The best way to cook a turkey
The best way to cook a turkey becomes essential knowledge on Christmas Day. This recipe is tried and tested and will deliver the perfect turkey for your festive celebrations. Not bought your turkey yet? Read our guide to buying the perfect turkey so that you’re ready for the big day.
Top turkey tips
- Thoroughly defrost your turkey if using from frozen. This takes around 10 hours per kg in the fridge. If it’s too big to fit in the fridge, keep in a cool place when defrosting.
- Cook the turkey upside down to begin with to let the juices run through the breast meat. Turn the right way up to brown.
- Cook your stuffing separately as it reduces the cooking time for the turkey. It also makes it easier to check that the turkey is thoroughly cooked through. Meat stuffings particularly should be cooked separately to avoid under-cooking.
- Remember that oven temperatures drop if you’re cooking lots of dishes at the same time. Use a meat thermometer to ensure your turkey cooks all the way through.
Serving and roasting guide
|Weight (kg)||Number of servings||Approx. cooking time
(180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4)*
|4-5||8-10||3 hours 20 mins|
|5-6||10-12||3 hours 40 mins|
|7-8||14-16||4 hours 30 mins|
|9-10||18-20||5 hours 30 mins|
*Cooking times are for an unstuffed turkey. Baste every hour to retain moisture and turn the turkey breast-side up for the final 45 minutes to crisp up the skin. A meat thermometer is vital to check your turkey is cooked. To check, place in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. A perfectly cooked turkey should register 165°C on the thermometer.
Find more Christmas inspiration
Discover more inspiration for your festive table with our Christmas e-book, A Happy, Healthy Christmas.
From party fare, festive feasts and Boxing Day treats to mocktails kombucha cocktails, mulled wine and more, there’s a recipe to see you through the festivities.
Love Christmas? Try these recipes
Turkey is a rich source of protein, perfect for maintaining muscle tissue, and also contains zinc and B vitamins.
- 1 free-range turkey (e.g. Norfolk Black or Bronze, approx. 6kg)
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 large orange, zest and juice
- 1 red onion
- 4 cloves garlic, 4 left whole and 4 chopped
- Bunch each of thyme, parsley and rosemary
- 50g organic butter
- 6 bay leaves, chopped
- 6 sage leaves, chopped
- Splash of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
- Remove and retain the neck and giblets. You do not need to rinse your turkey as the cooking process will kill any bacteria.
- Grate the zest from the lemon and orange and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Place the squeezed fruit into the cavity, along with the red onion, garlic cloves and bunches of herbs. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck in the wing tips to prevent burning.
- Into the bowl, with the citrus juice and zest, add the butter, chopped garlic, salt and pepper and chopped bay and sage. Loosen the skin around the breast and legs by gently pushing your fingers between the skin and the breast meat, and stuff the flavoured butter in between the flesh and skin. Massage through the skin so the butter is evenly spread over the breasts.
- Turn the turkey upside down and roast breast-side down for the first three hours (or see above for all other cooking times).
- Remove from the oven and turn over, basting the turkey all over with the juices.
- Cook for a further 45 minutes until the juices run clear when you pierce a skewer in the thickest part of the bird and the skin is crispy.
- Remove from the oven, transfer to a warmed serving dish or wooden platter and cover tightly with foil. Allow to rest for 30-45 minutes before carving.