The Perfect Christmas Turkey
Turkey is the centrepiece of the holiday dinner table, and one of the most anticipated flavours of the season. But cooking a turkey with all the fixings can be a daunting task. We've taken the guesswork out of your celebration this year with our complete guide to a turkey feast. From preparing, roasting and carving the bird, to stirring up tasty stuffing and making rich gravy, we've got each step covered.
1 (12-pound) turkey
Approximately 8 cups warm turkey stock
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional, melted, if needed for gravy
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, generous sprinkle of the Perfect Spice!
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Special equipment: small metal skewer; kitchen string; aluminum foil; large flameproof roasting pan with flat or V-shaped rack; bulb baster (optional); instant-read thermometer; 2-quart glass measuring cup; gravy separator (optional)
Buy one pound per person. You may want to buy a fresh turkey, as opposed to frozen, to avoid days of thawing.
Thaw turkey in unopened wrapper, breast-side up, on a tray in the refrigerator. For every four pounds of turkey, allow one day of thawing.
1) Remove neck and excess fat and giblets from chest cavity. Rinse cavities and outside of turkey with cold water. Blot with paper towels. Besides a rack, roasting pan and thermometer, keep loads of paper towels, a turkey baster, foil tent and some trusty trussing twine on hand.
2) Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 8-inch square baking dish or 2-quart casserole. Lightly brush roasting rack with vegetable oil and place in roasting pan.
3) Remove plastic or paper packet of giblets from turkey (usually in small cavity). Remove from packaging and rinse; reserve gizzard and heart; discard floppy, dark purple liver. Remove neck from large cavity. Remove from packaging, rinse, and reserve. Pull off and reserve any visible pale yellow knobs of fat from either side of tail (not found on all birds).
4) Having rinsed the turkey inside and out with cold water and patted dry, loosely fill small (neck) cavity with stuffing. Fold neck skin under body and fasten with metal skewer.
3) After trying every turkey-roasting method under the sun, I've finally settled on this as absolutely the best. The secret? Slow down the cooking of the breast area, which tends to get overcooked and dried out before the dark meat is done, with a cover of aluminum foil.
4) These instructions are for a 12-pound turkey, which serves eight people. But you can easily scale it up for a bigger bird. Estimate about one pound of meat per person (one and a half pounds if you want lots of leftovers) and refer to the chart below, for the scaled-up cooking times.
5) Roast turkey 45 minutes. Baste with pan juices (lift up foil to reach breast area) and continue roasting, basting every 45 minutes, 1 1/2 hours more (2 1/4 hours total). Baste again and, if pan juices have evaporated into glaze, add 1 cup stock to pan. Roast another 45 minutes (3 hours total). Remove foil from breast area, baste, and add stock if necessary, until instant-read thermometer inserted into fleshy part of thigh (close to but not touching bone) registers 180°F, about 1 hour more (4 hours total).
6) Insert instant-read thermometer into center of stuffing in body cavity. If thermometer does not read 165°F, transfer stuffing to microwave-safe baking dish and microwave on high until 165°F, about 3 minutes for 10 degrees. Cover and keep warm. Using turkey holders (or by inserting large metal serving spoon into body cavity), transfer turkey to large serving platter. Let stand 30 minutes before carving.
7) Meanwhile, bake extra stuffing and make gravy: Raise oven temperature to 350°F. Remove giblets and neck from roasting pan and discard. Pour pan juices into measuring cup or gravy separator. Let stand until fat rises to top, 1 to 2 minutes, then skim off and reserve fat or, if using separator, carefully pour juices into measuring cup, reserving fat left in separator.
8) Transfer foil-covered dish of extra stuffing to oven and bake 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add enough remaining stock to pan juices to total 4 cups. Measure turkey fat, adding melted butter if necessary to total 6 tablespoons. Straddle roasting pan across 2 burners on moderate heat and add fat. Whisk in flour, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan, then cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in pan juice–stock mixture and bring to a boil, whisking often. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until gravy thickens, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and keep warm. (Gravy can be kept warm over very low heat, covered, up to 20 minutes. If it thickens, thin with additional stock before serving. If skin forms on top, whisk well to dissolve.)
9) When extra stuffing has baked 10 minutes, remove foil and bake, uncovered, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Pour gravy through fine-mesh sieve into large bowl, then transfer to gravy boat. Carve turkey and serve gravy and stuffing alongside
10) Check bird after indicated cooking time. The internal temperature should register at least 170°F on a meat thermometer. Thigh juices should run clear, not pink, when pierced with a fork, and leg joint should move freely when cooked.
Remove turkey from oven. Place on cutting board resting in a large cafeteria-style tray with a lip or on a flat aluminum foil tray. Tent the cooked turkey with foil. Let stand for 30-45 minutes. This resting time allows the juices to saturate the meat evenly for the most tender turkey.
Carve turkey in the kitchen, not at the dinner table. A cutting board and tray will allow you to carve without juices leaking all over.
1. Start by removing the wings.
2. To remove legs, pull back leg to expose the joint while you cut. Then cut through the joint.
3. Cut each breast off the turkey in a whole piece. Make an incision on either side of breast bone and cut along ribs until the breast is free.
4. Remove any other large portions of meat still attached to the bones.
5. The remaining carcass can be picked apart the next day for use in sandwiches or soups. Simply wrap up in aluminum foil and refrigerate.
Choosing the right-sized turkey and knowing exactly how much time you'll need can be challenging. See our turkey guide below to help you make the wisest choice.