From the Butcher’s Block: Top 10 turkey tips

By easyFood

07 December 2017

We’re great fans of the Christmas dinner here, but preparing and cooking a turkey can be intimidating so we went to a professional! Here’s expert butcher Dave Lang answering your burning questions about cooking a Christmas turkey. 

What’s the safest way to defrost a turkey?

Always defrost meat in the fridge. It will take up to three days to defrost but it is the safest way. Place the bird in a basin to collect any drips and don’t wash the turkey when it is defrosted. Wash your hands, utensils and work surface after preparing the turkey.

How do I know if the bird is fully defrosted?

If you press on the muscles of the leg and breast and they give easily, and you can move the legs freely, it is ready. If they are stiff, the bird is still frozen.

How should I prepare my turkey for cooking?

Dry the bird off with kitchen paper. Slide your fingers under the skin of the breast, starting at the neck cavity, and push your fingers forward gently until you have created a space under the skin. Push butter into the space and press down from the outside to flatten it. The butter will melt during cooking to moisten the breast.

How long does it take to cook a turkey?

That depends on the weight but a general rule is to cook the bird for 25 minutes per pound/450g, plus an extra 25 minutes at the end.

If my turkey is stuffed, will it take longer to cook?

If the internal cavity of the bird is stuffed it will take longer to cook. The heat in the oven will not circulate as well if the bird is stuffed all the way through. I recommend not to stuff the inside and to just stuff the breast.

How do I know if my bird is fully cooked and ready to eat?

I always recommend using a meat thermometer to be 100% certain. The turkey should be a minimum of 74˚C in the breast and 82˚C in the thigh.

Last year my turkey was quite dry. How do I avoid that this year?

Push some butter under the skin as in Q.3, or try this trick: buy 300g of streaky rashers from your butcher and place a layer of rashers over the breast and legs before placing in the oven. Remove the bacon about 20 minutes before the end of cooking time to allow the skin time to brown.

What’s your top tip for roasting a turkey?

My first tip is to get your butcher to take the legs off the turkey. Cook them separately from the crown, either at the same time or later. The legs cook at a different rate to the breast and can end up dried out, but are moist and succulent if cooked separately.

My second tip is to cook the stuffing separately. Roll it into balls and place in the oven on a lightly buttered tray about half an hour before the turkey is finished cooking. They will brown nicely and your turkey will be cooked through perfectly.

For how long do I need to “rest” the turkey?

As with all large joints, 20-30 minutes is fine. Lightly tent with tin foil, finish your preparations and the bird will still be hot after that time.

For how long can I keep leftover cooked turkey in the fridge?

Leftover meats should be used within three or four days. If you have a lot of cooked turkey left over and won’t be using it immediately, it’s best to freeze it for later use.

Before you start cooking, you need to know which size to buy, here’s a guide!