A golden roast turkey is such an impressive dish to bring to the table for a special-occasion feast – but a lot of people are put off cooking turkey by the dry, stringy turkey they've been served in the past.
Turkey is actually really easy to cook – just like a giant roast chicken – but because of their size there's always the risk that the extremities, such as the drumsticks and wings, will dry out before the inside is fully cooked through.
I used to think I was destined for a life of tough turkey – until I discovered the secret powers of brining. Now I brine turkey overnight before cooking it I've discovered what a juicy flavoursome treat it can be.
The only tricky bit about brining a turkey is finding a container big enough to do it in. Then I came up with the notion of pouring the brine into a large, clean plastic bag (I used a clean rubbish bag), adding the turkey, sealing the bag and then storing it overnight in a large chilly bin full of ice. It also helps solve the dilemma of how to fit the turkey into a fridge that's already packed to the gunwales with vital ingredients for the next day's feast!
You'll find several recipes for roast turkey on my website:
- Roast Turkey with Rosemary Brine – for the rest of the menu see my new Celebrate Summer annual
- Roast Turkey with Lemon Gravy
- Roast Turkey with Cider Gravy
- and even a Barbecue Turkey, for those of us who celebrate Christmas in the summertime!
- or, if you're not cooking for a crowd but still feel like a treat, try my Spice-Brined Duck with Pinot Glaze and Roasted Grapes
Mix and match with the following stuffings:
- Bacon, Herb and Hazelnut Stuffing
- Apricot and Pine Nut Stuffing
- Quinoa Stuffing – for the rest of the menu see my new Celebrate Summer annual
And when you're facing a fridge full of leftovers the next day, you'll be needing my:
- Vietnamese Turkey Salad
- Turkey and Mango Salad
- Coronation Turkey Salad
- Turkey and Brie Boxing Day Sandwiches
- Pawpaw Spinach Salad
Up to a week ahead of time:
Remove turkey from freezer and allow to defrost slowly in the fridge or in a chilly bin with some ice. It could take up to three days, depending on the size of your turkey (allow 24 hours for every 2.5 kg / 5 lbs). Make sure it is in a big plastic bag or on a large platter so it doesn't leak through the fridge. If you've forgotten to get it out of the freezer in time, fill a sink with cold water and submerge the turkey breast-side down, still in its plastic wrap, replacing the water with fresh cold water every half an hour (allow about an hour for every 1kg / 2 lb in weight). For more tips on safe thawing of turkey click here.
Up to 24 hours ahead of time:
Mix up a big pot of brine and place your turkey in it. Allow to soak for 12-24 hours.
The day before:
Make the stuffing and chill, covered, in the fridge until needed.
On the morning of your feast:
Preheat the oven, allowing about 4 hours for the turkey to cook (it will depend on the size and whether or not the turkey is stuffed), plus up to 30 minutes for resting. Stuff stuffing into turkey and place in the oven to roast while you prepare the rest of your meal. If your turkey came with jiblets, use them to make stock for the gravy (if you have brined the turkey you won't need to add salt). Keep an eye on the turkey and when it reaches the desired colour cover loosely with tin foil to prevent further browning while it continues to cook through. If you have a cooking thermometer aim for an internal temperature of 165˚C / 330˚F. If you don't the turkey is done when the juices run clear when it is pierced at the thickest part of the thigh.
Half an hour before eating:
Remove turkey from oven and transfer it to a platter, breast-side down (this allows the juices to run down into the breast meat), to rest. Use the roasting juices to make the gravy.