With the countdown to Christmas well under way, we’re now turning our thoughts to preparing and cooking the perfect turkey.  There’s nothing so disastrous and disappointing than the centre piece of your festive fayre being dried out from over cooking, or under cooked and inedible.  Often, it can create needless anxiety in the kitchen which could ruin the entire day!

We hope to give you some pointers here to help you feel confident in the kitchen this Christmas and ensure that your turkey prowess in 2021 is going to be talked about for many years to come!

The Bird

A good idea is to get to know your bird!  Not on a personal level, obviously, but to know what type of turkey it is – a white turkey or a native breed.  The reason for this is that they grow differently – for instance, the thickest part of a white turkey is the breast, whilst the thickest part of a bronze turkey is usually the thigh.

We opt for the bronze turkey.  They are usually larger birds, with the males weighing up to 13kgs.  They’re full flavoured and are slightly larger in the breast than the Norfolk Black.

Whichever turkey breed you opt for, good preparation is always key to presenting the perfectly cooked Christmas centre piece.

Dry Brining

The benefits of brining your turkey in preparation before cooking is that it really helps to improve the flavour of the bird and it also makes it easier to carve.

Here’s our easy recipe for dry brining:

3 level teaspoons of fine sea salt#

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

1 teaspoon of black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and rub about 1/3rd of it into the inside of the turkey.  Ease the turkey skin away from the breast, legs and thighs and rub the rest of it into the meat, underneath the skin.

Transfer the turkey into a deep dish and refrigerate it for 36-48 hours.  If you want to have crispy turkey skin, it’s best to leave it uncovered while chilling.

Cooking

Remove your turkey from the fridge at least 2 hours before cooking to allow it to get back up to room temperature.  Season it with salt and pepper if you haven’t dry brined it.

Set the oven temperature at 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4, as a general guide.

Place the turkey breast side down on a rack in a roasting tin, along with 6-8 unpeeled cloves of garlic.  You can use goose fat, duck fat or butter to baste it.

To ensure your turkey remains moist, our top tip is to cover the top of the turkey with a piece of belly pork before roasting. In the last half hour of cooking, remove the belly pork to allow the turkey skin to brown. The belly pork can then be finished under the grill to ensure it is nice and crispy!

Roast the bird in the oven for 2 hours for the first 5kg of meat and then 15 minutes more for every kg above that weight.  So, if you’ve got a 15kg turkey, you’ll want to be cooking it for approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Half way through the cooking time, you’ll want to be checking the temperature of the turkey at its thickest part – either at the breast or the thigh.

Cook the turkey until it’s temperature reaches 60C and that the juices run clear when a skewer or knife is inserted into its thickest part.

Resting

An essential part of the process to ensure a perfectly cooked Christmas turkey!  This allows the meat to reabsorb the juices back into its fibres which will, in turn, give you a much more flavoursome end result.

We would recommend that the turkey is covered in foil and wrapped in a tea towel and allowed to rest for at least an hour before carving and serving, accompanied by lashings of delicious, rich, meaty gravy.

So, there you have it! Our guide to cooking the perfect Christmas turkey.   We are Martins Meats – 3rd generation farmers who ensure quality at every step of the way, supplying high quality meats to the trade and domestic sectors in and around the South West.

For more information about us and what we do, please take a look at our website https://www.martinsmeats.com/ or give us a call on 01242 621 493 – we’d be happy to help!

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