The centrepiece on the Christmas – and indeed Thanksgiving – table is, for so many of us, a turkey.
This Christmas, I wanted to share my top tips for the perfect turkey. It’s been delicious work re-testing my recipe, to make sure it works faultlessly for you on the big day.
Good food starts with good shopping. The turkey you buy really matters. My view is that I’d rather eat meat less frequently and make it really amazing when I do. And if there’s ever a time to buy something good, it’s surely this time of year.
Having conducted independent, extensive taste testing, I’m firmly of the conclusion that the most delicious turkey I have tried is from Copas. Based on their family farm near Cookham, Copas rear and sell their turkeys through their website with home delivery and selected retailers.
The flavour and texture of the meat is unparalleled; juicy, tender breast and richly flavoured, succulent leg meat, and wonderfully thick, dry skin, that turns fantastically crisp and golden once roasted.
Copas turkeys have been carefully reared, hung and slaughtered to ensure the birds enjoy the best life and produce the most delicious centrepiece for a celebration.
What to buy?
I recommend buying what you need for the number of people you need to serve. Don’t feel the need to go overboard, because it’s Christmas. I like to have leftover turkey, and use it in delicious pies, curry and just cold with salads, cheeses and chutneys over the festive week. I therefore budget to have some leftover meat when making my calculations. Cooked turkey freezes very well, so you can ensure every scrap is used and enjoyed.
If you like a mix of white and brown meat, then a whole bird is probably for you. If no-one in your house eats brown meat, you may be best off buying a turkey crown. The crown joint is quicker to cook than a whole bird. For an even quicker option, I occasionally will joint the whole turkey, open up the breast and debone the legs and stuff both, tying them up with string and roasting them for around an hour, creating a quick-cook, easy-carve option. This, however, is probably best attempted by the advanced cook. I’d suggest a crown for a novice cook.
Cooking, resting and carving
My recipe for roast turkey is below. You need to ensure you know the weight of the turkey to calculate the cooking time, and most birds will come labelled with their weight. Whole birds will take longer to cook.
What makes all the difference is resting meat once it has been roasted. I recommend a minimum of 20 minutes, but a large turkey will happily sit for up to an hour, becoming juicier and more tender as it rests. Don’t worry about it getting cold – this will only happen once it is cut.
To carve, I strongly recommend doing this in the kitchen or sideboard. There is no way I’d take a whole turkey to the table to carve. Make sure your carving knife is really sharp. I like to remove the legs and wings from a whole bird, before slicing the breast. Slice the breast as thinly or thinly as you like. My preference is for reasonably thin slices.
This Christmas, I’ll be online on Twitter to help with your Christmas cooking queries. So, please do follow me @charlotte_pike_ and get in touch if you need to.
- 1 large turkey
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 25g softened butter (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
- Start by weighing the turkey to calculate the cooking time. Cook the turkey for 20 minutes per 500g, plus 20 minutes.
- For example, a 2kg bird should be roasted for 1 hour 40 minutes.
- Ensure the giblets have been removed from the cavity. You may wish to spread the softened butter over the skin of the turkey before roasting. Season the turkey well with salt and pepper and roast for the calculated time.
- Turkey will be cooked when the juices run clear, and the flesh is no longer pink.
- 500g minced meat - turkey, pork or sausage meat
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- Zest of one large orange
- 100g prunes, chopped
- 50g pistachios, chopped
- 4 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- Put into a large mixing bowl and season well. Pour the oil into a large non-stick pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until translucent and not coloured. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- Add all remaining ingredients to the minced meat, followed by the onion and garlic. Mix well, ensuring the ingredients are evenly combined.
- Roll into golf ball-sized balls. It is particularly nice to shape the stuffing into balls, which can be served easily and neatly.Place onto a non-stick baking tray or into the roasting tin around the turkey. Roast, uncovered, for around 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and the meat is fully cooked throughout.
- You may need to turn the stuffing balls once, to ensure they are evenly browned as they cook. If your tray is not non-stick, line it with a sheet of non-stick baking paper first. If you are roasting the stuffing with the turkey, add the balls for the last 30 minutes of the cooking time. You may wish to drain out the juices from the meat first, so the stuffing does not become greasy Reserve all cooking juices for use in the gravy.