In my house, if there’s something that can’t be missing on our Christmas dinner is turkey. If someone even dares to say maybe we could have chicken, pork, beef, duck, or tofu, he or she is going to endure the worse hatred looks on planet Earth. With time, my mom perfected her turkey method, and if I’m honest I do love her turkey. A closer version to hers in last year’s turkey recipe. The recipe I bring you today mixes my mom’s best practices mixed with flavours that I like (mainly herbs). The skin is golden and the meat extremely moist. I bring you allll the tips and tricks you need to know down in this post, so I recommend you give it a good read before starting.
Portions: 5.5kg turkey (approximately for 8 people)
Special kitchen tools you’ll need:
– Deep oven tray that can fit your turkey
– Meat thermometer (A MUST TO GET A MOIST TURKEY)
– Meat syringe or a pharmacy syringe + needle
– String to tie the turkey (optional)
– 5.5kg turkey
– 250g unsalted butter at room temperature
– 10 sage leaves
– 5 rosemary sprigs
– 6 thyme sprigs
– 7 bayleaves
For the stock (it’s enough for the turkey, sauce and filling. The filling is on another post):
– Neck and tail from the turkey
– 1kg chicken wings
– 400g carrot
– 300g celery
– 200g green onion
– 3 bayleaves
– Pinch salt
– 3 liters of water
To inject the turkey:
– 300ml stock from this recipe
– 150ml gin (it evaporates during cooking and leaves behind its aroma). You can also use Pisco (Quebranta or Italia varieties) or Vodka. But to be honest, I prefer a lot more the gin.
– Salt to taste
To put inside the turkey while it’s in the oven:
– 1 green apple
– 1/2 green onion (around 100g)
– 2 oranges
– 3 thyme sprigs
– 3 rosemary sprigs
– 3 sage leaves
– 3 bayleaves
– 1 garlic head
For the gravy:
– Juices from the cooking of the turkey
– 220ml stock from this recipe
– salt to taste
– 2 tbsp cornflour
– 2 tbsp water
1. One of the most important steps in cooking a turkey, if it’s frozen, is the way you thaw it. So if your turkey is not frozen, go to step 2. We have different options for thawing and I’ll put them in the order that I like them, starting with the one I like the most. The only thing you most definitely cannot do is to leave it in room temperature to unfreeze, because that’s when bacterias on the outside of the turkey start to reproduce and then you’ll all be tummy-sick. Remember that turkey, just like chicken and pork, tend to attract more bacteria than other meats.
- Thaw in the fridge: this is the one that takes the longest (by far) but it’s also the most hygiene-conscious. What you do is store it in the fridge (not freezer) on a tray without taking it out of its sealed package. If it’s just turkey breast / crown, then it will only need a day and a half. If it’ a whole turkey and it weighs between 4 and 5kg it will need 2 1/2 days, if it weighs between 6 and 7kg it will need 4 days, if it’s between 8 and 9kg it will need 5 days and if it weighs between 10 and 11kg it will need 6 days. If it’s bigger than 11kg, ask if it’s a turkey or a Pterodactyl ;). The advantage of this method is that it can remain up to 2 days after thawing in the fridge without any risk of bacteria reproducing.
- Thawing in cold water: this is also done with the turkey inside the sealed package it comes in to prevent the water from carrying bacterias into the turkey. The disadvantage with this one is that you have to change the water every 30min to ensure that it’s cold enough and that bacteria will not start to reproduce on the outside of the turkey. You put the turkey inside a large enough container to submerge the turkey with cold tap water. It takes 30min for every 500g of turkey, so if you have a 10kg Pterodactyl you’ll have to change the water 20 times. The other complicated thing is that because the turkey will be at room temperature at the end, you must begin the marinade straight away.
- Microwave: this is only good if you’re doing turkey breasts or crown or a small turkey that can actually fit in there. Use unfreeze mode and start with the marinade straight away like on the option before.
