When it comes to the Christmas dinner, one of the most crucial elements has to be the Christmas turkey.
Cooking a turkey improperly can bring with it a whole host of problems, not least the risk of food poisoning (dramatic, I know), but this is why it is absolutely critical to know the basics of cooking the bird, before even switching the oven on!
How many guests are you expecting?
It all begins with the size. Nothing is as embarrassing as being underprepared and nothing could be as wasteful as being left with large servings of turkey after Christmas! The rule of the thumb is to try and determine the number of expected guests. A 3kg turkey should roughly serve 6-7 people while 4 kg will cater for 8-9 people. Or 0.5kg per person as a guide.
Believe it or not, preventing food poisoning starts long before the turkey is even put near the stove – as food hygiene experts recommend that all poultry is stored towards the bottom of your refrigerator away from other meats and items to avoid the risk of contamination – it’s also worth knowing that overcrowding your fridge can also increase this risk!
What type of Turkey?
Now that you know the right size of the turkey you want, let’s consider the taste matter. You can go for a regular turkey if you are looking for the best value for money, or a free-range turkey if the taste is more important to you. Both taste great, however, since the free-range turkeys are typically grown slower, their flavors take longer develop, hence, they often taste better.
Before the Oven
Before your turkey hits the oven, it needs to be room temperature – so be sure to give you frozen turkey enough time to completely defrost and for refrigerated turkeys, remove from the fridge, at least, two hours prior to cooking. Frozen turkeys can be difficult to crisp up because of the moisture from their thawed skins so you will want to pat well with kitchen roll in order to remove any trace of water before cooking.
Get it Stuffed!
Some would argue that it is not a Christmas turkey unless it’s stuffed! But do it right and do it moderately. You can use chestnuts, cranberries, pecans, etc. Put the stuffing in through the neck, between the skin and the meat and secure the underside with a cocktail stick.
Timing is Important
Your turkey ought to come in packaging that specifies the required times and temperatures, but if not, make it 20 minutes per kg + 70 minutes (if over 4kg) or +90 minutes (if over 4kg). Cover in foil and set to 180C/gas mark 4. To get a dark golden, crispy turkey, cover in butter before cooking and remove the foil for the last 45 minutes.
Cooked or what?
The best way to know if it is cooked is to insert a skewer into the thigh (the fattest part). If it runs clear of juices, you have yourself a safe, tasty, well-cooked turkey!
The Waiting Game
To have a more succulent, tastier turkey, leave it to rest after 30 minutes of its removal. Cover it in foil though to ensure it stays toasty warm.
Enjoy! Merry Christmas!