Turkey is truly King of the Roast and, as many of us have this meat but once a year, it’s a real shame that it can be as dry as the Sahara Desert if cooked poorly. Keeping your turkey moist is all in the timing. Many recipes give you pages and pages of instructions to keep in the moisture and I even stumbled across a recipe in a really old cookbook that suggested putting popcorn inside the turkey as an indicator of when the bird was correctly cooked!
I will share with you how I have cooked turkey in restaurants all over the world with very few failures. Start by removing the wishbone from the front of the bird. This helps with carving later but is not essential. I always place an onion and a lemon along with any herbs I can get my hands on from the garden into the cavity of the bird to input flavour from the inside out. Never place stuffing in the main cavity, only the neck end, as this will affect the cooking temperature.
Next weigh your turkey. I always operate on 20 mins per kilo of meat plus 90mins at 180c.
Soften a pack of salted butter slightly and flatten it with your hands. Carefully lift the skin and place the flattened butter underneath.
Lay some smoked streaky bacon on the top of the skin and season the outside of the bird with salt and pepper. Loosely cover with foil and baste regularly to lock in the flavour. Remove the foil for the last hour of cooking which should give you the perfect moist turkey with a crispy skin.
Once cooked, the juices of the bird should run clear. If using a probe thermometer, it is imperative it registers 72c core temperature. I rest my meat for a minimum of 30 mins to an hour after removing from the oven to allow the juices to reabsorb into the breasts. Re-cover with the foil and kitchen cloths to retain the heat.
Christmas is a time for reflection and togetherness so this year when you are sat around the table with friends and family (if we can) think about how lucky we are for what we have and all the good we have accomplished in this very strange year. At the very least your turkey will be cooked to perfection and very moist!
Bon appetite and keep picking.
Richard King (Strawberry Fields Lifton Head Chef)