack set inside a roasting tin.

5. Cover the turkey and tin loosely with foil, sealing it well under the rim of the tin.

6. Roast at 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5 for the calculated cooking time,
removing the foil 30 minutes before the end so that the skin can brown.

How can I check if the turkey is cooked right through?

Pierce the thickest part of the leg with a fine skewer. If the meat
juices run clear, it means the turkey is cooked. If there are any traces
of pink in the juices, return the bird to the oven for a further 15
minutes, then retest in the same way.

How can I guarantee a moist, juicy bird?

Once the turkey is cooked, remove from the oven and lift onto a
carving board. Cover it tightly with foil and leave it to rest for 30
minutes. This will allow the meat fibres to relax so that the juices,
which will have risen to the surface of the meat while it was in the hot
oven, are able to soak back down into the meat, making it moist and
juicy. It also gives you time to turn up the oven temperature to crisp
up the parsnips and roast potatoes.

How do I bone out turkey legs?

Pull the legs away from the body and cut along the natural line
between the thigh and body to remove the leg joints in one piece.
Repeat with the other leg.

Use a sharp knife to cut along the thigh and drumstick to expose the
bone. Slide the knife underneath the bone and cut to remove the entire
bone. Cut away any sinew. Repeat with the other leg.

Six steps to cooking a boned and rolled turkey

1. Bring the joint up to room temperature.

2. Weigh the joint and calculate the cooking time, allowing 15 minutes per 450g, plus a further 20-30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7. Put the turkey joint,
skin-side up, into a roasting tin and pour around 450ml water or a
mixture of white wine and chicken stock.

4. Spread softened butter over the skin and season well.

5. Cover the joint and tin completely with foil, sealing it well under
the rim of the tin, then roast for 20 minutes – this gets the heat right
into the centre of the joint.

6. Lower the temperature to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6 and cook for the
remainder of the calculated cooking time, uncovering the joint for the
last 20 minutes to brown the skin. Click here for a rolled turkey recipe.

How can I make carving easier?

One thing that will make it a bit easier is removing the
wishbone, which is at the neck cavity end of the bird, before stuffing
and cooking.

  • Turn the bird breast side up, with the neck cavity facing you.
  • Pull back the flap of skin until you can locate the wishbone with your fingers. 
  • Using a small, sharp knife, cut through the flesh around the wishbone just deep enough to free it.
  • Then ease it out, cutting it free at the top and bottom.

What’s the best way to carve the turkey?

1. Hold the bird in place on a board or platter with a carving fork. Cut
between the leg and breast on each side, bending the leg outwards,
then cutting through the joint to free it.

2. Cut each leg in half through the joint, then slice the meat away from the drumstick and thigh bones.

3. Starting at the neck end (where the stuffing is), carve the breast meat away, slightly on an angle, into neat slices.

Illustrations reproduced online with kind permission from Juliet Percival.