Turkey is the king at your Christmas table. And how can it not be if it’s super tasty and is joined by a delicious sauce. For me a Christmas table can have different side dishes every year but if there’s something I’m not over yet is turkey. So here I try to give you all the tips and tricks so that you can get a perfect, tasty, juicy oven roasted turkey to share with your loved ones.
I first want to talk about thawing (assuming your turkey was frozen). Turkey, just like chicken, is a bacteria-prone protein and it’s also more prone to host salmonella (reason why we don’t eat chicken medium-rare). Thus, we need to be really careful when we unfreeze the turkey and also when cooking. There are 3 health-safe thawing methods you can use. I highly recommend the first one.
- 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.
The problem is that because people know that it’s dangerous to eat turkey or chicken that isn’t properly cooked through, they tend to overcook them to “kill everything”. However, what we need to do is cook it until every section of the turkey has reached at least 73°C; temperature at which we have already killed all bacteria. The other important point is that at this temperature the turkey is still really tender and juicy.
I love the colour that the turkey acquires with this recipe with the honey. Usually I don’t use honey and it takes more of a deep yellow colour but this is just stunning.
And don’t get me started on the sauce! It’s truly delicious because it’s made from the juices that the turkey releases in the cooking process and so it packs it with flavour.
For the marinade
- 7 kg whole turkey
- 200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 4 tbsp honey
- zest from 2 oranges
- zest from 3 limes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground garlic
For the turkey and chicken stock
- 3 chicken wings
- turkey neck
- 100 g white onion, chopped to a medium size
- 100 g celery, chopped to a medium size
- 100 g carrot, chopped to a medium size
- 1 bayleaf
- 3 l water at room temperature
To inject into the turkey
- 350 ml stock from above
- 150 ml gin
To fill the turkey cavity
- 1 garlic head, cut in half
- 1 orange cut in 8 (it can be the one from the zest)
- 2 limes cut in 4 (it can be the one from the zest)
- 1 green apple
- 2 bayleaves
- 6 rosemary sprigs
- 4 thyme sprigs
To thicken the sauce
- 2-6 tbsp cornflour, dissolved in cold water
- First remove the turkey tail. Also remove the wishbone which is in an inverted "V" shape at the front of the breasts. To get to it you might need to open the skin a bit. For further reference you can watch the video above. Both can be used in the stock, you only need to remove the excess fat from the tail.
- Remove the bag of giblets that's inside the turkey's cavity. The organs can be used for a side dish and the neck goes into the stock.
- Remove what's left of the neck (if any) and also use for the stock. Remove also any excess skin around the neck but leave 5cm extra because it shrinks in the oven.
- Use your hands to separate the skin from the breasts and as much of the leds as you can.
- Mix all the marinade ingredients and rub on the skin and also under the skin.
- Cover the turkey in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least one day and a maximum of three so that the meat takes in all the flavour we put in the marinade.
For the stock
- Put everything in a pot on low-medium heat. Once it starts to bubble time 2 hours.
- Pass through a sieve and measure the amount of stock we need to inject into the turkey. The rest can be used to increase the volume of the sauce if necessary.
For the cooking of the turkey
- Fill the turkey cavity with all the ingredients.
- Tie the turkey using string if you're going to serve it whole at the table. You can see the method on the video above.
- Mix the stock at room temperature with the gin and inject on different spots on the turkey meat.
- Take to a preheated oven at 200C for one hour on an oven tray.
- Lower the temperature 180C and control the temperature in the turkey every 20min at first until it's close to 73C, then check every 10min.
- To make sure that all bacteria have been killed, you need to take the temperature of the turkey at different spots of the turkey (legs, breasts) to make sure that they have all reached at least 73C.
- Let the turkey rest outside the oven tray for 20min before carving.
For the sauce
- Pass the juices from the tray through a sieve and place in a pot. Take out the excess of butter that is floating on top of the juices using a spoon.
- Once it's difficult to remove more butter without taking some of the juices below, you can stop.
- Add 2 tbsp of cornflour dissolved in cold water (to prevent lumps) and wait for it to boil so you can see the maximum thickness it can reach.
- If you want it thicker, at 2 tbsp at a time, also dissolved in cold water, until you like the consistency. I added 4 tbsp in total.
To carve the turkey
- Separate the legs from the body and dislocate the bone. Carve with a sharp knife following the shape of the body.
- Repeat the process with the wings.
- Cut along the bone that separates the breasts and then start going down one side, carving really cose to the bone so as not to leave any meat behind and then following the shape of the ribs.
- Cut each piece as you wish to serve and that's it! In general turkey is served at room temperatura (if you reheat it you could dry it out) but the sauce is served hot.