Christmas is really the only time of year that many of us will attempt to cook a roast turkey (although it's also a classic Thanksgiving recipe of course and a delicious, healthy meat year-round) so it's unsurprising that the task is a little daunting for some. Squeezing the huge bird into the oven and simply hoping that it doesn't come out dry from overcooking may have been the tactic until now, but follow our easy guide to cooking times and our simple but effective top tips and we'll teach you how to cook the perfect turkey just in time for Christmas Day. And for leftovers, we have all the best Boxing Day recipes to use them up. If a whole turkey is a bit more than you were bargaining for, we have a recipe for a smaller turkey crown instead.
1 free range bronze turkey (see cooking chart below)
1 lemon, halved
1 small onion, peeled
10-12 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon
How long to cook a turkey
Weight, roasting time, resting time, serves.
3kg (6lb), 1¾ - 2 hours, Up to 60 mins, 4-6
4kg (8lb), 2 - 2¼ hours, Up to 60 mins, 6
5kg (10lb), 2¼ - 2½ hours, Up to 60 mins, 8
6kg (12lb), 2½ - 2¾ hours, Up to 60 mins, 8
7kg (14lb), 2¾ -3 hours, Up to 60 mins, 8-10
9kg (18lb), 3½ - 4 hours, Up to 60 mins, 10-14
11kg (22lb), 4½ hours, Up to 60 mins, 12-16
Up to 24 hours ahead of time, prepare the stuffing.
On the day, remove the turkey from the fridge at least one hour before you want to cook it, allowing it to get to room temperature. Place 2 lemon halves and a small onion into the cavity.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Calculate the cooking time following the chart above.
Place the turkey, breast-side up, in a large roasting tin. Spread the turkey breast with some butter and cover it with rashers of bacon. Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C. Remove the bacon (use later to accompany when serving).
Turn over the turkey and place it breast side down, then return to the oven and cook for the rest of the calculated cooking time.
About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, turn the bird breast-side up, season well, and return to the oven (this makes the breast nice and golden). If you are using a meat thermometer, insert your thermometer halfway through the thickest part of the breast and place back in the oven.
Check every 10 minutes until correct temperature is reached and then remove from the oven.
To manually check, insert a skewer into the thigh, and when the juices run clear, remove from the oven. If the juices are pink, place back in the oven and keep checking at 10 minute intervals.
Stuffing the turkey increases cooking time, which dries out the bird. Instead, place two lemon halves, a few fresh bay leaves and a small onion into the cavity. Roll the stuffing into walnut-sized balls and roast them for 20 minutes while the turkey is resting.
To check when the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer into the flesh of the thigh and hold a spoon underneath to catch the juices. If they are clear, rather than pink, it's cooked.
Resting the turkey is crucial. Rest it breast-side down as the juices then flow into the breast meat. The skin isn't as crisp, but the flavour and texture is fantastic. A roasted turkey will sit in a warm place for up to 1 hour and still be steaming hot. This resting time is good for the bird, but also good for you as you can then do all the extra bits, such as roast the stuffing balls, the vegetables and the sauces.
The juices from the roasting tray make a great, simple sauce, and are also good for pouring over the carved meat to keep it moist when serving. Remember to skim off any excess fat with a spoon.
This article originally appeared on House & Garden UK.