How to Cook the Perfect Turkey
First things first
Make sure your turkey is going to fit into the oven. You might laugh but it’s a common hurdle at Christmas.
You’re going to need a roasting tin that’s big enough for the bird with room to spare, and deep enough to catch all the fat and cooking juices.
Weigh your bird
Make a note of the weight of your bird, and check it again if you have scales big enough at home. Knowing the exact weight will make sure the cooking time is correct, and avoid an overcooked, dry bird or a raw one.
For fresh turkeys…
If you have a fresh turkey, make sure you get it out of the fridge at least 60 minutes before you cook it, so that it comes to room temperature. You’ll get less shrinkage when it goes into a hot oven.
For frozen turkeys…
If you have a frozen turkey, thaw it completely before cooking, otherwise, it will be very difficult to get an even cook.
Top thawing tip: it takes approximately 24 hours for 2kg+ of turkey to fully thaw in the fridge. To thaw in cold water, it approximately takes 30 mins per 0.4 kg of poultry.
Brining – Submerge the turkey in water with 4 tbsp sugar and 4 tbsp salt for 4 hours. Once completed, rinse and pat dry before cooking.
Use a butter rub to give a crispy skin – Ease the skin from the flesh using a tablespoon – work your way up from the cavity. Mix 150g butter with salt, pepper, chopped thyme and rosemary. Push half under the skin, massaging it to spread out and rub the other half over the top.
Make sure frozen turkeys are completely defrosted. Pat the turkey’s skin with kitchen towel so it’s dry and the butter will stick to it.
Preheat the oven
Always preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes before cooking your turkey to make sure it’s at the right temperature.
Place some veg, chicken stock and onions in the bottom of the deep roasting tray you’re cooking your turkey in to help make an epic gravy with all the juices.
Timing is key
Get your timings right. We recommend cooking your turkey in the oven at 180°C/gas 4 to get the perfect internal temperature, but timing depends on the size of your bird.
…weight & times
- 4-5kg – cook 2¼ to 2½ hrs.
- 5-6kg – cook 2½ to 3 hrs.
- 6-7kg – cook 3 to 3½ hrs.
- 7-8kg – cook 3½ to 4 hrs.
- 8-9kg – cook 4 to 4¼ hrs.
- 9-10kg – cook 4¼ to 4½ hrs.
Cooking your turkey
Place your bird on top of the veggies in the roasting tin and roast your turkey for the calculated time, or until the juices run clear from the thigh, if you pierce it with a knife or a skewer.
Top tip: to cook your bird for the perfect amount of time, use a meat thermometer. You’ll need to do this on the thickest part of the turkey, between the breast and thigh. This will tell you when the bird is cooked and prevents you from repeatedly poking the turkey skin and letting out that beautiful juice.
Getting your turkey to the correct temperature for the right amount of time is really important to remove harmful bacteria. Bacteria start to die at 60°C but it’s recommended that you cook food to 70°C and it stays at that temperature for 2 minutes.
Here’s a guide to the internal temperatures and timings you’re looking for:
- 60°C for 45 minutes
- 65°C for 10 minutes
- 70°C for 2 minutes
- 75°C for 30 seconds
- 80°C for 6 seconds
You can cover the turkey loosely with foil (although never at the start of cooking) and remove it just under an hour before the timing is up to get the turkey nicely browned.
Rest your bird
Once cooked, carefully lift the turkey out of the tray and rest it on a board. Turkeys that weigh between 4-6kg should be rested for 1½ hours, and ones from 6-10kg can rest for two hours.
There are different ways to carve a turkey – some like thin slices, you might like big hunks of meat – but the key is to do it safely. Using a carving fork will keep your bird stable as you slice, while a sharp knife will ensure a clean cut. Try this set.
Leftover Turkey Recipes
It’s the same question we ask ourselves every year – what can you do with turkey leftovers? You might make a quick and easy turkey salad or whip up a turkey frittata. Or you could use your leftover meat to make one of the delicious recipes below.
Boxing Day Pizza
Here’s an inventive way to use up your turkey that gets the kids involved too. You only need the ingredients for a homemade pizza, then you can pop everything from leftover pigs in blankets to your favourite veggies on top with the meat.
Rosemary Turkey Sourdough Melt
If sourdough and Emmental is more your style, this turkey sandwich uses up your leftovers in the tastiest way possible. You can pop your uneaten stuffing in and add a dollop of cranberry sauce for extra flavour.
Turkey and Spring Onion Noodle Soup
Enjoy a lighter way to use up your leftovers this Christmas with a comforting noodle soup. This easy recipe is family-friendly with simple flavours – if you want to add an extra element, try adding a splash of soy sauce and a pinch of chilli flakes to the broth. You can also use udon noodles or rice vermicelli, if you prefer.
Now you’re all clued up on how to cook your turkey, get ready to have the tastiest Christmas lunch ever. And, whether you’re using up your Thanksgiving leftovers while celebrating another famous turkey holiday in November, or eating it all the way until New Year’s Day, our turkey recipes have you covered.