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Follow our recipe for how to cook turkey, then check out our easy turkey crown, roast turkey breast, turkey gravy and more Christmas turkey recipes.

Tips and techniques for cooking a turkey

How to make your turkey juicy

Putting butter under the skin of the breast of the turkey keeps the meat moist while it cooks. The breast is the leanest muscle on the bird and most liable to dry out – as the butter melts it will baste this white meat.

Leave to rest – Resting allows the juices that have been forced to the middle of the bird by the heat of the oven to redistribute back outwards meaning juicy meat throughout.

How to make your turkey tender

Dry brining – rubbing salt all over the turkey and then leaving it to rest overnight – helps to break down tough muscle proteins, resulting in tender, deeply seasoned meat, and also crispier skin. It works because the salt draws out the meat juices through osmosis, the salt then dissolves in these juices, and this brine is then reabsorbed into the meat.

Create a foil tent – Cooking the turkey under a foil tent allows it to steam in its own juices, resulting in more tender meat. Because the steam has nowhere to escape, it will ensure the meat stays moist as it cooks.

How to store your turkey

If you can, leave the turkey uncovered in the fridge overnight before cooking. Modern fridges are designed to be as moisture-free as possible, so being uncovered will help dry out the turkey’s skin and ensure it crisps up during roasting.

Can you reheat turkey?

It is safe to reheat turkey if it has been stored in the fridge for a maximum of four days.

If you are reheating just one or two portions, the best option is the microwave:

  1. Carve the breast meat into thin slices and remove the leg meat from the bone.
  2. Place in a microwavable dish or container and cover with stock or gravy.
  3. Cook for 2 mins on a medium-high setting, then check. If it's not very hot, cook in 30-second bursts until piping hot. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving.

If reheating a larger amount of turkey, the oven is your best option:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  2. Carve the turkey breast meat into thin slices and remove the leg meat from the bone. Lay in a roasting tin or gratin dish. Pour over enough turkey or chicken stock over so there is about 5mm in the bottom of the dish. Dot over small pieces of butter.
  3. Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast for 30 mins until the turkey is very hot – at least 75C on a cooking thermometer. Leave to rest for a few minutes in the juices and serve.

Ingredients

  • (about 5kg) whole turkey, giblets saved for stock
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • ground to make 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 onions, thickly sliced

Method

  • STEP 1

    The night before cooking, remove the turkey from the fridge (this is a good time to check that it’s thoroughly defrosted). Starting from the neck end of the turkey, use your hand to gently prise the skin away from the meat, working your way all the way down the breasts so you have a large pocket. Season the butter, then push ¾ of it into the pocket and spread so the butter is evenly covering the breasts. Spread the remaining butter over the outside of the legs and breasts.

  • STEP 2

    Mix the sea salt with the black pepper, then sprinkle evenly all over the turkey, both inside and out. Put back in the fridge, uncovered, and leave overnight.

  • STEP 3

    Remove the turkey from the fridge at least an hour before cooking. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. To calculate the cooking time, allow 30 minutes per kilo plus 30 minutes extra – so a 5kg turkey will take three hours in total.

  • STEP 4

    Put the sliced onions into the bottom of a roasting tin, put a rack over them, followed by the turkey. Pour 300ml of boiling water into the base of the tin and cover the whole thing with a double layer of foil. Make sure that it’s well sealed around the edges. Put the tray in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for the remaining cooking time.

  • STEP 5

    After 1½ hours, remove the foil and cook uncovered for the remaining time until really crisp. To test whether the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast — the juice should run clear. If it is pink, cook it for another 20 minutes and test again. Alternatively, insert a digital thermometer into the thickest point – it’s cooked when it reads 70C.

  • STEP 6

    Remove from the oven, move the bird and onions onto a serving platter and cover with foil to rest for 45 minutes. Strain the juices at the bottom of the tin into a large jug to settle, then make our ultimate turkey gravy to serve alongside.

Check out our best Christmas side dish recipes to go with your Christmas turkey

Vegetable Tian Recipe

Authors

Adam Bush Chef Portrait
Adam BushDeputy food editor
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