How Not To Stuff Up The Turkey This Christmas

With Christmas only a few short weeks away we're already worrying about the Christmas lunch. We catch up with Tim Wilson, from The Ginger Pig, who shares some top tips for cooking the perfect Turkey.

Date
December 6th 2013

The bird

The very first thing you’re going to do, before you turn on an oven or even think about blanketing a pig, is buy the very best bird you can because you’ll really taste it. Your turkey should be slow growing, free range, happy, dry-plucked, hung guts in for 7-14 days and have decent A Level results to boot: accept nothing less. Our favourites are the broad breasted bronze turkeys, reared by father and son Gerald and Richard Botterill on the Belvoir Estate (where the fancy elderflower cordial comes from!).

Turkey’s new home

Just like a new-born, you need to prepare somewhere for your new arrival to stay, and while you might be able to risk putting the turkey (not baby) in the shed when there’s snow on the ground, the constant temperature of a fridge is best. Clear the Coleman’s and cranberry sauce away to the garage, chill your wine outside and make space at the bottom of your fridge for the bird. It wants to be stored unwrapped (definitely no cling film here please), on a large plate or roasting tray, with room for air to circulate.

If you’re not cooking your turkey for a few days, it’s wise to use the giblets now. Make a simple stock using everything except the liver, along with a few aromatic vegetables and some peppercorns and bay. This stock will keep 4-5 days if covered and placed in the fridge, and will make cracking turkey gravy when the moment comes.

Stuffing

Truth be told, we prefer to leave the stuffing on the side rather than in the bird, as it adds extra weight increasing the cooking time, which can dry out the meat. Instead we like lots and lots of streaky bacon over the top of the bird, which adds flavour and bastes the flesh without increasing the cooking time, but that’s not to say we don’t like stuffing! Mix together pork mince, breadcrumbs, an egg, grated onion, fresh herbs, seasoning and grated lemon zest, form into balls and pop in with your roast potatoes for the final 15-20 minutes.

Temperature

Possibly the most important thing to do when you’re cooking a big turkey, is to take it out of the fridge a long time before it goes in the oven – six hours should do the trick. If you only give it an hour or two then the bird will still be quite cold in the middle, and this is what leads to uneven cooking, meaning dry turkey or even worse – still raw in the middle. Just make sure the dog doesn’t get it while it comes up to room temperature…

Guess the turkey weight

In order to calculate the cooking time, you need to know how much the bird weighs. If this isn’t included on the receipt, there’s an easy way to find out. Weigh someone on the bathroom scales, and then weigh them again except holding the turkey this time; deduct the first number from the second and you’ve got it.

To cook

Heat the oven to 220˚C/ 425˚F/ Mark 7. Rub the skin with plenty of butter and pepper and cover the breast with lots of streaky bacon (you’ll need around 500g to do this properly). Make a big tin foil cross inside your roasting pan, place the turkey in the middle and wrap the foil around to make a loose but closed parcel. Roast the bird for 40 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 170˚C/ 325˚F/ Mark 3 and cook for 20 minutes per 500g, unless you can push a skewer into the fleshiest part of the leg and see nice clear juices (no hint of pink). Rest the bird somewhere warm for at least 30 minutes while you finish your sides, and then carve.

If you want to get your kitchen-mitts on more meaty recipes, The Ginger Pig has two brilliant cookery books. The Meat Book for the carnivoerous at heart, and the Farmhouse Cook Book for anyone wanting a more holistic adventure into the farmhouse kitchen. Both have bags of information on produce and cookery principles, serving as a handy reference tool as well as being jam-packed with recipes. Order online from here.