Turkey-mag-letterbox

How to cook the best turkey ever this Christmas

Insider tips to get the best out of your festive centrepiece

By ,
How to cook the best turkey ever this Christmas

Have you been cooking your turkey the same way for years? Or is this your first time hosting Christmas for all the family? No matter your level of experience, 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 our Extra Special Free Range Corn Fed Bronze Large Turkey. The turkeys' 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 as a 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

 

2. Preparing your turkey is key

Glazing

Before you cook your turkey, rub the skin with seasoning, herbs or spices. This locks in flavour while the bird is cooking. You can choose any spices you like - go full-on festive with warming cinnamon and cloves, or add some fragrance with bay leaves and caraway seeds. For turkey with a sophisticated 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 together and rub it on the turkey. 

Alternatively, for a classic 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 - you could even add an extra pop of flavour with a sprinkling of Nando's Lemon & Herb Peri-Peri Rub.

Buttering 

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 means you get those delicious crispy edges on your stuffing.

There are so many flavour combinations to try, why stop at just one? You could give guests two options, with this classic sausagemeat stuffing recipe and a tangy herb and citrus alternative

4. Cooking your turkey

Roasting

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.

Try onions, which will caramelise perfectly,  and carrot, for added sweetness in your homemade gravy.

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.

Added extras

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 mixture of maple syrup and cinnamon 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time for a delicious sweet hit.

Others like to cover the turkey with slices of streaky bacon or pancetta before cooking to give the lean meat extra moisture. 

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. This also frees up plenty of oven space so you can get on with cooking your trimmings. 

If you want to take your bird out of the oven even earlier, you can! Simply cover the roasting tin with foil then layer over some tea towels or regular towels to help it retain its heat.

If that's got you inspired, discover more of our delicious festive foods in store and online