Cooking the Christmas Turkey

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If there is one part of Christmas dinner that is going to cause stress it is likely to be cooking the turkey.  How many times I have heard stories of dry overcooked turkeys or even worse under cooked turkeys? I think the worst story has to be from my radio co-host Tony Murrell who put the turkey into the oven on “auto clean” by mistake and completely cremated it!
Another friend was so proud of her achievement of cooking a perfect bird but while the meat was resting the friendly labrador had Christmas dinner first!
In our family growing up we had roast lamb and a ham and maybe some chicken but never a turkey.  Aside from reading about them in books it was something I don”t think I had even tasted until my mid 20’s or later.    Nowadays I do generally cook a turkey and we also have a glazed ham.

Turkey’s do need a little care to ensure that they are cooked just right but it is definitely achievable.
Many people opt for brining their turkey overnight in a salt solution with flavourings such as apple juice and spices.  This will definitely give moisture to the meat and is a method that is highly recommended for producing tender succulent turkey.
Another option is steaming and then browning it at the end.

Turkey portions are also available and you can buy breast on it’s own or the very affordable turkey drumsticks.  These are generally from Tegel turkeys.

Croziers free range turkeys are available at good food stores around NZ and are genuinely free range.

If you are roasting your turkey without brining then here is a simple method worth following.

1. Remove the turkey from the fridge at least 3 hours before cooking. To calculate the cooking time, remove the giblets, and reserve. Weigh the turkey. The turkey will need about 20 minutes per 450g plus an extra 25 minutes at the end of calculated time

2. Prepare stuffing mixes.

3.  Preheat the oven to 220°C.  Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat thoroughly wipe dry with absorbent kitchen paper. Lift into a roasting tin.

4. Stuff the main cavity and neck end of the turkey with stuffing, pushing the stuffing up between the flesh and the breast (not too tightly, as it will expand during cooking).

5. Pulling the skin back over and tucking underneath the bird to keep the stuffing in. Shape any remaining stuffing into balls. Wrap each one in half a bacon rasher and secure with a cocktail stick. Sew up the neck skin or secure it with a skewer, then truss the turkey to give it a good shape.
Place the bird breast side up on a wire rack in a roasting pan and cover loosely with foil. Do not wrap tightly or the bird will steam rather than roast in the oven.

Brush with  oil and season well. Roast for calculated cooking time which in this case would be 3 hours and 5 minutes.

6. Place the pan in the oven. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 180°C and continue cooking for a further 2 ½ hours, basting the turkey with the fat and pan juices every 20 to 25 minutes.

7. Remove the foil, baste the turkey again and increase the oven temperature to 200°C. Continue cooking the bird to brown the skin for a further 30 minutes, or until the meat is well cooked.To check the bird in cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh. The juices that run out should be clear and show no traces of pink. If are still a bit pink, continue cooking. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before carving.

Any turkey tales from you?
How do you cook your turkey and what flavours do you put in your stuffing?





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8 thoughts on “Cooking the Christmas Turkey

  1. I always spread Turkey with butter then put bacon strips on top to keep it moist then when out of the oven flip Turkey over to rest, so juices run right through. Have never ever had a dry Turkey. Stuffing is sausage based.

  2. a mac pro right?? i’m using a macbook and watched it fine – but I can’t convert it to a file suitable for youtube.Wouldn’t you think Press TV would be anti-Microsoft!!!?Right, I’m off to get some guitar strings. later y’all

  3. Oh yeah, stuffing – always the same one by popular request. It has onion, mushrooms, bacon, parsley and other herbs in it and is fiercely fought over.

  4. I always do mine in an oven bag. Nobody ever seems to mention this as a method, but it’s great for keeping the turkey moist and there’s no faffing around with shoving butter under the skin or basting.

    One tip I read recently: carve the entire turkey in one go as otherwise the heat in the bones continues to cook it and it gets dry.

    • Hi Carolyn. I mentioned oven bags in my Homeric length post above. The only problem with the bags is that there don’t seem to be any available for the larger sized turkeys (6kg+). Sometimes the ones that do fit in the bags can be a little underwhelming – i.e. look like really big chickens. For our Thanksgiving we have to feed a clan of 30 so I’ve done 2 – 3 medium sized turkeys in bags before, but there’s nothing like a truly large turkey for a bit of wow factor.

  5. I love turkey! If you could see my Facebook page you’d see that my current profile pic is of a plate of turkey goodness showcasing some beautiful slices of incredibly moist white meat.

    My mum is American and so I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving. On US sitcoms, it’s a classic theme to have some poor person stressing over all of the work a turkey seems to require. I’ve been head turkey chef for my family for the last 15 yrs and I can honestly say it’s really pretty simple. I spend way more time making stuffing that I do shilly shallying around with basting and constant temperature checks and all the other things which historically seem to make this such a chore.

    It may seem obvious, but as a 1st step, make sure you get a turkey that will fit in your oven. I have a large 90 cm oven, but have had a couple of experiences that required some MacGyver-like work arounds when using other family members’ ovens. Those classic large birds you see at catered events or on TV might not fit in the average wall oven.

    Basically, as long as you follow the instructions on the bag you’ll be fine. Defrost in the fridge (or a large chilly bin with ice packs) for 2 – 3 days, as per instruction above, it’s also good to remove from the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking. Current Tegel instructions differ from the above – roasting for longer and at a lower temperature (160˚) to maximize moistness. Loosely tent it with foil, cook for however many hours as per the weight – making sure to remove the foil for the last 30 – 45 mins or so at a higher temperature to make sure it’s golden brown and that’s about it.

    I don’t baste my turkeys – apart from when I remove the foil tent to begin the browning. Most if not all frozen varieties – from Tegel to Croziers come pre-brined. Some smaller ones will fit in an XXL oven bag if you’re really worried about it being moist, but I’ve found that even with 12kg behemoths that tenting it with foil is sufficient. I sometimes cover the breast with rashers of bacon and almost always push (herb) butter under the skin on top of the breast. Cooking it unstuffed has resulted in more reliable cooking times and moisture levels (stuffed birds take longer so your chances of dryness increase), but either way is easily managed.

    I always serve it with home made cranberry sauce (frozen cranberries are available from most supermarkets this time of the year) which is made a few hours before to give it time to set – overnight is better.

    Don’t even get me started on stuffing ;-) This year I made four varieties: 1) roast pumpkin, bacon & maple syrup, 2) chorizo, coriander and homemade blue cornbread, 3) dried cranberry, apple & pecan, and 4) our new fave – sauerkraut, sage, apple and walnut (also a shout out to our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage).

    OK, stopping now – my comment is longer than the article ;-)

    • Oh I loved your post, had me enthralled right to the end. So any good tips about prep and cooking. And the stuffing, yummy. I have recently started making Stuffins, stuffing cooked as individual muffins. Got the idea off good old Facebook, they were a hit with the family. I always use some sort of nuts and dried herbs with bacon in my stuffing mix. Have a Happy Christmas