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Turkey Tips

All you need to know for the perfect Christmas Turkey! Thawing through to Preparation and carving.

Saskia Beers Tips for the perfect Christmas Turkey

Thaw safely

If buying a frozen turkey, allow 1 day per 2 kg to thaw in the refrigerator. Place in a tray in its original packaging on the lowest shelf to avoid cross-contaminating other foods. This is the safest method, you should never defrost at room temperature, or under running water or in a sink of water – dangerous bacteria that cause food poisoning grow rapidly in warm temperatures. Once thawed, it can be kept in the refrigerator 1 additional day before roasting.

  • 3 kg turkey, thaw in fridge for 1.5 days

  • 4 kg turkey serves 10, thaw in fridge for 2 days

  • 5 kg turkey serves 12-13, thaw in fridge for 2.5 days

  • 6 kg turkey serves 15, thaw in fridge for 3 days


Rinse inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towel.

For a super moist turkey is place softened butter (see below) under the skin on the breast to keep the meat moist.

Allow the turkey to come to room temperature before you roast it – this will take about 1 hour.

When you first remove it from the refrigerator, this is a good time to loosen the skin on the breast. Use the back of a dessertspoon to ease between the skin and the breast meat to release the skin from the flesh, but take care not to split the skin.

To brine or not to brine?

Personally I do not brine our turkeys – but some people like to do this to “season from the inside”.

To brine a 4 -7 kg turkey, bring 1 ¼ cup sea salt, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 3 bay leaves, half bunch thyme, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns and 8 litres of water to the boil in a large stockpot. Boil for 5 minutes, cool to room temperature, transfer to a large, deep non-reactive container (big enough to fit your turkey) and refrigerate until chilled completely.

Submerge the turkey and refrigerate for 24 hours. Before roasting, remove the bird from the brine, then rinse and pat dry, inside and out, with paper towel.

Allow the turkey to come to room temperature before you roast it – this will take about 1 hour.

Get flavour into your bird:

Butter up

If you don't want to mess with brining, one of the easiest ways to infuse the turkey meat with flavour and keep it moist and delicious is to push some flavoured butter under the skin.

The following flavoured butters make enough for a 4 kg turkey.

Lemon and thyme

Combine 100 g softened butter, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoons chopped thyme, salt and pepper.

Shallot and tarragon

Combine 100 g softened butter, 1 finely diced shallot, 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon, zest of 1 lemon, salt and pepper.

When ready to roast, preheat the oven and tuck the wings under the body. Gently push the softened or flavoured butter under the skin on the breast

Simple stuffing basics

Ensure the stuffing is at room temperature (i.e. no residual heat, if it is a cooked stuffing).

Loosely stuff the bird’s neck and body cavity.

Secure the cavity with a skewer and tuck the neck skin underneath and secure with a toothpick.

Make sure you weigh the bird after stuffing to calculate the cooking time.

Sage and onion stuffing

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add 2 diced onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 10–15 minutes or until golden brown and lightly caramelised. Cool to room temperature. When ready to stuff the turkey, combine the onion with 4-5 cups sourdough breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons roughly chopped sage, 2 tablespoons rosemary, 1.2 bunch parsley chopped. 50 g softened butter, salt and pepper. Makes enough to stuff a 5-6 kg turkey.

Roasting a turkey

How to truss a turkey

This gives a nice shape by bringing the legs close up against the body, and helps to prevent them drying out. Take a long piece of string (about 80 cm), pass it under the bird between the legs and the wings so you have an even amount of string on each side. Pass the string along the gap between the legs and the body, and up and around each drumstick. Tie together tightly. Place on a rack in a roasting tray.

Roast with confidence

For juicy, tender meat, place the turkey on a greased rack in a roasting tray. For a 6kg turkey, brush with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season well with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Add 125 ml (½ cup) water into the tray. Roast at 160 degrees on the lowest shelf, turning halfway through, and baste every 30 minutes.

Add more water to the tray if needed to avoid the juices burning. Cover loosely with greased foil if the turkey is browning too much.

Roasting times

Here’s our guide on how long to roast a turkey. Ovens vary, so check regularly throughout cooking. No matter what the cut of turkey, baste regularly, test with a skewer, and rest.

Type – Temp – Time – Weight

Whole turkey, 160°C, 30 minutes, per kg Breast fillet, 180°C, 20 minutes, per kg Rolled, 180°C, 25 minutes, per kg

How do you tell the turkey is cooked?

The best way to test is by using a digital thermometer in the thickest part of the leg. The internal temperature of the thigh should be 62-65°C.

Resting the turkey

Remove from the oven and set aside in a warm place, breast side down loosely covered in foil for 40-60minutes. This allows the meat to relax and the juices to reabsorb into the bird.

All turkey, no matter what cut, needs to be rested.

This is a good time to make the gravy and assemble the side dishes.

How to carve a turkey

Yes, it's daunting if this is your first go at breaking down a whole bird. The good news is once you've got the hang of carving, you're flying, and you'll end up with a pretty plate just like this one:

First thing: it seems too obvious to point out, but using a sharp knife will make carving so much easier, give cleaner cuts, and will keep the meat juicier.

In brief, approach carving your turkey by parts:

1. Remove the drumsticks

2. Remove the thighs

3. Carve the breasts

4. Remove the wings

5. Remove the wishbone

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