It’s Christmas, the annual food-fest has begun and you’re on turkey duty. This is not something to take lightly. The standard of your cooking will have no small influence on the level of festive enjoyment experienced by your family and guests. Do it well and you’ll be a kitchen hero. Do it badly and you’ll end up the subject of whispered conversations and cancelled dinner invitations.
How To’s Christmas turkey roasting tips will save you from yuletide embarrassment.
If you are using a frozen turkey make sure it’s thoroughly defrosted before cooking. Defrosting should be done in the fridge, not on the kitchen counter. Leave plenty of time, a 5kg turkey will take around 60 hours to thaw properly.
When the turkey is properly defrosted, it should be allowed to reach to room temperature before roasting. Allow it to sit outside the fridge only long enough to achieve this. Like other fowl, turkey is prone to bacterial growth and should not be left in warm environments any longer than necessary.
Remove the neck and giblets. Rinse the bird inside and out with water.
While some stuffing recipes allow for the preparation of the stuffing mix beforehand, perhaps even overnight storage in the refrigerator, any stuffing mix that uses egg should only be prepared immediately before insertion into the bird to minimise the chance of bacterial growth.
Stuffing the main cavity of a turkey is not recommended. The large amount of stuffing required can make thorough cooking of the mix difficult and improperly cooked stuffing, which has absorbed the bird’s blood, poses a potential health risk.
Instead, force your hands beneath the skin that covers the turkey’s breast, from one end of the bird to the other. This will create a space above the breast which can then be packed with stuffing.
Prepare for Roasting
Rub the outside of the turkey, top and bottom, liberally with softened butter. And I do mean liberally. One of the perils of turkey roasting is dry breast. A barrier of fat on the surface of the bird will help prevent moisture loss.
At this stage of preparation, many recipes call for 8 – 10 strips of bacon to be laid across the breast of the turkey. This will contribute to the cooked bird’s flavour, but bacon is very salty and the salt will serve to draw moisture out of the breast during cooking. With a bird already predisposed to dryness in this area, the use of bacon, then, might be considered a trifle irresponsible.
Pan and Foil
Place two large sheets of aluminium foil in a roasting pan so that they cross each other at right angles. Place your turkey in the centre of the dish and draw the ends of your pieces of foil up and bend them into place so that they form a loose tent around the bird. Make sure there is a pocket of air between the turkey and the foil. Sealing the turkey like this allows it to cook in a moist environment and helps to prevent it drying out.
Allow about 40 minutes roasting time per kg of weight. A 5kg turkey will take a little over three hours to cook properly.
Place the turkey in an oven pre-heated to 220˚C. Cook for 40 minutes then turn the oven down to 170˚C. Cooking at a higher temperature to begin with seals the skin and helps prevent drying.
40 minutes before the end of your total allotted cooking time, open your turkey’s foil tent so that the bird is exposed. This will allow the skin to crisp up and turn brown. Through this final cooking period, baste the bird every 10 minutes.
Remove the turkey from the oven. You can check that it is cooked properly by sticking a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh or breast. If the juices run clear the turkey is cooked. If you have a meat thermometer test both the thigh and the breast – they should read 82˚C and 78˚C respectively.
Allow your turkey to rest before carving – cover loosely with foil and let it sit for at least 30 minutes in a warm place.
Your turkey is now cooked to perfection. You’ll sit tall at the table, proud of your contribution to the season’s prandial over-indulgence, basking in the accolades your friends and family are sure to bestow. Only trouble is, they’ll probably ask you to do it again next year.
Learn more about cooking the perfect turkey in this video.