Christmas Roast Turkey Done Right
It is almost that time again and if you are anything like me, you have probably been put in charge of cooking the Christmas turkey. If you have always done it before or if you have never done it before, I am going to impart my favorite recipe for you all to enjoy.
The art of cooking a finely prepared roast turkey comes from knowing your steps ahead of time and preparing your ingredients and planning your holiday menu. Holiday dinner does not have to be a stressful and messy affair and it can be handled in a few short hours on game day.
In order for you to have an understanding of what you will be doing, I will outline the basic procedures for both stuffing and roasting turkey.
Basic Procedure for Stuffing a Turkey
Stuffing larger birds like a turkey is impractical and dangerous for the following reasons. It is important to understand the risks and have a plan to control them if you do decide to stuff your turkey prior to roasting.
- Safety – Stuffing is a good bacterial breeding ground and it is difficult to control the temperature inside the turkey. There is a risk of food-borne illness
- Practicality – Stuffing poultry is labor intensive.
- Quality – Stuffed turkey must be cooked for longer in order to cook the stuffing properly which can result in the meat becoming overcooked, dry and tough.
If you understand the risk and still wish to attempt stuffing your turkey, follow these guidelines.
- Always be aware of the temperature of the raw ingredients. All ingredients should be cold when mixed together and never go above 4’C (40’F)
- Stuff the turkey as close to roasting time as possible
- The neck and main body cavities should be loosely stuff. The stuffing will expand during cooking.
- After the cavities are filled, their openings should be secured with skewers and butcher’s twine or by trussing.
- After cooking, remove the stuffing from the bird and store separately.
Here is a quick reference guide to help you keep the larger picture in focus when it comes to roasting a turkey.
Basic Procedure for Roast Turkey
- Season, bard, stuff and/or truss the bird as desired
- Place the turkey in the roasting pan. It may be placed on a rack or mirepoix bed to prevent scorching and promote even cooking.
- Roast uncovered, basting every 15 minutes.
- Allow the turkey to rest before carving to allow even distribution of juices. As the bird rests, prepare the pan gravy or sauce.
Roast Turkey Tips
There are several different techniques for roast turkey that I have seen over the years. It seems that every chef has their own personal recipe for roast turkey. Cooking always has been a personal experience and it is reflected in the myriad of recipes that you can find. The trouble for me was that I was never really sure what starting point is. What a good platform recipe to base my own roast turkey off of. What I have given to you as a recipe below will serve as a good foundational method, and to help you on your way here are some tips to enhance your Christmas roast turkey.
Barding Your Turkey
If you have an especially large turkey to cook, barding is almost a necessity. Barding is the method of adding a layer of fat on the surface of the item you are cooking in order to prevent drying and retain or add flavor.
Grab a few slices of bacon and stuff them inside the skin of the turkey to help prevent drying out.
Rotate Your Turkey
During the cooking of your roast turkey, flip the turkey around every 30-45 minutes or so either on its side or upside down. This will help the juices flow around the turkey and avoid losing the flavor and juiciness of the turkey to the pan drippings.
Basting Your Turkey
Cannot be said enough. This is basic stuff, but if you want to keep your turkey juicy and moist, you need to be basting your turkey every 15 minutes.
Roast Turkey with Chestnut Dressing and Giblet Gravy
|Young Turkey 5.5-6.5 kg (12-15 lbs)||1||1|
|Salt and Pepper||TT||TT|
|Mirepoix||600 g||21 oz.|
|Onion, small dice||250 g||8 oz|
|Celery, small dice||175 g||6 oz.|
|Whole Butter||125 g||4 oz.|
|Fresh bread cubes||1 kg||2 lbs|
|Fresh parsley, chopped||10 g||1 Tbsp.|
|Chicken stock||2 L||2-1/4 qt.|
|Chestnuts, cooked and peeled, chopped coarse||250 g||8 oz.|
|Pastry flour||90 g||3 oz.|
- Remove giblets from the turkey and set aside. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Truss the turkey.
- Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Roast at 200’C (400’F) for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 160’C (325’F) and continue cooking the turkey to an internal temperature of 77’C (170’F), approximately 2.5-3 hours. Baste the turkey often during cooking. Approximately 45 minutes before the turkey is done, add the mirepoix to the roasting pan. If the turkey begins to overbrown, cover it loosely with aluminium foil.
- To make the dressing, saute the diced onion and celery in the butter until tender.
- In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes, salt, pepper, eggs, parsley, sauteed onions and celery, 125 mL (4 fl. oz) of chicken stock and the chestnuts.
- Place the dressing in a buttered hotel pan and cover with aluminum foil or buttered parchment paper. Bake at 175’C (350’F) to an internal temperature of 65’C (150’F), approx. 45 minutes.
- As the turkey roasts, simmer the giblets (neck, heart, gizzard) in 1 L (1 qt) of the chicken stock until tender, approximately 1.5 hours.
- When the turkey is done, remove it from the roasting pan and set aside to rest. Degrease the roasting pan, reserving 90 g (3 oz) of the fat to make a roux.
- Place the roasting pan on the stove top and brown the mirepoix
- Deglaze the pan with a small amount of chicken stock. Transfer the mirepoix and stock to a saucepot and add the remaining stock and the broth from the giblets. Bring to a simmer and degrease.
- Make a blond roux with the reserved fat and the flour. Add the roux to the liquid, whisking well to prevent lumps. Simmer 15 minutes. Strain the tgravy through a strainer lined with a cheesecloth if available.
- Remove the meat from the turkey neck. Trim the gizzard. Finely chop the neck meat, heart and gizzard and add to the gravy. Adjust the seasonings.
- Carve the turkey and serve with a portion of chestnut dressing and giblet gravy.
I’ve served this roast turkey for several years now and it is always a hit. Remember, simple is better. There is no need to do anything crazy with the recipe or to go out and find a secret recipe. Master the basics. Then you can begin changing and customizing. Just remember to customize with purpose and not just for the sake of doing so. Too many bad cooks try to be unique but fail to understand that creativity arises from necessity. Good luck and happy holidays from us here at The Culinary Cook!