Cooking your Christmas Turkey -tips and tricks
The challenge for cooking Christmas turkey is most of us don’t cook it that often. Cooking is very much about practice and of course practice makes perfect. This makes cooking Christmas dinner a bit of a challenge when it is a once a year dinner.
The following tips cover purchasing, planning and of course the all important timings and based on my own successful and sometimes unsuccessful Christmas lunches.
Buy a fresh Christmas turkey if possible
If possible buy a fresh turkey. Fresh turkeys need ordering in plenty of time. However if you find it more convenient or are unable to order a fresh turkey, try to choose a frozen turkey which is not frozen with added water.
Then make sure you allow plenty of time to defrost the bird. The bigger the bird – the longer you need to allow. This may be up to a couple of days.
Write a menu plan and include everything
Write a menu plan. Work out first what you are going to cook on Christmas Day and transpose this onto your shopping list.
Your menu plan should start with when you will collect or buy the turkey. If frozen, mark the date and time you are going to take your frozen bird out of the freezer.
Work out what time realistically you want to be sitting down eating your Christmas lunch. Also allow extra time for getting everyone sat down and dishing up the dinner which always takes a few minutes.
Cooking Turkey Timings
Based on the weight of your bird write down the time you plan to start cooking your turkey. You can check out how long you will need to cook here. When it should be basted and how long it will take to cook. Add to this the time you will need for vegetables, others sides along with roasting potatoes and making gravy.
Your To do List should include getting your serving dishes and plates ready and easily accessible as they will need warming. If possible elect someone to set the table.
Writing everything down will make it less likely you get distracted or forget to do something.
Cook your turkey first
If you have one main oven and quite a large bird then cooking Christmas turkey before everything else makes good sense. It means you can get up and pop the turkey in the oven as early as you like. When the turkey is cooked wrap it in tinfoil leave it on warmed oven proof plate and leave the bird to rest and carve it about thirty minutes before you plan to dish up.
I have cooked the turkey before everything else for the last few years – and this works really well. The turkey is never “cold”. It also helps make it easier to try to make sure everything else is ready at the same time.
Start with prepping as soon as possible.
Remove the giblets from the turkey as soon as you can. With a fresh bird this should be as soon as soon as it arrives home. With a frozen bird as soon as it is defrosted enough. This way you can get on with making the gravy in advance and it is also better for the bird.
Prepping for vegetables, making stuffing, sauces and sides are all things which can be prepped and ready a couple of days before.
Find a recipe for Cooking your Christmas Turkey
Adopt a recipe for cooking your Christmas Turkey and stick to it if the recipe has worked in the past. If it is your first time to cook Turkey – keep it simple. Although there are lots of different recipes and quirky ideas about cooking a turkey, unless you are going to make a monthly habit of turkey cooking, why keep changing something that tastes OK already. There are also lots of other things you can change to make your Christmas dinner a little different from last year like the vegetables and the stuffing.
Personally I am a Delia Smith fan and I follow her Traditional Turkey recipe which I find works a treat. You can find how to cook Turkey and all sorts of other great recipes that work in Delia Smith Complete Cookery Course Classic Edition
Get your Christmas turkey to room temperature
Make sure you leave your turkey to allow it to get to room temperature before you cook it. Don’t leave it overnight in the shed, the car or refrigerator especially if you are going to eat your Christmas dinner at lunch time. And if you are worried that your clever dog or cat may help themselves to your Christmas turkey, create a safe haven by placing it in a plastic box with a lid.
The same goes for stuffing – this should be removed from the fridge too. It is important that your turkey and stuffing are not fridge temperature when you start cooking.
If this is impossible then do make sure you make allowances for the extra time you will need to ensure everything is completely cooked.
Stuffing the turkey
Do not stuff your turkey until you are ready to cook it. It is important to allow the air to circulate around the bird.
If your turkey is shoved into the oven, straight from the fridge, along with the stuffing, as I have already mentioned, the temperature of the turkey is going to be much colder which will affect cooking times.
Stock up foil and food freezer bags
Get stocked up on wide turkey tinfoil and food freezer bags, so that you can freeze any leftovers that are not going to be eaten in the next day or so after Christmas.
Research recipes for turkey leftovers
Plan some interesting recipes with your turkey leftovers. Use your favourite chicken recipes and just replace with turkey. Recipes like paella, risotto and curry make turkey leftovers seem a little more exotic and interesting than just sticking with cold turkey and sandwiches.