Making a Christmas Turkey can give even a seasoned chef cold
feet. Here we present some useful facts and method to make
a perfect Turkey. But still some decisions have to be made
by the chef himself depending on the size of the bird and
the method used.
Before you do anything else to perfect your Christmas turkey,
do these: buy the best one you can afford. Christmas is a
time for overspending but a big bird is good value for money
– not only on the day but also for all those sandwiches
and leftovers that fill the following week. If buying from
a butcher, get your order in early. This ensures you’ll
get the variety and size you want. Fridge space is also a
consideration but you can collect your fresh turkey a day
or two before Christmas.
Always ask for the giblets (to use for stock and gravy) and
remove them from the cavity of the bird as soon as you get
it home. With a frozen turkey, always make sure it is fully
defrosted before cooking.
7.4 Liters apple cider [or] Vinegar
2½ cups salt
1½ cups sugar
½ cup of ginger
4 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
4 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely crushed
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
12 whole cloves
6 bay leaves
Bag of ice
To prepare the brine, combine in a stock pot 3.7 liters of
apple cider with the next seven ingredients (through bay leaves),
bring to a boil. Cook five minutes until the sugar and salt
dissolve. Let this cool.
If using a frozen turkey make sure it is completely thawed.
Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Rinse the turkey
and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a large
plastic cooler. Add the cider mixture, the remaining liters
of cider, and enough ice to raise the level of liquid so that
it covers the turkey. Close the cooler and let sit for 12-24
hours. Put cooler outside if cool and check a couple of times
to see if additional ice is needed. The cooler should remain
cold enough so that ice does not melt. If the outside temperature
is below freezing, move the cooler where it will not freeze.
After the brining, remove the turkey, discard the brine liquid,
and rinse the turkey in cold water, and pat it dry with paper
towels. After brining, the cooler should be cleaned with boiling
water and bleach. You would not want salmonella to grow and
spoil your next tailgate.
You are now ready to cook the turkey in anyway you want. Roasted
and smoked brined turkeys and both methods produced great
results. This would work equally as well on a deep-fried turkey
times for frozen turkeys
4–5kg: 20 hours at room temperature; 65 hours in fridge
5–6kg: 24 hours at room temperature; 70 hours in fridge
6–7kg: 30 hours at room temperature; 75 hours in the
8–9kg: 40 hours at room temperature; 80 hours in the
9–11kg: 48 hours at room temperature; 96 hours in the
Preparing to cook
If you’re cooking the turkey on Christmas Day, take
it out of the fridge on Christmas Eve (or leave it overnight).
It’s important to get it to a cool room temperature
before roasting, otherwise cooking times are affected.
Stuffing can be made a few days beforehand (in fact, some people
insist it improves if you do). Keep it in the fridge (you can
even freeze it). However, if your recipe includes raw egg, make
it on the day. Always ensure the stuffing is cold before filling
the neck cavity of the turkey. Officially, stuffing the main
cavity is not recommended (although many people do) due to the
risk of bacterial growth before the internal temperature reaches
safe levels. Use your own judgment and experience in this, but
always stuff loosely to allow for expansion while cooking. A
nice alternative to stuffing the cavity is to pop in a halved
onion, a halved lemon and a handful of fresh herbs. This infuses
the turkey with a subtle flavors that will enhance not only
the taste of the bird but the gravy as well.
plenty of time
You can always let the bird sit and wait for you once it is
done. Never, under any circumstances, serve underdone turkey.
Calculate the roasting time
It’s helpful to do this the night before and make a
note – it’s one less thing to do on a busy Christmas
morning. All ovens are different so find out if yours is fast
or slow (hot or not so hot.) Ask your butcher to give you
the oven-ready weight, or go by the weight on the packaging.
A handy tip is to weigh the stuffing separately and add it
to the weight of the bird. This will give you the total weight
to calculate the roasting time.
Prepare the bird
Place the turkey in the roasting tin, rub with butter or olive
oil, season with salt and pepper and cover loosely with a
tent of foil. This still allows it to go brown but helps prevent
the breast from drying out. Also, you don’t want the
foil wrapped too tight because you’ll need to baste
the breast regularly. Make sure your oven is at full temperature
when you first put the turkey in. For larger birds, it’s
best to start the roasting at a moderately high temperature,
then turn it down for the remainder of the time.
Let the turkey cook for just over half its roasting time,
then baste with the juices using a baster or large spoon.
Do this every 20 minutes or so, increasing the intervals to
10 minutes for the final half hour of cooking.
