If you’re wondering how to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner, our simple step-by-step guide will help you achieve perfect results every time when cooking a turkey! If you’ve cooked turkey before and simply want a reminder of turkey cooking times, these steps will help you learn how to cook a turkey with confidence.
The most important thing when it comes to how to cook a turkey is to buy the best quality turkey you can afford. Slower growing breeds such as bronze turkeys will have a more developed flavour and firmer texture.
To keep the meat moist and succulent when cooking a turkey are the turkey cooking times. It’s important not to overcook the meat and once it’s cooked leave it to rest for at least 30 mins or preferably about an hour. The turkey will stay hot and the meat will relax and tenderise and be easier to carve. Resting the turkey also frees up the oven for you to cook the roast potatoes, stuffing and sausages.To ensure the turkey cooks evenly, remove any string or bands that tie the legs together. This allows the heat to flow much more freely into the turkey cavity. This is also why the cavity of the turkey should never be packed with stuffing, there is a danger that the temperature reached inside the bird won’t be hot enough to kill off any bacteria. Any stuffing should be placed in the neck cavity under the flap of skin, or roasted separately in a tin or rolled into balls and baked.
If buying a frozen turkey allow enough time for it to defrost fully in a cool place. For example a 6kg turkey will take at least 24 hours. If time is running out and the bird is not fully defrosted you can immerse in a clean bucket of cold (not warm) water.
The easiest way to carve a turkey is to cut off the drumsticks first, using the joint between drumstick and thigh as a guide. Then remove the thighs, again using the joint with the body cavity as the guide. Remove the wings in the same way. Cut along either side of the breast bone and remove the whole turkey breasts, one at a time, cutting as close to the carcass as possible. Place the turkey breasts on a board and cut into slices, then slice the meat off the thighs and drumsticks.
- 5-6kg turkey, thawed if frozen and any giblets removed
- 1/2 lemon
- ½ onion, cut in half
- A few sprigs fresh sage, parsley and rosemary plus extra to garnish
- 75g butter, softened
To make the herb stuffing:
- 1 onion, chopped
- 50g butter
- 100g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 3tbsp chopped fresh mixed herbs such as rosemary (leaves only), parsley and sage
- Finely grated zest 1/2 lemon
- 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Fan 170C/Gas Mark 5. Make the stuffing by frying the onion in the butter for 5 mins to soften. Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon zest and egg. Mix well and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the turkey in a roasting tin or dish. If the legs are tied together remove the string and open them out. Place the lemon, onion and herbs into the body cavity but don’t pack it too tightly.
Lift the flap of skin covering the neck cavity and spoon the stuffing under the skin. Smooth the skin back over the stuffing and tuck underneath the turkey. Any remaining stuffing can be spooned into a dish, dotted with a little butter and baked for 30 mins.
Break the softened butter into pieces and dot over the turkey. Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Loosely cover the turkey with a large sheet of foil and scrunch it around the sides of the tin to seal. This will help to keep the steam inside the foil as it cooks, keeping the turkey moist. Calculate the cooking time allowing 20 mins per kg plus an extra 70 mins (a 5-6kg bird will take approx 3-31/2hrs. Baste the turkey every hour with the cooking juices and remove the foil for the final 30 mins of cooking time. To test if the turkey is cooked the juices should run clear, not pink, when a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Remove from the oven, recover with the foil and leave to stand for 30 mins to 1 hour before carving. Garnish with fresh herbs to serve.