How to cook a turkey

A whole golden, succulent roast organic turkey: the classic Christmas centrepiece. Our birds are the much-celebrated Bronze breed: a slow-growing traditional turkey that gives rich, juicy meat with an intense natural flavour. We include the giblets, so you can top off your roast with the absolute best proper gravy.

Here are some simple tips from our cooks here at the farm for cooking the perfect roast and making a sumptuous organic gravy too.

Firstly, the basics:
– Remove and freeze the giblets as soon as the turkey arrives (defrost in time to make your gravy).
– Allow the turkey as much air as possible, preferably by untying it to let air into the cavity.
– Take the turkey out of the fridge 30 mins before cooking.
– Untie the bird before roasting, or it will increase the cooking time.
– If the turkey has been frozen, defrost thoroughly in the fridge or a cold place before cooking.
– Don’t use the cavity space for stuffing – it slows down cooking, absorbs fat and will mess up the gravy. Instead use the neck cavity.
– Remove cooked leftovers from the carcass and put them in the fridge as soon as possible. Eat within two days. If you cook with leftover turkey, make sure it is piping hot.
– Make sure you save all your turkey bones to make stock with, if you are planning more than one Christmas feast it will make the perfect addition to future gravies.

To cook the perfect turkey, try this simple method our Riverford cooks have tried and tested:

Prep 15 mins, cook 45 mins per kg & 30 mins resting time
In addition to the turkey you will also need
400g stuffing (try our sausage meat stuffing recipe)
1 lemon, quartered
1 large onion, peeled & quartered
a generous sprig of herbs (bay, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.)
50g melted butter

1. Weigh the turkey and work out the cooking time
Here’s an easy way to work out the cooking time without trying to balance a turkey on your kitchen scales! Each bird will already have its total weight on the label, so remove the giblets, weigh them separately and deduct their weight from the total. Add the weight of your stuffing (if using) to get the right cooking time. You will need to cook your turkey for 45 mins per kg.

2. Prepare the turkey
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Remove the giblets if you didn’t remove them on arrival (keep them for your gravy). Lift the flap of skin at the neck end and pack in your stuffing, then pull the skin back and secure under the bird, using wooden cocktail sticks if necessary. Season the main cavity, then push in the quartered lemon, onion and herbs. Transfer to a large roasting tin, breast-side up, and brush the breast and legs with the melted butter before seasoning. Cover the whole bird loosely with foil to protect the skin from over-browning, and transfer to the oven for the calculated time.

3. Cooking, testing and resting
Every hour baste with its juices. 30 mins before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil to allow the skin to brown up. At the end of the cooking time, check the meat is thoroughly cooked by inserting a carving fork into the thickest area of both breast and thighs. If the juices run pink, return to the oven for a further 15 mins and test again. Repeat until the juices run clear.

Once cooked, remove it from the roasting tray (you will need this tray for making your gravy in so don’t wash it!) and put it on another tray or plate. Cover the turkey with foil again and leave to rest for 30 mins. This will make it more succulent and easier to carve… and don’t worry, your turkey will stay hot for an hour after leaving the oven.

4. Make organic turkey gravy
To make perfect gravy you need to make sure you capture all the flavour the roasted bird has left behind. Using the tray you roasted the turkey in, skim most of the fat out – although leaving a little won’t hurt.

Place the tray over a medium hob and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of plain flour into the meat juices. If you like your gravy on the thick side, you can add more flour. Cook for a minute or so and tip in a small glass of white wine. Let it bubble away until it has reduced by half, using a wooden spoon to scrape and loosen all the interesting, sticky, roasting debris from the pan.

Add about 500ml of good poultry stock along with any resting juices from the turkey. Let it simmer away until thickened, then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. To create gravy just the way you like it, tweak the flavour with a little mustard, or a dash of red wine vinegar to add more piquancy. A little soy, Worcestershire sauce or even miso paste can add more depth if you feel it is lacking. Some people like to sweeten a Christmas gravy with a dab of redcurrant jelly or a tangle of slow-cooked onions. When it tastes just right, enjoy it with your festive feast!

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