With everything that’s happened this year, chances are you won’t be indulging in the Christmas that you’re used to but however you are celebrating this year, whether you’re cooking dinner for the first time or changing up your menu, we’re here with some top tips for getting the perfect turkey for your Christmas dinner.
Ok, step one – sourcing your meat.
We would recommend ordering your turkey a few weeks in advance once you know how many people you’re cooking for. You can then either pick it up or arrange for it to be delivered on Christmas Eve, many of our local butchers offer a click and collect service already, but some will happily deliver at this time of year, so make sure to check out our meat suppliers here.
Before you make your order, be sure to know exactly how many people you are cooking for. This year, we’ll have much fewer dinner guests, but for future reference or those of you living in large family groups, here’s an idea of size.
4-6 people – 3kg
8-10 people – 4kg
10-12 people – 5kg
12-14 people – 6kg
16-18 people – 8kg
Some producers and shops are also selling small turkey cuts weighing between 1 and 2 kg which is perfect for 2-3 guests.
An important thing to remember though – don’t just take the number of guests into account but also the size of your oven. No one wants to be up at the crack of dawn trying to squeeze a turkey into the oven.
Now you know what size you need, make sure you have enough space in your fridge to store it until you start cooking. Some places offer frozen turkeys, which are usually more economical if you’re cooking on a budget, so you will need to make sure you have room in your freezer if you’re opting for one of those.
Preparing the turkey
When you get your turkey home or when you choose to defrost it, make sure to remove the giblets if they haven’t already been taken out. We would also recommend washing the cavity of the bird before you start cooking.
Now, you can do whatever you like with your turkey, some people like to marinate it, others cook it with bacon over the top, others roast it with fruits or veg in the roasting tin. How you want to flavour the turkey is entirely up to you and may need you to amend cooking time, but these tips will give you a basic idea of how long you will need to cook the turkey for.
Now for the cooking…
To calculate the exact time you will need to cook your turkey, you will need to know the exact weight. This will usually be printed on your delivery note, the receipt or any packaging that comes with the turkey – so make sure to check this first!
For example, in a preheated oven, a turkey will require about 20 minutes cooking time per kg plus an extra 70 mins. So, a 5kg turkey will need to cook for around 2hrs and 50 minutes and then be left to rest for 30 minutes before serving.
Also remember what time you are planning to serve dinner, if you’re aiming to sit down at 1pm, you will ideally need a large turkey in the oven by 10.30 am.
It is important to cook turkey for the correct time for its size, too little and the meat is inedible and too much and it will dry out.
Right now you know how long it will take, here’s the steps to making the perfect Turkey dinner.
- Start your morning by taking the turkey out of the fridge, it must be room temperature when it goes in the oven so that it cooks evenly. Depending on the size of the bird, you may need to leave it out for up to an hour before you start cooking.
- If you have a frozen turkey, make sure to defrost it fully before cooking.
- Prepare any stuffing or marinates while it is resting and then season the bird to your taste before cooking.
- Make sure to preheat your oven
- Check that the giblets are removed and that the bird has been washed
- During cooking, test the internal temperature with a probe thermometer if you have one – you know it is ready when its internal temperature reaches 60 degrees. (Don’t worry if it is ready too soon, you can rest the meat for up to an hour and it will continue cooking itself).
Now the turkey is ready to eat, how do you serve it?
Some families prefer to carve in the kitchen and serve it ready sliced, others prefer to bring it into the dining room and allow the head of the house / cook to do the honours. Whatever you choose, here are some tips for how to carve.
- Start with the drumsticks then remove the wings
- Cut off the dark meat following the direction of the bone
- Remove the breast meat and slice
- Carve the white meat in downward slices
Once the meat is carved, make sure to remove the stuffing and portion this out too!
If you have leftover turkey, allow this to cool and then wrap in foil and refrigerate. You can use the leftovers over the next few days either in sandwiches, stews, curries or use it to make stock for future use.