I get a lot of requests from people asking how to cook a turkey.
A roast chook used to be traditional Australian fare on the Christmas dinner table.
But as more families are living further apart and coming together at Christmas, the humble Christmas chook just isn’t cutting it anymore for size, and more people are opting for a more American tradition of a roast turkey. Cooking a large turkey isn’t anywhere as scary as the job seems.
Here is how to do a great job the first time and get a beautiful looking and moist bird to enjoy!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Take out all but the lowest shelf in the oven so that the turkey will fit (but hopefully you have already checked that). Place the turkey on a baking rack and place it in the baking dish.
Add 1/2 cup of water to the baking tray (creates steam to keep the bird moist) and smother the turkey particularly the breast with butter.
Cover the turkey with alfoil - this prevents the skin from cooking too fast and the breast from drying out.
Pop it in the oven. Time in the oven will depend on the size of the bird - but here's where it is handy to have a meat thermometer - insert it into the fleshiest part of the turkey. Larger sized turkeys can take up to five hours to cook - so allow yourself plenty of time.
Choosing and Purchasing the Turkey:
Unless your are lucky enough to live near a turkey farm, most of us will be purchasing the turkey frozen from the supermarket or butcher. Choose a bird that is enough to feed your horde. A general guide is:
- 2.5kg turkey = 4 – 6 people
- 4.5kg turkey = 8 – 10 people
- 6.5kg turkey = 10 – 12 people
Also, make sure that the turkey you purchase will FIT into your oven! Remembering also that if you want to roast vegetables and perhaps a potato bake – you may not have the room in the oven unless you cook your turkey in advance.
Before you start, if you have bought a frozen turkey, this will need defrosting in the fridge, and this folks, can take up to THREE DAYS due to the size. So I would suggest perhaps taking it out four days in advance and storing it on a tray lined with a rack (in case it drips, you don’t want it sitting in a pool of turkey juice) in the bottom of the fridge.
So you have your defrosted turkey ready – what now?
Preparing the Turkey
Remove the packaging and dry the bird well with some paper towels. Remove any giblets etc from the turkey’s cavity and use a paper towel to dry the cavity well.
The breast part of the turkey is very low in fat and lean compared to the chicken, which is why turkey often ends up dry and gross. This part of the bird needs to be moistened with fat. By fat I mean either basted with butter, the juices in the pan or a novel idea I have come across is wrapping the breast section in fatty bacon. Also, decide whether or not you will stuff the turkey. You have a very large cavity there and we have some terrific recipes for stuffing!
Fill the bird with stuffing and then pop in a piece of crust (end part of the bread) to stop the stuffing coming out and pop a skewer through to keep it in place.
It is also handy at this stage to ‘truss’ the turkey – this means tying its legs together with kitchen string. This both stops the stuffing from coming out, gives the turkey a nice shape and makes it easier to handle once it has been cooked.
Cooking the Turkey
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Take out all but the lowest shelf in the oven so that the turkey will fit (but hopefully you have already checked that). Place the turkey on a baking rack and place in the baking dish. This step isn’t essential but helps the hot air cook the turkey more evenly. Add 1/2 cup of water to the baking tray (creates steam to keep the bird moist) and smother the turkey particularly the breast with butter.
Cover the turkey with alfoil – this prevents the skin cooking too fast and the breast drying out.
Pop it in the oven. Time in the oven will depend on the size of the bird – but here’s where it is handy to have a meat thermometer – insert it into the fleshiest part of the turkey. Larger sized turkeys can take up to five hours to cook – so allow yourself plenty of time.
As a general rule allow 40 – 45 minutes per kilogram. About 30 minutes before your turkey is ready, take off the alfoil and allow your turkey to brown naturally. Once it is cooked, allow it to ‘rest’ for 10 minutes or so before placing on a platter and wowing your guests with your turkey prowess!