For many people, it isnâ€™t Christmas dinner without a roast turkey surrounded by all the trimmings.
But, since it is a food item usually reserved for the festive season, it can be tricky to know how to prepare it to perfection.
Whatâ€™s more, a tasty turkey isnâ€™t just dependent on the cooking process. There are doâ€™s and donâ€™ts involving when to buy it in advance of the big day, as well as tricks so that it packs a flavoursome punch.
Because if youâ€™re going to be munching on turkey sandwiches for days, you want to get it right.
Weâ€™ve asked a host of chefs for their expert thoughts on how to get the most delicious result come Christmas Day.
When should you buy the turkey?
This is a source of much debate and depends on whether you purchase it chilled or frozen.
â€œIf you want a fresh turkey, buy a couple of days before Christmas Day,â€ says Laura Graham, head chef atÂ The Tidy Kitchen Company.
â€œIt should be kept no more than two days in the fridge and you can prep it the day before.â€
She adds: â€œIf you purchase a frozen one, itâ€™ll take a day and night in the fridge to defrost.â€
Arthur Knights, executive chef at pub restaurant chainÂ Brakspear, recommends ordering from a local butcher, rather than relying on a supermarket.
Itâ€™s always easier to pre-order your turkey from your local butchers compared to your local supermarket. The quality is guaranteed and itâ€™s always great to support local, especially at this time of the year.”
Carlo Scotto, chef atÂ XierÂ insists not just any bird will do.
â€œThe turkey should always be corn-fed. You can tell a good turkey from the colour of it â€“ it should never be too pale,â€ he explains.
For Gary Robinson, head chef at The Balmoral, itâ€™s not good enough to just let your turkey sit in the fridge for three days following purchase.
â€œI will forever default to Nigella’s salty brine recipe – containing orange, cinnamon, allspice and caraway – for my turkey,â€ he explains.
â€œGetting your bird in and brining it for the two or three days before Christmas Day – as Nigella advises – will result in a moist bird that’s easy to carve, nicely seasoned and pepperedÂ with a bit of spice.â€
How should you cook the turkey?
The day before
â€œFor a truly delicious flavour, marinate your turkey overnight from Christmas Eve with lots of olive oil along withÂ coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorn, juniper berries, onion seeds and garlic powder,â€ says Scotto.
â€œTo get as much out of these spices and harness their true flavour, its better if you toast them before use.â€Â
Prior to cooking
â€œWhen preparing the bird, I massage lots of butter over the top to ensure it comes out incredibly succulent,â€ reveals Knights.
â€œIn addition, I will create a mixture to go under the skin, consisting of preserved lemon – or lemon zest will work – as well as butter and some freshly cut thyme.Â
â€œLift the skin of the turkey, gently massage the mixture underneath, and seal the bird with foil.â€
30 mins before
â€œGet your oven preheated and the turkey out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cookingÂ and bring it up to room temperature,â€ says Rob Morton, the owner of Norfolk-based turkey farmÂ Mortonâ€™s. â€œ
â€œAs our birds are dry plucked and game hung, their higher quality means they can be cooked to just 65Â°c, whereas it is recommended for supermarket turkeys to be cooked to 70Â°c.â€
Heat to a high temperature
â€œRoasting at a constant oven setting of 200Â°c is a must, so bear this in mind when adding trays of roast potatoes and parsnips into the oven and having the temperature jump around a bit,â€ warns Robinson.
Oven time depends on weight
â€œA high-welfare turkey needs 25 to 30 minutes per kilogram of cooking time, and a standard turkey for 35 to 40 minutes per kilogram,â€ says Graham.
â€œCook your turkey upside down and covered in foil for the first two thirds of the cooking time; this allows the fat pockets in the back of the bird, to render through the breast meat,â€ recommends Morton.
â€œRemove the foil and turn it over for the remaining third of the time.â€
Check the juices are clear
â€œThe best way to check it is done is to insert a knife into the leg area, the juice should run clear,â€ says Graham.
â€œIf you have a meat thermometer then it needs to reach 72Â°c.â€
Give it a rest
Once the turkeyâ€™s removed from the oven – usually after around 2 hours 30 minutes – Robinson suggests leaving it to rest peacefully for an hour while everything else is finished off.
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