Have you been cooking your turkey the same way for years? If you've fallen out of love with the classic festive centrepiece, then we've got some exciting flavour twists that will help get the best out of your bird this Christmas.
From rubbing the skin with homemade glazes that have been seasoned with spices, to totally unexpected stuffing ideas - these insider tips will totally transform your traditional turkey roast.
You can thank us later.
1. ChoosE the RIGHT turkey
If you haven't ordered your turkey yet and are looking for a simple go-to option, you can't go wrong with Asda's Norfolk-bred Extra Special Free-range British Corn-Fed Bronze turkey. The turkeys are corn-fed on organic farmland and their clean, cereal-based diet ensures a rich, buttery flavour from the skin and a succulence that makes for a deliciously moist and tender meat.
In terms of what size to get, use this rough guide:
- 2-2.5kg serves 4-6
- 3kg serves 6-7
- 3.5kg serves 7-8
- 4-4.5kg serves 8-10
- 5-5.5kg serves 10-12
- 6-6.5kg serves 12-15
Now you've picked your bird here's how to make your turkey extra special.
2. Preparing your turkey is key
Leaving your turkey to rest in water for two days before the big day may sound excessive, but add a few store cupboard spices and it is the easiest way to ensure your bird is both full of flavour and easy to carve. Known as ‘brining’, you can soak your bird in any spices you like, from cinnamon to caraway seeds, to cloves. Fresh ingredients like orange segments, runny honey and root ginger also work - the more the merrier! Each addition will make a subtle difference to the flavour of your bird.
Before you cook your turkey, rub the skin with seasoning, herbs or spices. This locks in flavour while the bird is cooking. For turkey with a twist, try rubbing the skin with a glaze made from lemon zest and saffron - first grind up a pinch of saffron strands, add 2tbsp of boiling water and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Then mix in the zest of one lemon and add some extra virgin olive oil. Whisk and rub it on the turkey.
Alternatively, for an easy lemon and thyme flavoured roast, halve a lemon and rub one-half over the whole turkey. Then, put the used lemon half inside the turkey along with a few sprigs of thyme. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges and arrange around the turkey. Before popping in the oven, rub with some olive oil and sprinkle with some Nando's Lemon & Herb Peri-Peri Rub.
One of the simplest ways to add flavour to your turkey is to gently lift the skin and spread a good dollop of butter underneath before popping it in the oven. This will make sure it stays moist on the inside, with a crispy skin on the outside. Just how we like it.
3. Stuffing your turkey
The second most important factor when it comes to a successful roast turkey is the stuffing. Cook the stuffing separately to your bird, rather than inside it. This means both the bird and the stuffing will be cooked through and gives you more time to focus on the stuffing on its own.
4. Cooking your turkey
To get even more flavour in there, place your turkey on a bed of veggies before you put the roasting tin in the oven. If your veggies lie flat underneath your turkey, they will balance it, acting as a trivet.
If your turkey tends to come out a bit dry, Good Living food editor, Gregor suggests pouring half a bottle of wine, or half a litre of chicken stock into your roasting tray along with the turkey. Cover the dish loosely with foil, and remove when there is 30 minutes to go. This effectively steams the bird and helps it retain its moisture.
Lots of chefs recommend adding some extra twists, either at the beginning or halfway through cooking. This maple roast turkey recipe, for example, recommends brushing on a maple syrup and cinnamon mix 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Simply lay about 10 slices of the pancetta or bacon over the top of the turkey, slightly overlapping to cover it. Tuck the slices under the bird to secure at the bottom. Insert sprigs of rosemary in between the slices, cover the bird with a loose tent of foil and place in the oven. When you have around 30 minutes left of cooking, remove the foil and place six garlic halves and a lemon cut into wedges around the turkey. Then, baste and return to the oven.
5. give your bird a Rest
Finally, wrap the turkey in tin foil straight from the oven to retain the heat and leave to rest for at least an hour for the best flavour. This gives it time to absorb the juices it was cooked in, making the meat tender and succulent.