- Roast Turkey
6.3 kg turkey
6 tbsp vegetable oil
125 g butter
1 lemon, halved
1 pack fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 220oC/425F. Remove the giblets from the
turkey. Rub oil on the outside of the bird and season well.
2. Place the butter, lemon and whole herbs in the cavity.
Cook the bird breast-side down for 15 minutes, then turn the
oven down to 180oC/350F. Cook for 3½ hours, turning
bird the right side up after 2 hours.
3. Test the turkey with a skewer in the leg joint. If blood
comes out, give it another 20 minutes. If clear juices run
out, it's cooked. Remove from the pan, wrap in foil and rest
for 20 minutes while you make your gravy.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Roasting times for a turkey, stuffed or unstuffed,
and approximate times for serving
4-5 kg: 3 hours at 200oC/400F
5-6 kg: 3–4 hours at 200oC/400F
6-7 kg: 30 minutes at 200oC/400F, then 3½ – 4
hours at 180oC/350F
8-9 kg: 30 minutes at 200oC/400F, then 4½ – 5
hours at 180oC/350F
These times are approximate, depending on your oven and how
often you open the door to baste. Weight is the total weight,
including any stuffing you may have used.
How do you know when it’s done?
Insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. The juices
should run clear with no sign of pink. If you’re at
all unsure, return the turkey to the oven for another 30 minutes.
Once your turkey is cooked, it’s important to let it
rest for at least 30 minutes or longer. This gives you time
to finish roasting the vegetables in the oven and any other
last-minute jobs. Cover it loosely with foil and keep in a
warm place. Strain the juices and add to the gravy.
Whole fried turkey is the best illustration of just how delicious
and greaseless fried food can be. Once you've tried it fried,
you'll never go back to roast turkey. While the turkey is
resting, take advantage of the big pot of oil to fry something
else, like French fries. You can serve the turkey as the center
of a big meal, such as Thanksgiving dinner; it will only take
about an hour from setup to serving. Or you can have your
guests make turkey or club sandwiches, and serve them with
fries. You will need a 10-gallon pot (37 Ltrs), preferably
one with a basket insert (available in hardware stores and
stores where outdoor equipment is sold). The insert keeps
the bird off the bottom of the pot and facilitates removing
it from the oil. It is preferable to take the whole project
outside the kitchen as you are dealing with a large bird and
lots of oil.
4 to 5 gallons (14.8 to 18.5 ltrs) vegetable oil
1 whole turkey (12 to 15 pounds (4.8 to 6kgs)), at room temperature
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Begin heating the oil in a 10-gallon pot (37 ltrs) over a very
hot propane flame outdoors to 390 degrees F(199oC aprox). Don't
set the burner to its highest setting, as you may need to increase
the heat after you've added the turkey. It will take about 20
minutes for the oil to heat.
Meanwhile, rinse the turkey well, pat it dry inside and out,
and set it on end in a sink to drain. When the oil reaches 375
degrees F (191oC aprox)., pat the turkey dry again, and sprinkle
it with cayenne, if desired. If your cooker has a basket insert,
place the turkey in the basket and set it over a baking sheet;
if not, set an oven rack over a large baking sheet, place the
turkey on it, and take them outside to the cooker.
Check the temperature of the oil. When the oil reaches 390 degrees
F(199oC aprox)., carefully and slowly lower the basket with
the turkey into the oil; or lower it holding it by its legs
or by a long heavy tool such as a clean fireplace poker inserted
into its cavity. Be careful! Immediately check the oil temperature
and adjust the flame so that the temperature does not dip below
340 degrees F(171oC aprox). You want to maintain the temperature
at 365 degrees F(185oC). As it cooks, occasionally move the
bird around in the oil so that it does not scorch (the oil near
the heat source will be hotter). Whole turkeys take only 3 to
4 minutes per 400 grms to fry to perfection: small ones, around
12 pounds(4.8kgs), will take about 35 minutes; large ones, around
15 pounds(6kgs), will take about 1 hour. When it is done, the
turkey will float to the surface with a perfectly crispy, brown
skin. If you are unsure, you can test the meat for doneness
at the hip joint or insert a meat thermometer into the breast;
it should register 180 degrees F(83oC aprox ). Using the basket
insert if there is one, or by again inserting a long heavy tool
such as a clean fireplace poker into its cavity, carefully remove
the turkey from the oil and hold it over the pot for a moment
to allow any excess oil to Allow it to rest for 20 minutes before