Cooking the perfect turkey is often perceived as a challenge. If it is overcooked, the family faces eating dry turkey for days to come. If it is undercooked, everything else will be ruined by the time it has caught up.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. To make the task seem less daunting, just think of it as a large chicken. Its legs can be cooked separately, confit style (the recipe for which I’ve given before), and I recommend cooking the stuffing separately.
I like to cook my turkey in goose fat,very slowly, legs first, followed by breast, which makes it tender and succulent. This method also gives you more control over different elements of the final dish, so it is easier to get everything cooked perfectly.
When choosing a turkey, it is better to choose a young bird that is plump and with a short neck, as its meat will be more tender. If the turkey is old, its feet will be reddish and scaly. Consult your butcher about what size bird you will need. Choose the best quality turkey you can source and afford (a true Bronze is best). Ask your butcher to pluck it and remove the sinews from the legs so that it is oven-ready for you. Retain the giblets for making gravy.
Clean your turkey the night before you wish to eat it by washing it thoroughly under a cold running tap. Ensure the cavity is well cleaned, then fully dry the turkey using a muslin cloth or tea towel.
The perfect roast turkey
100g soft butter
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4.5kg (10lb) turkey, with giblets removed and cavity wiped clean
3 large onions, halved
3 shallots, finely diced
100g lightly smoked bacon fat, finely diced
1 turkey egg or free-range chicken egg
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
650g of old brioche bread crumbs
250g of braised chestnuts, finely chopped
50ml of turkey stock (or chicken stock)
5g of unsalted butter
Fresh milled white pepper
1. The turkey should be prepared the night before. Mix the butter with the salt and pepper, then season the bird’s cavity.
2. Rub the butter mix all over the bird. Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper to double thickness and lay over the breast the protect it during the cooking.
3. Leave it in the fridge overnight.
4. On the day of cooking, heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7.
5. Take the turkey out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.
6. Put the onions in a large roasting tray. Put the turkey on a trivet or wire rack in the tray.
7. Pour one cup of boiling water into the bottom of the tray, then cover the whole thing with greaseproof paper and two layers of foil, making sure it is sealed around the edges.
8. Cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/gas mark 6.
9. After 90 minutes, remove the foil and greaseproof paper.
10. Cook for a further 40 minutes and don’t open the oven door until the cooking time is up.
11. To test if it is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast – if cooked properly, the juice should run clear.
12. If it is pink, cook it for another 20 minutes and test again. Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes before carving.
13. Strain the juice from the bottom of the tin into a large jug – the fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath.
14. Skim off the fat and use the juices to make a gravy, or else serve it as it is.
Chestnut stuffing method
1. Sauté the shallots and bacon for a few minutes without colouring. Add the brioche crumbs and egg and mix well. Then add the chestnuts and stock, season and mix well.
2. Place mixture into a buttered pan. Cover with parchment paper and place it into a warm oven at 165C for about 45 minutes.
3. Serve the sliced turkey with the stuffing, baby brussels sprouts, fondant potato and your best gravy