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Cooking a Turkey - The Perfect Roast Turkey.

Updated on August 13, 2013

Cooking a Turkey

Naturally, the perfect Roast Turkey begins with fresh turkey, although a perfectly acceptable tender, moist turkey can be achieved with a frozen bird.

Here, I'll give you tips on both.

When you buy a fresh turkey, you should first remove the giblets before you refrigerate. Even if it's a cleaned bird, with the giblets in a plastic bag, it's best to remove them first. Place the turkey, and the giblets separately into the fridge. It can stay 2 to 3 days in the fridge without a problem.

In the case of a frozen turkey, you should take it out of the freezer a few days before you need it, depending on its size. The only safe way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Suggestions of rinsing in cold water are mistaken, and certainly do not attempt to thaw in a microwave. Both these methods carry the risk of contamination and bacteria.

The time needed to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator will depend on its size. Some guidelines to go by are as follows

8 to 12 lbs ----- 2 to 3 days

13 to16 lbs---- 3 to 4 days

17 to 20 lbs--- 4 to 5 days

21 to 24 lbs--- 5 to 6 days

Roast Turkey

Cooked to Perfection
Cooked to Perfection

The Perfect Roast Turkey

How to cook the perfect Roast Turkey:

Remove the turkey from the fridge and hour or so before you start to cook, to allow it to reach room temperature. First rinse it well, and stand it on end if possible, to allow the water to run out. During the time waiting for it to reach room temperature, it should be dry enough to cook, if not you should pat gently with some paper towel. Make particularly sure that the cavity is clear of water.

Preheat the oven to full temperature.

I do not recommend stuffing the turkey, for two reasons;

One is that it is believed that stuffing the turkey will slow the cooking inside, and can create bacteria. ( not proven, but let's be safe)

The second reason is that personally I like my stuffing to cook separately, as I like it cooked with a crunchy crust.

I like to raise the skin away from the flesh; use your hands (I always wear latex gloves when cooking) and slide your fingers between the skin and the flesh, they will separate easily.

Rub a little olive oil onto the flesh, or butter if you prefer, and add herbs if you wish. I like to add fresh basil and sage leaves, just because they're favourites of mine.

Rub a little oil all over the skin, salt and pepper, and any other herbs or spices you might like. Personally I prefer the turkey without too much extra flavour, this comes from the stuffing and other extras.

I do like to place a few rashers of streaky bacon across the top of the legs, and the highest points of the breast. This not only releases bacon fat as a baste to add to flavour, but the rashers protect these high points of the turkey from catching, or burning, and cooking quicker than the rest of the bird.

If these areas do start to crisp before the turkey has finished cooking, you can cover them with a little foil to slow things down.

Inside the bird, I would just add salt and pepper, and a large onion cut into about four pieces (or small onions or shallots)

You can cover the turkey with foil before you start, but this can keep the steam inside, and turn everything soggy. Laying a piece lightly across the top is okay. Place the turkey in the oven and turn the temperature down to 180° c or 350 f; gas mark 4, and cook 35 to 40 minutes per kilo.

If you have a thawed frozen turkey, weigh it after you've thawed it. The ice can weigh a lot, (plus some cheeky manufacturers will add extra ice inside, to cheat you!)

I like to baste, although many recipes say it is not necessary.

If you have added onions or bacon, or herbs etc, a lot of the flavour will run down with the juices, so basting helps to make sure every part of the bird gets the benefits.

You can cook on either a pyrex roasting dish, or stainless steel, or whatever your favourite roasting dish may be.

Check the turkey every 20 to 30 minutes, basting each time.

Make sure you take off any bacon before it burns, and the foil at least an hour before the turkey is finished cooking.

Start to check on your turkey about 20 minutes before your estimated finish time, just in case. Take it out of the oven, stab with a sharp knife in the fat part of the thigh. If the meat separates easily, and the juices run clear, it's ready. If it's not, no problem, just cook a little longer. Although these times should be quite a good guideline, and it should be ready when expected. Let it rest for about 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

So now you have all you need to know about cooking a turkey.

While you're cooking the perfect Roast Turkey, you can make the perfect gravy, by boiling the giblets (except the stomach, it's bitter) add a little stock, fresh if you make your own, or a little of your favourite stock cube, and salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer as long as possible, extracting all the wonderful flavours and goodness from the giblets. When you finish cooking the turkey, add some of the juices from the tray. I actually like to do it the other way round, and add the giblet gravy to the roasting dish, put this on the top burner, stirring well. Thicken and season as you like. Yummy!!

Accompany this with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, and your choice of vegetables. I love brussels sprouts!

Of course for a Thanksgiving Turkey dinner, USA style, the potatoes would be mashed, and the vegetables very different.

Either way is delicious!

Bon appetit !!


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