Traditional roast turkey

INTRODUCTION

I use a meat thermometer when cooking this as it helps to judge when the turkey is done. Cook it to an internal temperature of 75C-80C rather than the 90C suggested on the thermometer gauge, though. When working out when to put the turkey in the oven, allow at least 30 minutes’ resting time. If you have chosen to cook a turkey of a different size to below, see Turkey timings below (there is no need to include the weight of the stuffing).

INSTRUCTIONS

SERVES 12-15 PORTIONS

Preheat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.

  1. Loosen the skin over the breast of the turkey by slipping your fingers between the breast and the skin at the neck end, leaving the skin attached at the cavity end. Holding the skin up, spread softened butter over the top of the breast under the skin. Slip the lemon slices and thyme sprigs in under the skin. The latter is a nice addition but if time is short you can leave it out.

  2. Stuff the neck end of the turkey up to the breast with the stuffing. Secure the loose skin with fine skewers, or just tuck the skin underneath. Fill the body cavity with any lemon trimmings, the herbs and the onion. Tie the legs with string to give a neat shape. Lightly butter the skin of the bird.

  3. Arrange two sheets of foil across a large roasting tin: they must be large enough to go generously up and over the turkey breast. Place the turkey on top and, if using a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the thigh. (When cooked it will register 75C-80C). Fold the sheets of foil loosely over the turkey, leaving a large air gap between the turkey and the foil.

  4. Cook the turkey in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3.Continue to roast for 3½ hours, basting from time to time. Increase the oven temperature to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 again.

  5. Take the turkey out of the oven, turn back the foil and drain off any surplus juices from the tin into a jug or bowl. Baste the bird, and return it to the hot oven for about 30 minutes for the skin to brown and become crisp. Meanwhile, leave the fat to rise to the top of the jug or bowl in a cold place. When the liquid is cold, take off the fat with a spoon and save the juices for the gravy.

  6. Take the turkey out of the oven and check if cooked. If not using a thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a small sharp knife. If the juices are clear, then the turkey is done; if they are still tinged with pink, then roast for a little longer. If the turkey is already brown enough, though, cover again with the foil. Once cooked, cover the turkey and leave to stand for 30 minutes before carving.

  7. Carve the turkey and serve with your choice of trimmings.

REMINDER - Do not put a meat stuffing into the cavity of a bird as this is not safe. In the cavity use only flavouring vegetables and herbs.

PREPARING AHEAD - Prepare up to the end of stage 3 up to 12 hours in advance. Cover and chill until ready to cook. The stuffing can of course be made up to a month in advance and frozen.

TURKEY ROASTING TIMES - If cooking a turkey weighing more or less than the master recipe, follow the times given here. The table below shows times for gas and electric ovens. Ovens do vary considerably, so if you know that yours is on the hot side or the cool side, adjust the times accordingly. Aga cooking times are shown underneath.

GAS AND ELECTRIC
Oven-ready turkey

3.5kg-5kg (8lb-11lb)
Starting temp (foil on), 220C/fan 200C, gas 7: 30mins
Roasting temp (foil on), 160C/fan 140C, gas 3: 2½-3 hrs
Browning temp (foil off), 220C/fan 200C, gas 7: about 30 mins

5.4kg-6.3kg (12lb-14lb)
Starting temp (foil on), 220C/fan 200C, gas 7: 40mins
Roasting temp (foil on), 160C/fan 140C, gas 3: 3-3½ hrs
Browning temp (foil off), 220C/fan 200C, gas 7: about 30 mins

6.75kg-9kg (15lb-20lb)
Starting temp (foil on), 220C/fan 200C, gas 7: 45mins
Roasting temp (foil on), 160C/fan 140C, gas 3: 3½-4½ hrs
Browning temp (foil off), 220C/fan 200C, gas 7: about 30 mins

IN THE AGA - Note that a 3.5kg-5kg (8lb-11lb) turkey is best fast-roasted, see below.

AGA SLOW ROASTING - After stage 3 of the master recipe, place the roasting tin on the floor of the simmering oven. For a 5.4kg-6.3kg (12lb-14lb) turkey allow 10-13 hours (overnight). For a 6.75kg-9kg (15lb-20lb) turkey allow 12-14 hours (overnight). To brown, when the bird is done, uncover the foil and transfer to the roasting oven for about 15 minutes until golden. If the turkey is over 8.1kg (18lb), or if the simmering oven is on the cool side, start off in the roasting oven uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and transfer to the simmering oven as above.

AGA FAST ROASTING - After stage 3 of the master recipe, cook in the roasting tin lightly covered with foil on the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven for the following times. Baste the bird from time to time and remove the foil 30 minutes before the end of cooking time to crisp the skin. For a 3.5kg-5kg (8lb-11lb) turkey allow 1¾-2¼ hours total. For a 5.4kg-6.3kg (12lb-14lb) turkey allow about 2½ hours. For a 6.75kg-9kg (15lb-20lb) turkey allow about 3 hours.

This recipe is taken from: Christmas Collection (Headline)

  • Traditional roast turkey