Before you know it, another year will be wrapping up and Christmas will be upon us. There will be caroling, gift-giving, and that classic Christmas dinner to prepare for.
The Christmas dinner is a cherished time in the average UK household, with a table full of roast vegetables, Christmas cake, and the highly anticipated roast turkey.
But have you ever stopped to think about why the Christmas turkey is such a staple piece of the festive dinner? Well, turkeys first made their appearance in the UK in the 1500s. However, it was not until the 1950s the turkey has been at the heart of the classic Christmas dinner.
This is all thanks to King Henry VIII, who made feasting on roast turkey a royal affair during the 1800s. Then, King Edward VII followed in his footsteps and moved it towards being a festive food in the 1950s.
Since this time, an average of 80% of the country attempt to make the perfect Christmas turkey. But you do not have to be a Masterchef to get the best Christmas turkey.
Thankfully, there are online cooking courses, video guides, and exclusive menus that will give you all the basic culinary skills you need to be confident enough to cook a Christmas turkey.
The best Christmas turkey will have a crisp savoury skin that covers the juicy meat inside and we are here to help you get exactly that result. You will be able to have the ultimate Christmas dinner, with the roast turkey as the centerpiece. Just don’t forget the Christmas pudding too.
Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Christmas Turkey
Pick the Right Turkey
This is a very important part of the process. You want to choose a turkey that will be able to feed the number of people at the dining table. There are then what seems like endless options of organic turkey, fresh turkey, frozen turkey, or a heritage turkey?
The golden rule to follow is to base the weight of the turkey off of how many people you will be serving, with half a kilogram to one full kilogram of turkey being the average serving size per person. So, if you are expecting 10 people, you will need around six to eight kilograms of turkey.
Always Defrost the Turkey
Don’t take any chances for the big day. Always defrost the turkey at least 24 hours in advance of when you want to start cooking. If your turkey is not fully defrosted, it will be near impossible to get the perfect roast. So plan ahead. And if you don’t want to take any chances, pick up a fresh turkey to roast straight away instead.
Flavour Is Your Friend
Flavouring is everything when it comes to making the best Christmas turkey. You will want to use generous amounts of butter, experiment with wrapping it in bacon, and going all out with the various spices and aromatics you can choose from. While our recipe offers you a guide, you can put your own unique twist to the turkey recipe so that it really becomes your own.
Be Precise With the Temperature
Both the temperature of the turkey and the oven really do matter. You don’t want to start roasting the turkey until it has reached the precise point of heat that will give you that crispy and juicy combination.
And the internal temperature is just as important and should always be checked before you decide it is finished in the oven. You can check the internal temperature by placing a thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey leg.
Always Let It Rest
There is no need to rush on Christmas. So take your time with making sure that your roast turkey is perfect before you serve it up at the dinner table.
In general, your roast turkey should be set for at least 20 minutes once it is removed from the oven. This is because the turkey meat will still continue to cook internally for quite some time and you want to give it time to finish completely and capture all the juicy goodness before cooking.
How To Make the Best Christmas Turkey
As we explained earlier, this recipe is intended for anyone to try. Just keep these tips and tricks in mind, ensure you have all the ingredients you need upfront, and enjoy the process. For this recipe, you will be able to serve six people and the entire preparation and cooking process should take just under four hours.
Ingredients You Need
First up, prepare your kitchen. For this recipe, you want to make sure you have everything needed for the actual turkey, the stuffing, and for the gravy.
1. Around five kilograms of turkey, but you can tweak this based on how many guests you will be serving
2. 50 grams of butter that is softened at room temperature
3. One lemon that is quartered, five rosemary sprigs, and three onions that are finely sliced
1. Two tablespoons of olive oil
2. Two red onions that are thinly chopped
3. 250 grams of breadcrumbs, 125 grams of macadamia nuts chopped in a food processor, and 100 grams of cranberries
4. Two orange rinds and one juiced orange
5. Two eggs
6. A dash of salt and black pepper
1. 250 grams of pealed and sliced onions
2. A dash of cumin
3. One tablespoon of cocoa powder, two tablespoons of honey, and one tablespoon of flour
4. 250 mililitres of red wine—we suggest Merlot if you have it
5. One vegetable stock cube
The Simple Process To Make a Christmas Turkey
1. First, make sure your turkey is defrosted fully. Then turn your oven on to 190 degrees Celcius. While the oven is warming up, you will rub the softened butter all over the turkey and place the lemon and rosemary in the cavity.
2. Next, put the halved onions in a roasting tin before placing the turkey on top of it. Wrap the entire dish in foil and ensure all the corners are sealed.
3. Place the dish in the oven and cook for three and a half hours. When there are 30 minutes left, take the foil off and keep cooking until the exterior of the turkey is golden and the internal temperature is reached.
4. While the turkey is cooking, you can make the stuffing by heating a pan and frying the diced onions for five minutes.
5. Once the onions are transparent in colour, you will put them in a bowl and mix in all the other ingredients for the stuffing. Mix well and season generously. Then cover and set aside.
6. When the turkey’s cooking time is reached, take it out of the oven and ensure that the internal temperature has in fact been reached and the juices come out a clear colour. Set on the counter and let it cool for at least 30 more minutes.
7. While the turkey cools, put the stuffing in the oven and let it cook for 40 minutes. You will know the stuffing is finished when it starts to turn a golden colour.
8. Now it is time to make the gravy. Start by removing the turkey from the roasting tin and covering it in foil. You will use that same roasting tin with the juices still in there and add the onions and cumin. Then mix in the cocoa powder, honey, and flour. Place in the oven to cook for around two minutes.
9. Now you will remove the roasting tin once more and stir in the wine and vegetable stock. Cook for another 10 minutes.
10. At this point, your turkey, stuffing, and gravy will all be ready to serve. Bring out to the dinner table, open up the Christmas cracker on the dining plates and then dig in.
Final Thoughts on the Best Roast Turkey
This recipe has been passed down and perfected over thousands of years and continues to please every single time.
Any leftovers that you have will store nicely in the fridge for a few days and make for some tasty lunches to serve up.
While this once-a-year dish tends to often cause unnecessary stress for people, it is important to remember that you have got this. And it is actually not that difficult to cook up the perfect Christmas roast turkey. All you need to do is remember our tips and tricks, stock up on all the right ingredients and have fun following this recipe.
How Do I Perfect The Christmas Roast Turkey? | BBC
How To Cook The Perfect Christmas Dinner | The Guardian
Why Do We Eat Turkey On Christmas Day | Metro UK