Do you want to know how to cook the perfect turkey? Check out our tips and tricks to cook a turkey this Christmas, from buying your turkey to preparing your turkey as well as tips on how to cut your turkey. Plus, we’ve got 10 turkey recipes to get you inspired, from Italian-style roast turkey to porchetta-wrapped and our best ever classic turkey recipe.
Our guide to everything you need for the perfect roast turkey on Christmas Day…
Which is the best turkey to buy for Christmas?
When buying your turkey it’s important to think about who will be eating it. In the UK there are two distinct types of turkey to buy, and each will be suited to different tastes.
If your family prefers white meat, with a less gamey flavour, look for a white breed of turkey, also known as the Broad Breasted White. As its name suggests, this has a higher proportion of white breast meat to dark leg meat. This is the breed most commonly available from supermarkets in the UK, and is often less expensive than other breeds.
Alternatively, breeds such as Bronze and Norfolk Black are slower growing, with a much more gamey flavour as they are often hung for 14 days. Proportionately they have more leg to breast meat than white turkeys do, so are a better option for those looking for a more pronounced flavour.
If there’s only a few people to feed, consider buying a turkey crown (a whole turkey with the legs and wings removed) or a boneless breast joint.
Where is the best place to buy Christmas turkey?
It’s worth getting the best-quality meat that you can so, if the budget allows, go for a free range or organic bird. In most cases the turkey will have had a longer life with access to outdoor pasture, which will give its meat a superior flavour. As with chicken, a lower price can often mean lower standards of welfare.
Any good butcher or farm shop will be able to order in exactly the size/breed to suit your family and friends, and increasingly the supermarkets can, too. Good stockists include kellyturkeys.co.uk, pipersfarm.com or most large supermarkets.
Check out our recipe for a perfectly cooked turkey this Christmas, and follow the tips below. Cooking turkey in a foil tent means it will steam in its own juices, resulting in tender meat. Take off the foil and turn up the oven at the end to get crispy skin. Buy extra-large roasting foil for this and make sure you have a large enough roasting tin for the bird.
HOW TO PREPARE A TURKEY AND HOW TO BRINE A TURKEY
You can give your turkey a helping hand by brining it before cooking. This will give you meat that is beautifully flavoured. Osmosis allows water and salt to pass between the cell walls of the turkey, meaning it becomes deeply seasoned and tender, as the salt starts to break down the structure of the meat overnight. It will also ensure crisper skin as salt draws moisture from here – once patted dry it will be ready to get super crisp in the oven.
Wet brining, where you dissolve salt into water and add aromatics, is tricky with a turkey, because of its size. No one wants to be going out in the run-up to Christmas to buy a 25 litre plastic tub!
Dry brining is an easier and just-as-effective option. Mix together lemon zest, thyme, ground black pepper and any of your favourite aromatics (think woody herbs, spices and citrus peel) with 5-6 tbsp of sea salt, depending on the size of the bird. The night before cooking, sprinkle and rub into the turkey, inside and out. The next morning, gently pat dry any moisture that may have been drawn from the skin overnight. Your bird is now ready for the oven.
HOW LONG TO REST A TURKEY
Most people rest their turkey once they’ve finished cooking it in the oven, but not everyone knows why they’re doing it. During cooking the meat has come into contact with fierce heat. This forces the juices to be pushed towards the centre of the turkey. Resting means these juices can re-distribute throughout – meaning juicier meat!
Put the turkey onto a large carving or serving plate, ensuring it’s deep enough to collect all those resting juices, and cover with foil and a clean tea towel and rest for 1 hour. Don’t worry, it will still be perfectly warm when you come to carve.
HOW TO CARVE A TURKEY
Forget what you know about slicing the breast and start by removing the legs. Cut down the skin between the leg and breast, and then bend the whole leg back until you feel the joint ‘pop’. Slice through the joint, removing the leg from the turkey, then cut through between the thigh and drumstick. Repeat with the other leg. Next, remove the whole breasts, one at a time. Find the breastbone, and cut down one side of it, prising the meat away from the bone until you remove the whole breast. Repeat with the other breast then slice across horizontally, on a board. This will produce the most presentable slices and remove the most meat from the carcass.
TIPS AND TRICKS WHEN COOKING YOUR TURKEY
- Take the turkey out of the fridge early in the morning. If the turkey’s closer to room temperature it will cook faster, and more evenly.
- Remove the wishbone before you cook – this will make it easier to remove the whole breast and slice it separately.
- Make sure your gravy and veg are piping hot, as the gravy will bring the turkey temperature back up after resting
If you’d rather something a bit different to serve as a centrepiece this Christmas, check out our best ever recipes for ‘anything but turkey…
Our Christmas turkey recipes
There’s one Christmas recipe that we can’t do without, a classic roast turkey. Cooking a turkey is a lot simpler than you think so just follow this easy recipe and you’ll deliver a juicy perfectly cooked bird the whole family will love.
Check out our best ever trimmings recipes to go with your roast turkey…
Try this stuffed turkey breast with easy bacon lattice for an impressive Christmas day centre piece. Making a bacon lattice is the kind of kitchen prep that looks a lot harder than it is. It’s worth taking a little time to put it together as it envelopes the stuffed turkey breast, keeping the meat moist and giving the joint a professional-looking finish.
Ask the butcher for a boned turkey crown; that’s both breasts taken off the bone with the skin still connecting them and the wings taken off. A turkey crown can be prepped ahead, there’s no waste, it carves beautifully and it only takes two hours to cook, so is the ultimate Christmas roast!
A different way to present your Christmas turkey. Maple syrup and bourbon give a sweet but mature flavour, and a beautiful bronzed finish. And a few clementines for festive cheer, and you’ve got yourself a winning recipe.
Check out our best ever roast potatoes recipes too…
Looking for the perfect Christmas Day centrepiece? Make everyone happy with our prosciutto-wrapped turkey. Here’s how to do it, step-by step.
Overnight dry brining in flavoured salt will concentrate flavours, give you juicier turkey meat and help the skin crisp up. Start this the day before, and you’ll be laughing come Christmas Day…
Start the turkey prep on Christmas Eve so it’s ready to go straight in the oven on Christmas Day. You could also get the chestnut and sage stuffing made up and cook it alongside the turkey for the last 40 minutes. Cooking the stuffing separately means you are in control of the cooking time, so you end up with a crisp top and sides, without drying out the centre.
A turkey crown is just the breast, here taken off the bone, it comes with the skin attaching the two breasts together. It’s easy to stuff and cook and even easier to carve. Perfect for a no-fuss Christmas dinner.
We have spruced up the classic roast turkey recipe with rosemary, bay leaves, garlic and white wine for an Italian twist.
Looking for other Italian recipes? Click there for more exciting recipes…