Is this the first year you’re on turkey duty? Maybe you just need a refresher to help get the best out of your lovingly slow-grown free-range bird. Whatever your needs this Christmas, you can rest assured you’ll have it deliciously under control with our easy step-by-step instructions on how to roast a whole turkey. So take a deep breath, pop on some Perry Como, and pour yourself a glass of something lovely – because this year, you’ve got Christmas nailed.
The easiest way to roast a fresh free-range turkey for Christmas
In order to avoid your very own Nightmare Before Christmas, the key is in the word: simplicity. Yes, you can brine, deep-fry and even slow-cook your turkey, but to keep stress levels down and tasty levels up, make your life easy and strip things back to basics. When you’re starting with an already beautiful high-welfare, slow-grown, truly free-range and superior quality bird, you don’t need to go messing about it too much with to make it amazing. That’s not so say you can’t add your own flourishes along the way, but to start, let’s keep it simple. This really easy method is straightforward and foolproof, so there’s no reason to be afraid of the biggest bird you’ll cook all year.
1. Remove all packaging, string and any giblets from the turkey. Take it out of the fridge for at least an hour (you can leave it out for up to four hours), before cooking and pat the skin dry.
Top tip: Removing it from the fridge before you plan on roasting it allows your bird to come up to room temperature and makes for more accurate cooking times (more on them in a second).
2. Preheat the oven to the highest heat it will go to for at least 20 minutes. Place your bird in a large roasting tray, either on a bed of roughly cut carrots and onions, or simply on a rack on that sits above the base of a baking tray.
3. Season the turkey with a generous pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the whole bird in olive oil. You can use a brush for this or just get down and dirty and use your hands.
4. Cover the bird loosely in foil, cook at 230ºC for the first 30 minutes, and then reduce to 190ºC for the remaining time (about 20 minutes per 500g/1lb 2oz). About 30 to 50 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil.
The British Turkey Information Service advise that if a turkey is over 4kg, calculate 20 mins per kg + 90 mins. When using foil, the total timings to work to are:
4kg = 2 hrs 50 minutes
5 kg = 3 hrs 10 minutes
6 kg = 3 hrs 30 minutes
7 kg = 3 hrs 50 minutes
8 kg = 4hrs 10 minutes
9 kg = 4hrs 20 minutes
No one wants overcooked turkey so it’s important to use your instincts too when it comes to timings and to always test the turkey for doneness. Keep a watchful eye on your bird by testing an hour or so before the end of your calculated timings and don’t be afraid to go with your gut.
How to test your turkey is cooked correctly
Top tip: for a perfectly cooked turkey, use thermometers (yes, that’s more than one).
To ease any doubts on whether your turkey is cooked all the way through, use both a meat thermometer and an oven thermometer. Use your meat one to check the temperature at the inner thigh, outer thigh and breast. Use your oven one to keep tabs on the actual temperature of your oven.
When it comes to the temperature of a cooked turkey, commercially raised supermarket turkeys should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 72ºC. Slow-grown, free-range turkeys raised on small farms that are dry-or wax plucked and are of excellent quality from a trusted high-welfare source can be cooked to 65ºC, as they should be a safer product to eat. To check your turkey is cooked, insert the thermometer and leave it there for one minute. If it hits the correct temperature, your turkey is ready to come out of the oven. Alternatively, you can do the classic pierce test by poking a clean knife or skewer into the fattest part of the bird – when the juices run clear, it’s done.
5. When your turkey is cooked, leave it to rest. Whatever you do, don’t skip this step. Take it out of the oven, place onto a serving platter or chopping board and cover in lots of foil to keep it warm. Turkeys that weigh 4-6kg should be rested for around 1½ hours, and ones from 6-10kg can rest for two hours. Don’t worry, it won’t go cold. Your bird will have a lot of residual heat even outside of the oven.
Why do cooked turkeys need resting?
This resting period is essential to helps the meat to relax and take on more of its juices. A dry bird can happen as a result of a deadly combination of overcooking and not enough rest time that just throws all your good work (and that of the farmers’) out of the window. Have faith in your timings (and enjoy a little family game whilst it’s resting), and your tastebuds will thank you for it!
6. Optional but bloomin’ delicious
Reserve the juices from the bottom of the tray to make an awesome nutrient-rich gravy.
Turkeys are naturally a social bunch and love hanging out with farmers Jacob Sykes and Nick Ball.
What our turkey farmers Nick & Jacob at Fosse Meadows say:
“The high welfare method (and a standard accredited by the Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association) of raising the birds has to be over a long period of time, (with only natural cereal diet, free-range pasture and no additives) in order to achieve such a fine, generous and fully matured turkey. As our turkeys are raised for more than twice the length of time compared to the supermarket version, we stress that ours ARE very #slowly-grown!”
Our British Bronze Turkeys are lovingly slow-grown by Nick & Jacob at Fosse Meadows farm in Leicestershire. They are never plastic wrapped and come in neat cardboard box complete with a handle and handy cooking instructions. High-welfare farm-fresh turkeys have a superior flavour and slightly denser texture in the fibres of the meat. Our farmers’ truly free-ranging turkeys are grown for at least twice as long as supermarket turkeys and are simply in a different league compared to dry, flavourless mass-produced commercial birds.