October 10th, 2010
The Turkey comes, originally, from North America and though we think of them as Christmas dinner, it’s only in the last 100 years that they have displaced the goose as the festive bird. Turkeys have a lot more meat on them than geese and therefore feed more people.
I haven’t actually bought turkey since Bootiful Bernard imported avian flu to Britain and two of his employees were prosecuted for playing baseball with live turkeys, a few years ago. However, I was given a good, free range turkey last week, from a decent farm and thought it deserved some respect in the kitchen.
How to cook a turkey:
Cooking a turkey is fairly simple. You cook it for 20 minutes per pound (including the weight of the stuffing), plus 20 minutes extra. Because turkeys are large and need long cooking times, it’s important to keep the breast meat from getting too dry.
Firstly, take you turkey out of the fridge early and let it warm up to room temperature (for at least a few hours). Stuff the turkey with decent, home made, stuffing, rub it all over, with butter and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Some people push butter up under the skin, but I prefer to cover the breast with streaky bacon to add fat and flavour (this helps to keep the breast moist during cooking).
Put your turkey into a preheated oven, at 230º C. I put a piece of tinfoil over the breast to stop it burning for a couple of hours. There’s no need to wrap the whole bird, it just slows down the cooking. A 10 pound turkey, with stuffing, will take about 4 hours. After the first 30 minutes turn the heat down to about 180º for the duration.
After 90 – 120 minutes (depending on the required cooking time), remove the foil cover and allow the bacon to brown. Once browned, remove it and chop it up later and add it to your cooked vegetables. For the last 60 – 90 minutes you want to bare the breast and allow it to brown. If the legs and wings start to look brown early on, wrap them in foil to stop them burning. You can tell that your bird is cooked if the legs move easily (wobble) and when you stick a fork in to the bird (especially under the leg area) the juices run clear.
Wrap your finished turkey up and let it stand for 30 minutes before serving. Delia used to recommend pouring boiling water onto a couple of tea towels, wringing them out and using them as blankets to keep the turkey warm. While the turkey rests, use the juices to make gravy. Serve with seasonal vegetables and roast potatoes.