Dawn: Christmas Dinner! Don’t you just love it!?!
Andrew: Absolutely! The most important meal of the year, isn’t it Dawn?
Dawn: It is, but there are so many horror stories about the whole thing,
Andrew: What a shame that is. However, I believe that there is too much panic about Christmas Dinner. Turkey is delicious, low in fat, wonderful in flavour and equally tasty hot or cold.
Dawn: Do you prefer fresh or frozen, Andrew?
Andrew: I do prefer fresh. I go to the same butcher each year. He buys the entire stock from a farm in Norfolk, and has done since 1972! I know that my turkey this year has been organically fed and running around happily until a couple of weeks ago. I do know that some people will buy a frozen one. My parents do. Frozen turkeys can be just as tasty and flavoursome as a fresh one. It’s just a matter of following a few simple steps and having a bit of patience.
Dawn: Sage advice! If you have a frozen turkey, you must defrost it thoroughly for at least 24 hours before you cook it. You must make sure you have no ice crystals left at all, otherwise you are asking for a dose of food poisoning.
Andrew: And equally, don’t keep a turkey, fresh or defrosted, in a warm environment before it is cooked. It’s best to place it in a shed, or an unheated room before cooking.
Dawn: Away from prowling felines! There are a lot of suggestions about turkey. What do you think?
Andrew: There are suggestions you should soak it in brine, in cola, in water. I have done this for years, and it has never let me down.
Dawn: Fire away!
1 x 14lb (6.5kg) turkey
6oz (175g) of butter
8oz (225g) of streaky bacon
Salt and frshly milled black pepper
Stuffing as required
1 red onion
1 orange or clementine
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220º C.
- Arrange two large sheets of foil in a roasting pan. One lengthways, the other widthways. Ensure these are long enough to make a ‘tent’ over the turkey.
- Stuff the turkey breast with stuffing of your choice, if using. Fold over the neck skin underneath,
- Rub the butter generously into the turkey, paying particular attention to the legs and thighs. It seems very fatty, but this is essential to stop the turkey drying out.
- Lay overlapping layers of streaky bacon over the turkey breast and season with salt and pepper.
- If you wish, for extra flavour, place a red onion, or a clementine, or an orange, possible studded with cloves, into the body cavity. I never stuff the cavity – it adds to the cooking time.
- Fold the foil over the bird, allowing an air space around the bird.
- Place the turkey in the oven and cook on this high temperature for 40 minutes.
- After this time, turn the oven down to gas mark 3/170°C electric.
Dawn: And now I can relax, can I?
Andrew: Indeed you can! Aside from preparing your vegetables, but we cover that elsewhere!
Dawn: For this weight of turkey, wait about 3 and a half hours more.
- Remove the turkey from oven, and turn the heat up to gas mark 6/200ºC electric. Fold back the foil from the top of the turkey, take off the bacon slices, and start to baste the turkey, with a long handled spoon or turkey baster.
- Place the bacon on an ovenproof plate or dish, returning it back to the oven placing it in the bottom. It will crisp up and is delicious as ‘bacon bits’ with the finished dish.
- Return the turkey to the oven and continue to baste it with the juices over the next half hour or so.
- Remove the turkey from the oven. Test the juices! Skewer the breast, thighs and lower body. This is ABSOLUTELY essential. The juices should run clear.
- For each 1lb/500g greater or less than the amount in this recipe, add/subtract 15-20 minutes to the cooking time. If the juices are not clear, return the turkey to the oven.
Dawn: Test to see if the juices are clear by sticking a fork into a plump thigh of the turkey and this with ensure the juices run easily from the bird. If they are clear, pop the turkey back into the oven until they are.
- When the turkey is fully cooked, remove from the oven, fold the double foil layers over the top, and leave to sit under the foil to settle for 45-60 minutes.
Dawn: This allows the turkey meat to set and solidify. It is much easier to carve at this point.
Andrew: Carving! Now there is a trick! I have a couple of easy options here. Slice off the entire breast. It is easy once the meat has settled.
Dawn: I like some of the leg meat too! This can be cut using a good sharp knife, too. Serve with some of the other amazing recipes on our food blog and remember to follow us on Twitter @Love_Food_UK and here, on the blog, too.