2. Now let’s start with the fun part. First remove the bag that’s usually stored inside the turkey along with the neck (I don’t use the organs, but the neck goes into the stock). In terms of butchery, I cut right above the ball of the leg bones so that it’s straight at the end and tossed this into the stock as well. This is completely optional. I did the same with the wings, cutting off right after the point where the tip meets the next section and also put that in the stock. What you do have to do is cut the tail or “Parson’s nose”, it’s a triangular shape that extends form the… butt. Sorry! There’s no fancy way of putting it. This goes into the stock as well. Now, to marinade, mix the herbs with the room temperature butter to have a herby paste. Fat is the best way to transmit smells and flavours, so in this way we’re impregnating our turkey with these aromas. Pat-dry the turkey with kitchen paper and this is when you can tie it up using string. What you do is, holding both ends of string, go under the breasts, then over the wings and cross under the point of the breasts and tie up here the legs. Once this is done, massage the butter on every inch of the turkey (not the inside, though). Turn it around and do it on the other side, too. It remains like this in the fridge for 8 hours. 3. While the turkey is taking a nap in the fridge, we start the stock. Cut the wings in 3 as well as the turkey’s neck, tail and anything else you removed from it (not skin, though!). The vegetables go in cut in medium sizes and it boils in the water slowly for 2 hours. Make sure it’s boiling very slowly or you will have no stock left at the end. As it’s boiling, remove carefully with a spoon all the impurities and fat that start to float so that your stock is nice and clean. Then pass the stock through a sieve and keep the liquid.
4. After 8 hours in the fridge, it’s time to fill the turkey with all the stuff that’s ging to help bring the meat to life with aromas. Cut the apple and oranges in 4 and the garlic in half across the centre. These ingredients along with the herbs I split in half and one went into the neck cavity and the rest in the other. In the oven they will release aroma and juices that we will then use for our gravy as well.
5. If you have a meat syringe, than all the better for you and just mix the gin and stock amount and inject the turkey in different places so that it’s nice and juicy. If you have a pharmacy syringe and needle, then take a sieve and put 4 layers of kitchen towel on it and pass the stock through there so that it’s really in its purest form. Otherwise, the needle will jam.
6. The turkey goes in the oven first at 200C for 1 hour (no matter the weight it will not take less than this), and then lower it to 180C and start taking the temperature of your turkey with a meat thermometer. Once it reaches 63C, then we know that the meat is completely cooked and bacterias killed. With my 5.5kg turkey it took me 1h25min in total; with 7kg it should be around 2 hours, 9kg 3 hours and so on. But the most important thing is that you take the temperature in different areas everytime so that you make sure they’re all at 63C at least. Usually meat with bone around take longer (i.e. legs and thighs).7. Now, don’t you even think about carving it as soon as it comes out of the oven. It needs to rest at least 30min before you cna cut it. This is because in this time the meat reabsorbs all the juices that are now floating freely between the membranes. If you cut it before allowing it to rest, we risk releasing those juices and losing them. What you do need to do, though, is transfer the turkey to another container or plate, as we need what’s left on the tray. Discard what we put inside the turkey, it’s done its job now.
8. The juices from the trade go into a pot where we’re going to do our gravy. If there are parts that went dry on the tray and now are golden (you can’t imagine all the flavour that’s in there!) scrape them and add them to the pot as well. Let this simmer very slowly for 20min, and in the meantime, carefully remove the fat that’s floating in there (mainly the butter from the marinade).
9. Pass this through a sieve and it goes back in the pot. It’s now time to thicken the gravy so that when we put it on our turkey it will stay there hugging it rather than hiding under the salad on the other side of the plate. Mix separately the cornflour and cold water until dissolved. Then add to the sauce and quickly whisk. Let it come to a boil, which is when the gravy has reached its maximum thickness. If you’re not going to use it straight away, put cling film on top touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming. The same goes if you’re going to store it in a container.
The turkey is ready!!! Read the instructions carefully so you don’t get lost and I GUARANTEE a spectacular, juicy and tasty turkey. Merry Christmas!