How to cook your turkey…

We are often asked how we cook our turkeys so as we were carrying out a taste test I thought that I would take the opportunity to pass on what I do. My method is really simple, the most important thing is not to overcook the bird and to rest it before carving. Scroll to bottom of the page if its just the cooking times you require.

The first thing is not to be daunted, it’s basically a big chicken. The problem is that the turkey can be quite heavy , this along with it being extremely hot and an awkward shape makes it difficult to handle. I find that turkey forks really help. Preheat oven to 200ºC.

So to begin, remove the wee bag of giblets that come inside the turkey, pop the neck, gizzards and heart into a pot, rinse them then cover with water maybe a litre, with an onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, peppercorns and some parsley. Cut vegetables into big chunks no need to peel anything. (You will also find the liver in the bag, reserve this to put through stuffing). Bring up to boil then simmer gently for about 2 hours.

Onto the turkey, I give it a rub with some salt, pepper and olive oil. You could add some chopped herbs to the oil and  carefully lift the skin away from the flesh and get some oil in there. I didn’t bother.  Into the cavity goes an orange, halved, an onion halved (skin and all), some herbs (I like sage, rosemary and thyme) and about 75g of butter roughly cubed. I prefer to cook the stuffing separately, if you are stuffing the bird then you must add the weight of the stuffing onto that of the bird to calculate cooking time.

I place the turkey breast side down into roasting tray, mine has a rack however if you don’t have that roughly chop carrot and onion and pop the bird on top to protect the breast from the fierce heat of the roasting tray, it also adds to the flavour of the gravy. Roast at 220ºC/200ºC fan for 20 mins then reduce to 180ºC /160ºC fan.

That’s it for now, I don’t take it out, I don’t baste. I’ll just check that its cooking evenly. Cooking it breast side down allows it to self baste, the back bone and the ribs are full of connective tissue and fat, all this juicy goodness trickles down into the breast as it cooks. It also means that the heat gets right into the legs resulting in that slow cooked lamb shank kind of texture.

Around 20 mins before its finished cooking turn the bird onto its back to brown the breast, if at any time the legs start looking a bit too brown wrap some foil around them, or if its near the end of cooking maybe some streaky bacon just to protect them.

OK so the bird is ready to take out when it reaches 60ºC, use a meat thermometer, its well worth getting one. Take out of oven and place breast side down to rest (I rest it in another roasting tin so as I can make the gravy using the juices and pan scrapings that have collected during cooking ). The temperature of the bird will rise to 65ºC during resting which should be no less than 30 minutes. Resting breast side down once again lets all the juices run back into the breast. Please note Food Standards Agency recommends temperature is taken to 70ºC.

Onto the all important cooking times. Our birds cook quicker than a commercially raised turkey, it’s due to the way the fat is distributed through the meat, as the fat renders down and heats up it cooks the meat it is through. My 4.8kilo  turkey cooked in 1 hour 50 mins.

As a guide here is what I would recommend however oven temperatures vary so you MUST temperature check your bird to make sure its cooked through. Start checking temperature half way through cooking and don’t forget to factor in the additional 30 mins rest time.

Oven temperature 220ºC/200ºC fan for 20 mins then reduce to 180ºC /160ºC fan. If you have an Aga (then I’m jealous) use the Hot Oven.

3kg 1 hour 30 mins
4kg 1 hours 45 mins
5kg 2 hours
6kg 2 hours 15 mins
7-8kg 2 hours 45 mins
9-11kg 3 hours