The foolproof turkey guide

    Are you roasting the turkey this year? We have everything you need to know to make sure you serve the best Christmas dinner the family has ever tasted.

    Turkey carved with stuffing

    Don't fret over the festive cooking – the team at Good Food are sharing all their top tips for preparing a showstopping Christmas dinner. Get our foolproof turkey recipes, advice on how to cook a roast and how to carve your bird at the table. Impress dinner guests with a succulent main that will have them begging you to cook again next Christmas...

    How to carve a turkey

    Carving a turkey
    Part of the theatre of Christmas is carving a big, juicy turkey at the dinner table. Learn the best techniques for dividing up your roast with our handy video.

    Watch our video guide to carving turkey:

    Carve the turkey in the right order:

    1. First, remove the legs.
    2. Then, cut the drumsticks away from the thighs.
    3. Remove the wings next.
    4. Slice the breast meat.

    What size turkey to buy

    Roasted turkey

    • 2-2.5kg serves 4-6
    • 3kg serves 6-7
    • 3.5kg serves 7-8
    • 4-4.5kg serves 8-10
    • 5-5.5kg serves 10-12
    • 6-6.5kg serves 12-15

    Fresh or frozen?

    Frozen birds are generally better value, but if you are a perfectionist, or are looking for a particular breed, go for fresh. See our guide below for defrosting your frozen turkey, or if opting for fresh, bring to room temperature before cooking by removing from the fridge an hour or more ahead.

    Thawing your turkey

    Your stuffing can be prepared ahead, but don't stuff the bird until it is about to be cooked. Only stuff the neck cavity, never the body cavity (as it will not cook through). This can be filled with sprigs of fresh herbs and slices of lemon or onion to infuse the meat with extra flavours.

    • Weight: 2.25kg - Thaw in fridge 27 hrs - Thaw in cool room 9 hrs
    • Weight: 3-3.5kg - Thaw in fridge 42 hrs - Thaw in cool room 12-14 hrs
    • Weight: 4.5-5.5kg - Thaw in fridge 66 hrs - Thaw in cool room 18-22 hrs
    • Weight: 6.75-7.5kg - Thaw in fridge 90 hrs - Thaw in cool room 27-30 hrs

    A good roasting

    Roast turkey crown
    Right, you've bought your bird, now what? Essential information on how to prepare, store and cook your turkey on our glossary page.

    Turkey glossary page

    How long to cook a turkey

    Be a sea of calm among the Christmas Day chaos by getting your timings spot on. Our roast calculator will generate a cook time according to the weight of your bird and oven type, plus has plenty of tips for testing whether it's fully cooked throughout. 

    Roast calculator

    When is it done?

    The best way to tell if your turkey is cooked is by using a digital cooking thermometer. When cooked, turkey thighs should read 80C, breasts 75C. Always double-check by sticking the probe in several different spots within the thigh or breast, to find the lowest reading. If returning to the oven, allow 10-15 minutes, then test again until the correct temperature is reached.

    Without a thermometer, the classic way to test is to push a spoon under the turkey leg so that it pierces the skin (or use a skewer), and inspect the juices that collect in the spoon. The juices should be pale gold and clear; if there are traces of blood, return to the oven as above.

    Resting time

    It is essential to rest your turkey for 30-45 minutes before carving (the temperature will continue to rise, but there’s no need to test). Put the bird in a warm place, tented with foil. It won’t get cold – but it will become juicier, and easier to carve.

    The turkey recipe collection

    Whole roast turkey
    From traditional to 'with a twist', we've got the perfect roast turkey recipe for you.

    The turkey recipe collection

    • Luscious leftovers

    • Don't let any part of your turkey go to waste. When you have eaten lunch, strip the meat off the turkey (use rubber gloves if you don't like greasy hands) and put it in a bag or plastic box. You might find it convenient to shred it at this point, depending on how you plan to use it. When cold, refrigerate for up to three days. Break up the carcass and bones so they take up less space, bag up and store in the fridge for 3 days, or freeze for later. Use to make superior stock, or a soup base.

    • When it comes to eating your turkey leftovers, it doesn't have to be all turkey curry and cold cut sandwiches. Here's how to transform your leftover meat into something altogether more inspiring.

    • What to do with your leftovers

      Comments, questions and tips

      Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
      4th Dec, 2017
      There are only usually two of us so we get a crown. After Christmas dinner we save some left overs for cold cuts and then keep one whole breast aside, tightly wrap it in cling film, put in a freezer bag and freeze for use later. The thawed meat is as juicy as it was fresh, helped by the use of a temperature probe to cook it correctly in the first place (the first time I used a probe it took 3/4 hour off my calculated cooking time!).
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