Riverford Wicked Leeks
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Print Cooking turkey

A turkey takes a long time to cook, as it takes a while for the heat to get between the breast and leg. Removing and boning the legs and cooking the crown separately cuts the cooking time of an average 12-14lb turkey down from about 4½ hours to about 1½-2, depending on the size. The shorter cooking time also prevents the breast drying out. You will need a very sharp knife, preferably a boning knife, but otherwise one which isn’t too large. You could also just cook the crown and one of the legs, freezing the other for a later date. Keep any leftovers in the fridge and use them up within 2 days (or freeze). Make sure any reheated leftover turkey is piping hot before serving.


  • Turkey


  1. Remove the giblets as soon as your turkey arrives and save them for making stock for the gravy. Defrost a frozen turkey completely before cooking. Remove your turkey from the fridge a few hours before cooking to get it up to room temperature. Loosen or untie any string on the turkey to let as much air circulate in the oven as possible, to cut down on cooking time and to cook it evenly. If you want to stuff your turkey, stuff just the neck rather than the whole cavity. Even better, cook your stuffing separately; stuffing the whole bird slows down the cooking and the stuffing absorbs all the fat you need for the gravy.
  2. Place the turkey breast-side-up on a sturdy board. Pull out a wing and snap it open by the larger joint (the one nearest the main carcass), cutting through the joint with your knife to remove the wing. Repeat with the other side. Keep these for making the gravy.
  3. Now remove the legs: lay the turkey on its side, pull out the leg to reveal the skin between the leg and breast and carefully cut around the top part of the leg, keeping the breast intact. Pull the leg out again, firmly if necessary, to reveal the ball and socket joint and cut cleanly through the joint, then cut round and underneath to fully remove the leg. Repeat with the other side.
  4. To clean up the turkey crown (ie. the breasts that remain on the main carcass), pull back the parsons nose (its bottom!) from underneath the turkey and snap it back to remove (it’s quite a large, bony piece, good for making stock for the gravy). Trim off any loose skin around the top of the breast area.
  5. To bone the legs (there are two, the drumstick and thigh, with a ball and socket in between), place each leg on a board, skin side down. Cut down through the middle of the drumstick and thigh piece to reveal the long bones, then use small sweeping strokes with your knife to cut either side and underneath the bones, including the ball and socket (do this bit especially carefully, as it is where the meat is thinnest and you want to keep it all in one piece). Cut all around the bottom of the leg to remove the drumstick fully. Remove any thin white sinews. You will be left with a flat piece of leg meat; this can now be spread with your choice of stuffing, rolled up and tied with pieces of string to secure it all together.
  6. To prevent the breast meat drying out during cooking, push your hand between the meat and skin either side of the breastbone to make a cavity. Stuff with softened unsalted butter mixed with fresh herbs, cooked onion and seasoning, then cover the skin with strips of rindless smoked streaky bacon. 
  7. Heat the oven to 200˚C and cook the crown for 30 mins. Remove the bacon strips and keep for serving, then put in the legs. Continue to cook for another 1-1½ hours, depending on the size of the bird, basting every now and again. Make sure the turkey is cooked through (it should have reached 72˚C when tested with a meat thermometer, or check that the juices run clear from the thickest part). Wrap in foil to keep warm until needed; the meat will be fine like this for up to an hour, giving you time to put the roast potatoes in.
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