When I posted about Christmas turkeys the other day, many people commented on how they find turkey to be unpleasantly dry and bland. It’s a widespread complaint alright, and many of us grew up with Christmas turkey that had all flavour cooked out of it by over-zealous mammies and grannies. The same applied to the vegetables when I was growing up as well, come to think of it.
But turkey doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve cooked Christmas turkey a few times following Nigella Lawson’s guidelines from her book How To Eat, and each time it turned out tender, delicious and very far from dry (I can’t bear to use that word that starts with ‘m’ and rhymes with ‘joist’; it’s the worst word ever).
Nigella’s tips are:
- Don’t be alarmed by the shortness of the cooking time, turkey really does not need to be cooked all day.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge first thing in the morning so that it’s at room temperature when it goes into the oven.
- Put the turkey breast down in the roasting tin: this allows the fat deposits in the back to percolate through the breast as it cooks, and makes for the tenderest, most succulent meat.
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200ºC and keep it at this temperature for the first 30 mins. Then turn it down to gas mark 4/180ºC.
For the following weights of turkey, you need to cook it for these times:
Make sure you ask your butcher to weigh the turkey for you, as it will flatten your kitchen scales. If you’re stuffing the turkey, include the weight of the stuffing.
More of Nigella’s tips:
- Baste the bird regularly through the cooking time, and turn it the right way up for the last half hour of cooking.
- The guidelines above are for without foil, but if you want to use foil, add an hour to the cooking time, and still remove it for the last half hour in order to brown the breast.
- You can check that the meat is cooked by poking a skewer into a part where the meat is thick: the juices will run clear if it’s cooked.
This technique has worked perfectly for me a number of times: tender, succulent, perfectly-cooked meat. And not a single food poisoning incident. Hurray!