How to achieve a succulent turkey
There’s nothing like a turkey at Christmas – unless, of course you are haunted by memories of dry, stringy flesh and a fridge full of leftovers that no one ever seemed to want.
Follow our tips and you will be gobbling down the most succulent, juicy turkey ever to grace your Christmas table.
A 4-5kg turkey will feed about 15-20 people with some leftovers.
Buying a frozen turkey? Remember to give it enough time to defrost. A 4-5kg bird can take three or four days to thaw.
Worried about it drying out? You can brine the turkey first (recipe below), insert butter between the skin and breast, or cook the bird breast-side down (this means your turkey won’t look as perfect when you bring it to the table).
As a general guide, cook your turkey for 30 minutes per kilo in a 180C oven (a 4kg turkey will take 2 to 21⁄ hours. Cover the breast with foil for the first hour to help keep it moist.
Rest the turkey for at least 20 minutes (and up to 45 minutes) before carving.
Cover it with a tent of foil with a few holes in it to make sure the skin stays crisp.
4.5kg-5.5kg frozen or fresh turkey, with giblets removed About 6.5 litres water 115g-125g non-iodised salt 1-2 Tbsp black peppercorns 1-2 Tbsp juniper berries 2-3 whole cloves 1-2 whole star anise Peel of one orange, dried (night before in a low oven)
unwaxed lemon, sliced 90g-100g caster sugar 3-4 Tbsp good-quality maple syrup 1 generous sprig of fresh rosemary 2 bay leaves
The turkey must be completely submerged in the brine. An oven bag in a large vegetable crisper of a refrigerator is a good fit for this size turkey.
The amount of salt can be reduced without any loss of tenderness but if the lesser amount is used, reduce the spices as well. Put all ingredients in the bag, and stir well.
Add the turkey and more water if necessary.
Close the bag and keep refrigerated for three days, checking that the water level doesn’t overflow as the turkey thaws.
Remove after three days, drain, pat dry and leave uncovered in the refrigerator until cooking time. This will give you dry crisp skin and moist tender meat.
To cook, heat the oven to 220C. Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. (Optional: Brush the turkey with melted butter, olive oil or a little maple syrup.) Put it in the oven.
After 30 minutes, turn the turkey so the breast is facing up. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C.
Return the turkey to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh but not touching the bone, reads 71C (about 23⁄ hours of total roasting).
Remove from the oven and transfer it to a warm carving plate. Tent loosely with foil and let it stand for at least 30 minutes.
STUFFED TURKEY: Roast turkey including stuffed legs is a must-have food item on Christmas Day.