Don’t fret over the festive cooking – our Good Food team share their top tips for preparing a showstopping Christmas dinner. Get our foolproof turkey recipes, plus advice on how to cook a turkey 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 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, as well as give you plenty of tips for testing whether it’s fully cooked throughout.
How to tell turkey is cooked
The best way to tell if your turkey is cooked is by using a digital cooking thermometer. When cooked, the internal temperature of the turkey should reach 70C. The turkey will continue to cook and the temperature will rise as it rests. 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, you can push a spoon under the turkey leg so 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.
How long to rest turkey
It is essential to rest your turkey for 30-45 mins 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.
How long to cook a turkey crown
Cooking for a smaller group this year? Find out how to cook a turkey crown to perfection and get recipe ideas with our guide.
As advised by British Turkey, the temperature of your oven should be 190C/170C fan/gas 5 and the cooking time calculated as follows:
Under 4kg: 20 mins per kg plus 70 mins
Over 4kg: 20 mins per kg plus 90 mins
Remember to weigh your turkey with any stuffing under the skin, bacon or other additions and check that it’s cooked properly.
1.5kg: 1 hr 40 mins plus resting at 190C/170C fan/gas 5
2kg: 1 hr 50 mins plus resting at 190C/170C fan/gas 5
2.5kg: 2 hrs plus resting at 190C/170C fan/gas 5
However, many turkey recipes specify a different oven temperature, and if you cook the crown at a higher (see below) or lower temperature as specified by the recipe you’re following, you will have to adjust the time.
For example, at 200C/180C fan/gas 6, calculate the cooking at 20 mins per 450g.
You may also have to adjust the time for the type of crown you have bought. A 3kg KellyBronze turkey crown, for example, is cooked for 1 hr 30 mins at 180C/160C fan/gas 4, by which point the internal temperature should be 60C (5 degrees less than recommended, but perfectly safe with a KellyBronze). It will then rise a further 5C as it rests.
How to carve 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:
- First, remove the legs
- Cut the drumsticks away from the thighs
- Remove the wings
- Slice the breast meat
What size turkey to buy
- 2-2.5kg serves four to six
- 3kg serves six to seven
- 3.5kg serves seven to eight
- 4-4.5kg serves eight to 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 looking for a particular breed, go for fresh. See our guide on how to cook turkey for advice on defrosting a frozen turkey or, if opting for fresh, bring to room temperature before cooking by removing from the fridge an hour or more ahead.
How to store leftover turkey
Don’t let any part of your turkey go to waste. When you’ve 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 three 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 sandwiches. Here’s how to transform your leftover meat into something altogether more inspiring:
Want even more turkey cooking advice? Check out our guides…
What are your top turkey tips? Leave a comment below…