RECIPE: Foolproof Turkey

By 1st December 2021Recipes

Looking for the best turkey recipes for Christmas? Do you want to know how to cook the perfect Christmas turkey? Check out our tips and tricks, from buying and cooking your turkey, to some of our chef’s top tips for preparing your Christmas centrepiece.


  • 1 turkey (defrosted, if frozen)
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • A large roasting pan of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and sage
  • 40g unsalted butter, melted
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Wipe the turkey inside and out with kitchen roll, and remove the giblets if the turkey has them. Place the lemon and herbs inside the bird, then weigh it and calculate the cooking time (see below). Put the turkey in a sturdy roasting pan, brush it with the butter and season. Loosely cover the turkey with foil and refrigerate.

Christmas day

Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5.

Cook for the time you calculated, basting the turkey occasionally to prevent it from becoming dry. Thirty minutes before the turkey is cooked, remove the foil so the bird can brown.

After the time you calculated has elapsed, check if the bird is cooked and insert a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear, the bird is cooked. If there is any pink in the juices, return the turkey to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes. Transfer the turkey to a hot serving plate, cover with foil and leave to stand for 15-30 minutes, before carving and serving.


Sizes and Times

It is vital that you get your timings right; too long and you’ll end up with dry turkey, too short and you’ll be giving the gift of food poisoning. But don’t worry, stick to this guide and you’ll be fine!

To calculate the cooking time, allow 45 minutes per kg. The following is a handy guide to the size of bird you’ll need:

  • 2-2.8kg – 5 servings
  • 3-3.8kg – 6 servings
  • 4-4.8kg – 8 servings
  • 4.6-5.8kg – 12 servings
  • 6-6.8kg – 14 servings
  • 7-7.8kg – 20 servings


If you buy a frozen turkey, defrost it completely in the fridge or a cool room. The following is a guide to minimum defrosting times in a cool room. Double the time for defrosting in the fridge. When you check to see if the turkey has completely defrosted, the cavity should be free of ice crystals.

  • 2-4kg 20 hours
  • 4-5kg 22-24hours
  • 5-7kg 24-28hours
  • 8-9kg 40-48hours


Turkey Tips

  • Order your turkey as early as possible
  • Check the turkey will fit in your oven before ordering it. A turkey of up to 7kg will generally fit into a standard oven.
  • If the turkey comes with giblets, don’t throw them out! Use them to make stock for the gravy.
  • If your fridge is too small to fit the turkey, put it in a cardboard box with a couple of ice packs and store it in a cool secure location, such as a garage or shed.
  • If you use a large bird, make sure the legs are not trussed too tightly or the cooking will take longer.
  • Any leftover turkey should be refrigerated and eaten within 2 days. If you’re using it in a cooked dish, such as in a curry, make sure it is reheated till it is piping hot.