How to cook a turkey

  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • If you’re wondering how to cook a turkey for the perfect Christmas dinner, our simple step-by-step guide will help you achieve fantastic 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 perfect for Christmas day.

    The most important thing when it comes to how to cook a turkey is to buy the best quality turkey possible. These days, that doesn’t necessarily mean paying the highest price. Some of the most affordable and cheapest Christmas turkeys from well known supermarket brands also happen to be fantastic quality too. Slower growing breeds such as bronze turkeys will have a more developed flavour and firmer texture – so keep an eye out for these.

    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.



    • 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

    How to keep your turkey deliciously moist

    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.

    Top Tip for serving your turkey

    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.

    How to cook a turkey