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Seven steps to turkey success

If you’re worried about cooking the perfect bird this Christmas, take it easy. We’ll let you into a secret – it’s all about planning ahead. So, whether you’re hosting a crowd or having a smaller gathering, just follow these easy tips.

  1. Choose your turkey

    Is the entire family coming over? Or just a few friends? If you’re expecting six or more guests, opt for a whole turkey for a mix of white and dark meat, or a crown if you prefer just white. For smaller groups, legs or a boneless breast joint can be a great choice if you don’t want to cook a whole bird.

    As a rough guide:

    2-3kg feeds 4-6 people
    3-4kg feeds 7-9 people
    4-6kg feeds 10-14 people
    4kg+ for large gatherings over 14 people, or lots of leftovers!

    Choose your turkey
  2. Get the right kit

    The right cooking equipment can make all the difference, from preparation through to carving. Here are our favourites that make things easier.

    Tin: A roasting tin that’s big enough to fit your bird and deep enough to hold in the cooking juices.
    Board: A carving board that has drip channels to catch the juices (so you can add them to the gravy) and a textured grip panel to keep the meat in place as you carve.
    Carving knife: A sharp knife with a comfortable grip makes serving simple.
    Baster: An easy way to skim and reapply the juices over the meat to deliver succulent results.
    Meat thermometer: This will help you tell if your meat is cooked thoroughly – a worthwhile investment for future roasts.
    Foil: Make sure you're stocked up with a large roll of tin foil to cover the turkey if browning too quickly and for resting. Look out for specific turkey foil in store or tear off several sheets to cover completely.

  3. Defrost in time

    If you've bought a frozen turkey, remove the whole bird from packaging and place it on a large dish to defrost then wash your hands thoroughly. Cover and put in the fridge to thaw (below 4°C). Remove giblets when you can to speed up defrosting and, when checking to see if it's thawed, always test thicker parts of the turkey with a fork. 

    Allow 12 hours per kilogram to thaw. Always check the product packaging, but as an approximate guide:

    2-2.9kg turkey = 24-35 hrs defrost time
    3-3.9kg turkey = 36-47 hrs defrost time
    4-5.9kg turkey = 48-71 hrs defrost time
    6-7.4kg turkey = 72-89 hrs defrost time
    7.5-10kg turkey = 90-120 hrs defrost time

  4. Add extra flavour

    Turkey has quite a mild taste so is perfect for adding plenty of extra flavour to with butters, glazes, marinades, rubs, stuffings and more.

    Try robust, fragrant herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme, zingy citrus with orange or lemon zest, adding sweetness with maple syrup or honey, or some subtle spice with black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and garlic.

    Create texture and bite in stuffings with different mixtures of sausage meat and bacon or chopped veg and breadcrumbs; a tangy sourdough or nutty dark rye loaf will give interesting flavour, too. Dried fruits and nuts can also be added for colour, crunch and fruity flavour.

    Have a look at our best turkey recipes for more inspiration. 

    Add extra flavour
  5. Cook it to perfection

    Calculating the cooking time is an important step in achieving perfectly cooked meat that’s ready when you’re ready to eat – don’t forget to include resting time too. Remember to remove a whole bird from the fridge 1 hr before cooking, as cooking from chilled will increase cooking time. Smaller joints such as legs and crowns should be removed 30 mins before cooking.

    Weigh the turkey after it’s been prepared and stuffed. Allow 20 mins per kg + 80 mins for a whole bird less than 5kg, and 20 mins per kg + 105 mins for a 5-9kg whole bird, in a preheated oven at gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C.

    To check if the turkey is cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest parts of the leg and breast, avoiding the bone. If it reads 75°C or above, it’s cooked. Alternatively, insert a metal skewer in the same way and check the juices run clear. If they’re pink, or the temperature is below 75°C, roast for 15 mins more, then retest.

    For more help with timings, try our Cooking calculator on our Christmas page, simply scroll down to find the calculator, select your turkey options and it does the maths for you!

  6. Don't rush the resting

    Resting meat is essential for juicy, tender results. Transfer the turkey to a carving board or warmed serving platter, and cover loosely with large sheets of foil and clean tea towels. Rest for at least 30 mins (or up to 1½ hrs). This gives the juices time to be reabsorbed into the meat, making it easier to carve.

  7. Carve it right

    Worried about carving? Take a look at our one-minute video on how to carve turkey like a pro. Remember that a carving knife or sharp kitchen knife are best, but don’t use a serrated knife as it will rip the turkey.

    For a platter of mixed white and dark meat, first remove the legs then separate the thighs and drumsticks and slice off the dark meat. You can either remove the whole breasts and slice these into short thick slices, or carve thinner, wider breast meat slices directly off the bird. 

  8. For more top Christmas tips

    Worried about more than just the turkey? Don't panic, have a look at our top hosting tips for Christmas and Christmas dinner dilemmas sorted articles for helpful hints, quick fixes and more inspiration for the big day.