Perfect Christmas Turkey

…or for Thanksgiving…or any time of the year you fancy a good old feast!

THE TURKEY: I did this with a 5.9kg (13lb) Butterball; however to adjust for your turkey’s weight, see the USDA cooking times/weights below.

Jump to Recipe

The key with turkey is to cook it on a relatively low temperature to ensure the meat stays tender and moist. No one is a fan of dry turkey and it certainly won’t make you feel particularly good about yourself if you serve it up that way.

TOP TIP: if you don’t have one to hand, invest in a meat thermometer. A simple one will serve you just fine but an oven-safe one will be a great addition to your kitchen; and if you do a bit of research a good one doesn’t have to break the bank.

The perfect turkey.
USDA recommendations.

Tips and Tricks

Stuffing tips: this turkey recipe calls for “dressing” – which is to say, we haven’t forgotten about the stuffing to say the least! We’re simply not going to dry out our bird for the sake of it.

Prepare your stuffing mix the day before – or at least a couple of hours in advance. Keep it covered to stop it drying out, and to lock in all the flavours of your herbs, etc.

If preparing the day before, bring your stuffing mix up to room temperature before popping it in the oven and be sure to slosh in a few spoons of the turkey drippings before it goes in the oven! You can just pour this in around the sides if you’re using breadcrumbs for a crispy top.

Simple but Succulent Roast Turkey

Turkey does not have to be the bane of your Christmas morning. With this simple method, you’ll have Christmas, Thanksgiving (or Sunday lunch) under full and delicious control.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Resting Time30 mins
Course: Christmas Food, Christmas Menu, Holiday, Lunch, Main Course, Thanksgiving
Cuisine: American, British
Keyword: Christmas, Easy Recipes, Poultry, Roast Dinner, Roast Turkey, Simple Recipes, Turkey
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Meat thermometer: an oven-safe digital one would be ideal but a simple one will work!
  • Large roasting tin: foil trays are useful to save you from the dishes and also making this bad boy a little more easy to bring in and out of the oven.
  • A trivet: essentially anything oven-safe to help lift your turkey off of the base of your roasting tin.
  • Foil
  • Butchers' twine (or substitute some cleaned string).

Ingredients

  • 1 Turkey The timings here are for a 6kg / 13lb however see the notes below for additional cooking instructions.
  • 1 Brown (white) onion
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 3 Rosemary stems
  • 6 Thyme stems
  • 2 Sage, bunches
  • 1 Lemon
  • 3 cups Stock Chicken or vegetable; or water
  • 150 g Butter Semi-softened; I use mixed herb butter for more flavour but plain is fine.
  • Salt

Instructions

Defrosting.

  • Turkeys take their time to defrost. For a 6kg bird, it took 24 hours in the fridge PLUS 36 hours out of the fridge to fully defrost. You must plan ahead as there is really no safe way of rushing a turkey without leaving some areas un-defrosted.

Prep.

  • 2 hours before cooking, or the day before should you have time (see notes), remove the turkey from all of its packaging including any around the legs/ankles. Make sure to remove any and all excess neck, gizzard packages from inside the cavity as well as these are crucial components of your accompanying or next event’s gravy.
  • Set up your roasting tin and trivet, then thoroughly rinse the inside of your turkey and set it onto the trivet. Pat the turkey dry.
  • Gently (ladies, watch those nails!) begin to lift the skin of the breasts and legs to create a gap between the meat and the skin. Using semi-softened butter (just slightly softened so you can manipulate it, but not so soft it is runny), work the butter up into these gaps. You want to get as much butter over the breast meat as you can to prevent it drying out during your cook (and for your leftovers!).
  • If not cooking today, pop your prepped bird into the fridge – see notes below.

Aromat "Stuffing".

  • Taking a couple of stems each of your fresh herbs, use a little butchers' twine or (clean) rope to create a little herb 'bouquet'.
  • Next, half a large onion (no need to remove the skin). Lightly smash the garlic cloves, just to release their aroma, again no need to remove the skins. Roll your lemon between your palm and the chopping board and prick it in 2 or 3 spots with your knife to release the scent.
  • Starting with the herbs, push them up towards the neck of the turkey. Follow with the garlic, and lastly sort of wedge the lemon between the onion halves. Then tuck the legs over the opening of the cavity and back into the skin near the tail, or cinch with some more twine/rope.
  • Finish by rubbing some extra butter and couple of pinches of salt into the breast and legs, cover loosely with foil until ready to cook.

Preheat your oven to 170C at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.

    The Cook.

    • Into the baking tray, pour your stock or, if you don’t have enough to hand, 3 cups water and a mix of your fresh herbs. If using an oven-safe meat thermometer, tuck it into the thigh meat, not too close to the bone, and tuck the foil in around the turkey.
    • If your oven can fit it, place your tray with the breast closest to you, with the legs facing the back of the oven. If you can only fit your tray in sideways, turn your turkey through the cooking process to cook each side – if your oven is anything like mine, there are definitely hotter spots than others – not necessary if the breasts are at the front of the oven. Roast for 2 hours (turning every 30 minutes if you need to).
    • Cook at 170C for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150C.
    • Remove the foil as it is time to crisp up the skin! You can do a temperature check at the 2.5 hours mark and adjust the temperature by 10C in either direction if cooking too quickly/slowly for your liking. The cook should take roughly 3.5 hours. If needed, keep turning the turkey to continue the even cook.
    • The turkey can be removed from the oven once the leg meat has reached 74C/165F. Put the tray somewhere safe and wrap the turkey up in foil – it will stay warm for up to 80-90 minutes allowing you to get onto those side dishes and your gravy!

    Serving Tip:

    • If you do not wish to serve whole, take a sharp knife and run it down one side of the breast bone, and down towards the cavity, releasing the meat in one whole piece by carving around the wing and lower edge of the breast. The legs and wings shall come off very easily as your turkey should be beautifully tender!

    Notes

    Prepping the turkey the day before you cook: proceed with the steps up to and including seasoning. Once you’ve rubbed ‘n buttered your bird, DON’T stuff the onion, herbs etc in. Simply cover very loosely with foil either in a roasting tin or large plate (deep enough to catch all of the juices) and stash it in your refrigerator over night. Pull out of the fridge a good two hours before you plan to cook, to bring up to room temperature.
    The cooking time and temperature here is for a turkey of 6kg (13lbs); please refer to the USDA cooking recommendations for more information for other weights of turkey.

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    Copyright © 2021 The dB Kitchen Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Author: thedbkitchen

    Niche-free recipes, created out of a pure love of food, by home cook Carmel de Bedin (that’s me!). Genuine, accessible dishes tried and taste-tested by a couple of food nerds who truly love a good meal.

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