We’ve all been there. The big day arrives and you, or some other mad person who decided to take on Christmas dinner, brings out the Christmas Turkey. The centrepiece, the main event, the plat du jour!
Yes! It looks superb with its crispy skin, gently steaming as it approaches the mishmash of tables covered in your trusty Christmas tablecloth. Your guests are half cut, waiting with plates teeming with the usual greens and potatoes, their crackers have been pulled and paper hats have been donned in preparation.
Nan gives out a supportive ‘wowwww!’ as you pretend to sharpen your biggest kitchen knife. The knife goes in. The turkey is dry. You plate up regardless as that’s just the way Turkey is… It’s always been that way. You all tuck in, savouring the gravy for moisture. Most aren’t that fond of Turkey and neither are you… it’s just tradition.
Wrong, wrong, they’re all wrong!
We want to put this Christmas myth to rest and to make sure your Christmas Turkey or Turkey Breast is anything but dry! Just follow our Dos & Don’ts guide below to attain Christmas Turkey perfection…
Do make sure to get your turkey to room temperature, before cooking.
This may seem odd to some but putting any ~4°C piece of meat into a hot oven is going to make it tighten up, which will lead to a tougher texture. Leave your turkey at room temperature for about 1-1.5 hours (give joints 30-45 mins). This way the meat has less of a shock when entering the oven and retains more of its moisture.
Do cook at 180°C
You’re probably sick of seeing this temperature on food boxes and packaging but for Turkeys it really is the best way to ensure an even roast without drying everything out. For even more accuracy, get your hands on an in-oven thermometer to make sure your oven is doing what it should be.
Do calculate cooking times based on weight
Leave guesswork to the amateurs on this one. You can use the weight specified on the packaging or use your kitchen scales to double check. Give our easy to use Turkey Calculators a try for good indications of times and weights.
Do use a probe or thermometer
We believe every kitchen should have a thermometer. Not only to ensure you’re not overcooking your meat but to ensure it’s cooked enough to safely eat. Check your Turkey 30 mins before the end of the recommended cooking time. The middle of the breast and middle of the thigh should be 70 -75°C. Be sure to avoid touching any bone with the thermometer.
Do rest the Christmas Turkey after it is cooked
You’ve definitely heard how meat should always be rested and it’s certainly no old wife’s tale. Resting really makes a difference. In all honesty, Christmas Turkeys do look prettiest when they are just out of the oven but don’t be tempted! Open out 5 tea towels and place them flat. Place a large plate on top of these and a large piece of foil (shiny side up) on the plate. Place the Turkey on top and cover in more foil (shiny side in) and wrap securely. Now find as many extra tea towels as you can find and cover the turkey with them until you can no longer feel the heat from the Turkey. This can be left up to 3 hours with the Turkey staying warm inside.
Worrying over the presentation or how pretty your Christmas Turkey looks too much is a waste of energy. Your guests will remember a tasty Christmas dinner over the fact that one of the legs isn’t quite at that perfect golden brown.
The microwave is a handy way to get your veg piping hot before serving but keep your Turkey away! If your turkey gets cold, leave it that way. Microwaving your Turkey may get it nice and hot but it’s a one-way ticket to dry town. TOP TIP: Heat your plates in the bottom of your oven before serving and make sure your gravy is nice and hot. Both the plate and gravy will warm the Turkey without drying it out.
Don’t buy pre-cooked
This is clearly bonkers to us but there are folks out there who buy frozen or fresh, ready cooked Turkeys for their Christmas dinner. It may be a smidge cheaper than fresh but the quality is always going to suffer. Also, you’re just asking for a dry Turkey if you take this path. With fresh, grade A Turkeys from £20 our options certainly won’t break the bank.
Don’t overdo it
There is an abundance of recipes out there on how to keep your turkey moist, from stuffing butter under the skin, basting every 20 minutes, cooking the turkey with the breast down to cooking at 100°C for 265 hours. Save your butter for the parsnips and spend time with your family not your Turkey. Follow our Dos and Don’ts and you won’t go far wrong.