Ohh Yah! It’s the good old Turkey!
It is that time of year again when you can have a feast, and I want to make sure you have a turkey recipe that you will be really happy with. I want you to confidently cook the big bird for your friends and family, knowing that you are going to serve the best, moistest and most delightful turkey. With this turkey recipe you will feed your guests the best turkey they have ever had (as I have always been told when my guests ate my turkey). You will impress and will be showered with compliments, which will make the effort of hosting a Christmas Dinner all worth it. I assure you, this is a turkey recipe you will want to hold on to.
So read on…
This month, I have done 3 Ultimate Christmas Dinner demonstrations for Kenwood’s Cook & Coffee, in which I demonstrated a whole Christmas dinner menu. After each demonstration, attendees got to sample the menu. Their feedback was great. They raved about the food and said it was heavenly. When it came to the Turkey they all told me, it was the best turkey they have ever had! They all mentioned how surprised they were that the turkey is super moist, and actually tastes good! I found that; most people are under the impression that turkey doesn’t taste good and is very dry. “Turkey is dry meat, it’s not tasty, We Prefer Chicken” I heard them say! Chicken is good, I got nothing against it, but the description of Turkey is very surprising to me! I find turkey to be delicious, and super moist! Only it has to be cooked right to achieve these results.
When cooked right, Turkey is a fabulous choice of meat to have. It is lean meat, which is very good for you. Turkey meat is mild in flavour, therefore open for introducing other flavours to enhance it, which is always good for creativity. My turkey never comes out dry, and yours shouldn’t! If it does, it usually means that it has been overcooked! Overcooking any meat will dry it out, as it will be loosing its juices in the cooking process. The formula for cooking Turkey without overcooking it, is very simple. An instant read meat thermometer is the most accurate way to tell the doneness of a turkey. When inserted in the flesh between the thigh and the cavity of the bird, without touching the bone, it should register 170F. At that point your turkey is perfectly done.
If you do not have a thermometer, don’t worry, you can go the traditional way! In general, every one pound of turkey meat will take 30-45 minutes to cook in a 325F oven. (This applies to baking, roasting and grilling, but does not apply to fried whole Turkey.) Following this formula, an average 8 lb whole turkey will require 2 hours and 45 minutes to cook. If you leave it longer, you will be over cooking it, and it will become drier by the minute. So if you cook it for 3 hours and a half, you have drained the juices out of the poor bird, and will have a dry turkey for dinner.
Here is a Time to Weight chart for Roasting a whole un stuffed turkey to help you out:
Weight Required Cooking Time
8-12 lbs 2 3/4 – 3 hours
12-14 lbs 3 – 3 3/4 hours
14 – 18 lbs 4 3/4 – 4 1/4 hours
18 – 20 lbs 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 hours
20 – 24 lbs 4 1/2 – 5 hours
According to the weight of the bird you purchase decide the cooking time from the chart above. And don’t forget to include that in your planning, you don’t want to start cooking a 4 hour turkey an hour before serving!
I usually do not stuff my bird before cooking. I cook the stuffing separately and roast the turkey stuffed with aromatics instead. These aromatics will release their fragrances as they roast, which are then absorbed by the turkey, making it even more deliciously flavoured. This stuffing will not be consumed, it is just for aromas and hints of flavours. When the cooking is done, transfer the turkey to the serving dish and place the stuffing around it in the dish. This method is both to maximise on the aromas and flavours of the turkey, and also because it is safer not to consume the stuffing that’s placed there before the bird is cooked. The choice of Aromatics depends on the the overall flavours you are going for.
There are many methods to cook turkey, my personal favourite is Brining. Brine usually refers to water saturated with salt that is used to preserve food, such as when making pickles. When brining poultry, the goal is not to pickle them, but rather to prep them for cooking; by getting them all moist and plump while helping them absorb other flavours usually included in the brine. The brine is therefore a water bath of flavours and aromatics – together with salt, which aids the absorption process – in which a turkey is placed and left to soak. Brining usually results in the moistest turkey, and it aids the browning process. Brined Turkeys usually come out fabulously evenly browned. The aromatic contents of the brine, are really open to your creativity. Think of combinations that go together, and of the overall flavour. I have chosen to go with apple, cinnamon and cloves with hints of orange for mine, because all these spell Christmas, but you can go for any combination you like. It can be provencale with thyme and sage and garlic powder, it can be Mediterranean with rosemary, oregano and garlic powders, It can be Middle Eastern with zaatar, whole allspice and black pepper corns and lemon… the choice is yours, it’s your turkey and you can do whatever you want with it.
One last note before we go to the recipe, this method works for both fresh and frozen birds. My preferred choice is free-range organic whole turkey. I will not tell you: it is because free range means it lived a good life!! I go for free range because the meat is more tender and tastes better. Organic, because I do not like to consume hormones and antibiotics given to non-organic birds to increase productivity and ensure longevity! I prefer natural. Fresh, because nothing beats fresh in flavour. It simply tastes better!
Organic free-range whole birds are found at Waitrose, Spinney’s and during the festive season at Carrefour as well. Should you go for a frozen, then make sure to thaw whole bird for 12-24 hours prior to brining, then brine for 24 hours and then roast.