How To Cook The Perfect Turkey

Dec 22, 2020 | Home Cooking

The turkey is often the centerpiece of the holiday table, so you want it to look and taste great.

However, the most common complaint about turkey is that it can become dry during cooking. This rarely comes down to how it’s been cooked, but the quality of the bird.

Most people don’t realize that the length of time a turkey has been reared for, and what it’s been fed, are both vital to achieving a flavourful, moist turkey for a celebration meal.

Here we cover two of the most popular ways to cook your turkey to get the best results.

With either method, make sure you bring the turkey up to room temperature prior to cooking.

Conventional Oven Roast Turkey
  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Place the prepared, room temperature turkey on top of seasoned veggies and place in center of oven covered with foil
  • Cook for 25-30 minutes per kilo for a higher quality bird and 35-40 minutes for other, leaner birds
  • About an hour from the end of the cooking time, remove aluminum foil and if you want to add smoked, streaky bacon, layer it on and return the turkey to the oven for the remaining time
  • It is recommended to use a meat thermometer to test that the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F before removing from the oven, covering with a kitchen towel and allowing to rest for up to 2 hours
  • The juices in the bottom of the roasting pan can be used to make a delicious, rich turkey gravy by placing it over a medium heat on the hob, adding boiling water and simmering to reach desired thickness. Simply pass it through a sieve and season to taste.
BBQ Grilled Turkey Method

Using the BBQ is just as easy; you avoid the stress of the oven and kitchen clean up and save valuable oven space for all those other dishes. You can even use a disposable roasting pan!

  • Place turkey in roasting pan and get the grill to a medium heat of about 400°F
  • Fill the cavity of the turkey with a lemon (halved), half an onion, a bulb of garlic and a handful of fresh herbs (a mix of sage, thyme and rosemary works well)
  • Add a cup or two of good quality chicken stock in the bottom of the pan along with another cut up onion and lemon (this can be used for basting the bird every 20-30 mins)
  • Rub the whole bird with softened butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Cooking time will vary based on size of the bird, your grill and the outside temperature; as a guide it should take 11 to 13 minutes per pound. Make sure juices run clear and a meat thermometer registers minimum 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.
  • Leave to rest covered before serving.

Note: If you’re stuffing the turkey you’ll need to add another couple of minutes per pound to the cooking time.

To Brine Or Not To Brine A Turkey

Brining is the process of submerging the turkey in salted water for a period of time (usually 1-2 days) before cooking. The salt is said to alter the muscle of the turkey so it can absorb more of the water.

Sometimes other herbs and spices are used in the brining solution, but it’s the salt that’s believed to result in more moisture and flavor in the cooked meat.

Whether or not to brine the turkey can be a serious cause of debate!

There’s probably an equal number of people for and against this technique, and it usually boils down to family tradition or personal preference.

Those against brining would say that if you buy a better quality bird and don’t overcook it, then there’s really no reason to brine.

So how do you keep moisture in the turkey without brining?

Tips To Keep Your Turkey From Drying Out

Do one likes a dry turkey, and it all starts with a quality bird!

The better the quality, the quicker it will cook as higher-welfare animals tend to have more fat than others, keeping its natural moisture inside.

Fast-growing birds, on the other hand, haven’t been allowed the time to develop the fat cells that allow them to retain moisture and haven’t generally been fed a high quality diet including herbs and oats.

Buy the best quality you can and;

  • Baste the turkey with its juices every 20 minutes or so.
  • Cover the turkey with foil and remove it about 30 minutes to an hour before the end of the cooking time just to crisp the skin.
  • You can make up a festive butter and put it in-between the skin and the breast before cooking – this will give you a self-basting bird and a nice crispy skin.

Recipes like this cranberry butter from Jamie Oliver can also be made ahead on Christmas Eve.

Happy Cooking & Happy Holidays!

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