How to Cook a Turkey So It Looks Like You've Done it Before

Lauren Powell

If, come Sunday, you’re faced with the daunting, but equally as rewarding task of cooking a hot Christmas feast for your loved ones, you’ve come to the right place—especially if roast turkey is on the menu. Because let’s be honest, mastering this meal is definitely no mean feat. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or culinary novice when it comes to roasting the iconic holiday dish, Lenard’s Culinary Coach, Elle Harrison, has shared her secrets which are guaranteed to make this year’s festive feast your most memorable one yet.

While you’re prepping for the big day, take note of these five time saving entertaining hacks and replicate one of the Christmas table styling trends of the season—warning: you’ll be nominated to host Christmas lunch every single year. Scroll on to find out how to perfect the Christmas turkey.

Preparation is key

The first important step is to buy a turkey that is fresh and not frozen—we’ve all heard stories of roasting a turkey all day, only for it to be raw in the centre because it hasn’t thawed out! Also check to see that you have a suitable size tray to hold the turkey in the oven.

Expert Tip: Many store-bought turkeys have already been trussed for you, which means the legs have been drawn together with string in a neat, tight shape ready for roasting. The main benefit of trussing is to keep the bird’s shape during cooking, which encourages an even roast and enables an easy carve at the dinner table.

Choose the right size

Roasting a turkey can be time consuming, so choose a size suited to your number of guests to avoid any unnecessary time spent in the kitchen. Specialty stores such as Lenard’s Chicken offer free range and barn-raised turkeys in simplified small, medium and large sizes that serve anywhere between 8 to 17 people.

Expert Tip: Depending on what size you choose, it is important to keep in mind that the larger the turkey, the easier the breast can dry out. This is also because turkey breast is low in fat. I find turkeys no more than 5.5kg are best as they take less time to cook and therefore retain more moisture.

Keep the moisture

Another tip to combat a dry roasted turkey, is to add some stock into the bottom of the roasting dish and begin cooking it breast-side down. This will add flavour and encourage the turkey’s natural juices to collect in the breast.

Expert Tip: After roasting for an hour, carefully turn the turkey right side up and complete the roasting process. Ensure flavour and moisture is continuously infusing your roast turkey by brushing all over with melted butter and basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes.

Set to rest

Should your turkey be browning too much in some areas such as the legs, cover these loosely with greased foil. This will slow down the browning process to ensure the skin is browned evenly all over.

Expert Tip: Once the juices of the turkey run clear, or you have achieved a core temperature of 74°C with the use of a kitchen thermometer, cover the entire turkey loosely with foil and set aside in a warm place to rest. It is so important that your turkey has rested before being carved and served as it allows the juices to redistribute and gives you valuable time to prepare a delicious gravy or cranberry sauce.

Carefully carve to ensure no waste

When carving a large bird such as a turkey, the same principles apply to carving a smaller bird like chicken. Always look for the sockets, so you can easily cut through them rather than cutting through bone. Remove and halve the leg portions first, followed by slicing off the breast. Then carve thin slices parallel to the centre bone and finish by removing the wing portions. This way, all your guests will get to experience your tantalising turkey feast and there will be no meat wasted.

Shop this Williams-Sonoma turkey seasoning paste and then follow Elle’s step-by-step roast turkey recipe.

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