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Is there a secret to the perfect turkey?

18th November 2020
Is there a secret to the perfect turkey?
Tags: How To's
Choosing Your Turkey

With the uncertainty of not knowing how many of our nearest and dearest we will be celebrating with this Christmas, our small team of butchers have done their upmost to ensure we have a variety of options from our Organic Bronze Turkeys - everything from smaller Turkey Legs, Breasts and Crowns to the crowd-pleasing Whole Bird. 

  •  Organic Whole Bird - There's nothing more dramatic and impressive than a traditional whole turkey as the Christmas centerpiece. We have birds suitable to feed from 8 to 12+ but don't be put off by having too much leftover turkey, we will be bringing you tips over the next few weeks and you can always freeze it for a later gathering if needed. We currently have turkeys which have been carefully blast-frozen, ready to keep safely in your freezer until you need it, or fresh Organic Turkey available for delivery slots just before Christmas.
  • Organic Turkey Crown - An easy-to-cook centrepiece, our skilled butchers have removed the legs from the bird, leaving the breast attached to the bone with plenty of white meat and the skin on. The wings are left on to make sure your crown sits proudly on the table. Our Organic Turkey Crowns feed from 10 -16 depending on the size you choose and are available fresh for delivery just before Christmas. 
  • Organic Turkey Breast - Perfect if you're catering for lovers of white meat - our butchers have carefully removed the breast from the turkey carcass leaving no bones behind. That makes cooking straightforward and carving a doddle. We've left the skin on to keep the joint moist as it cooks and give you the lovely contrasting texture of crispy skin and tender, juicy meat. Our Organic Turkey Breasts are a simple way to feed a crowd (8 - 16 depending on the size you opt for) and are perfect for slicing for turkey sandwiches the next day! They are only available fresh for delivery just before Christmas.
  • Organic Turkey Leg - Organic turkey legs deliver the hearty, traditional flavour of brown poultry meat – and plenty of it.The thigh and drumstick contain complex layers of muscle that are well defined and really flavoursome. If you don't want to cook a whole bird, a turkey leg is the perfect mini roast, yielding enough meat to generously serve two people. Our Organic Turkey Legs are only available to buy carefully blast-frozen so you can have them delivered as early as you need.

We will be working hard to deliver fresh birds from 20th December. It is always good to have everything in as early as possible to avoid any last-minute panics, leaving you more time to enjoy a few mulled wines. 

Cooking your Turkey

Every year as the 25th of December rolls around, so does the annual how-long-will-this-bird-take-to-cook panic. While we have a collective cultural anxiety about not cooking the turkey for long enough, really we should be worried about cooking it for too long.

There’s absolutely no need for festive dryness (something turkey is endlessly accused of) if you stick to a roast of 30 minutes per kilo, without being tempted to leave it in any longer ‘just for luck’. If you can cook a chicken without coming over all funny, you can certainly cook a turkey. It’s the same thing really, just on a grander scale.

Another worry about turkey is uneven cooking, with the legs taking less time than the breast. You might have seen suggestions that it’s a good idea to either make little protective foil jackets for the legs or cut them off and roast them separately. Frankly, they both sound like the sort of performance we haven’t got time for on Christmas day.

The easiest way to ensure your bird cooks evenly is to buy one with meat that’s equally distributed over the carcass. Many intensively farmed turkeys have been selectively bred to lay down disproportionately huge amounts of weight on the breast (because that’s seen as providing the best meat) and less on the leg (which we think is the real source of the richest pickings). With the best will in the world, you’ll struggle to cook that evenly. Heritage breed birds like our organic Kelly Bronzes are more balanced, with the breast and leg yielding more comparable amounts of meat. So you still get a lovely mix of tasty white and brown meat, but cooking the bird to succulent perfection is much easier.

So maybe there are two secrets to the perfect turkey: working out your timing and sticking to it, and choosing an old-fashioned, traditional bird. But while we’re at it, here are a few more of our top tips…

Warming: Remove your turkey from the fridge at least an hour before you plan to cook it. This lets it warm up to room temperature and means it’ll cook more quickly and evenly.

Stuffing: Cramming the cavity full of stuffing creates a joint with the density of a cannonball that will cook very, very slowly indeed. Just pop a lemon and some aromatic herbs in there and cook the stuffing separately, either in a tray or rolled into balls.

Timing: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put your turkey in a roasting tray and cover it with a tent of foil. Make sure the foil is well sealed around the edges so the turkey cooks in its own steam. Roast for 30 minutes per kilo, removing the foil 20 minutes before the cooking time is up to let the skin crisp.

Basting: If you have your turkey carefully wrapped in a foil tent, basting is quite irksome. It’s easier to let it baste itself by carefully separating the skin from the meat at the neck end and pushing some softened and seasoned butter under the skin from top to tail. As it melts, the butter keeps the meat moist and creates some stonking juices for gravy, too. Oh, and the crispy skin? Don’t get us started on that…

Testing: When fully cooked your bird should register a temperature of 74°C at the thickest part. Bear in mind it will continue to cook as it rests (see below) so you should take it out of the oven at about 65°C. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can test for doneness by checking that the juices from the breast run clear or by twisting the knee joint. If the leg ‘gives’ easily, the bird is done.

Resting: Giving your turkey a long rest after cooking is a not-to-be-missed stage that ensures succulence. Remove the bird from the roasting tray and wrap it thoroughly in lots of foil and a few tea towels for good measure. Leave it for at least half an hour, but up to an hour is OK as long as it’s well insulated. You may worry it’ll get cold, but residual heat means the temperature continues to rise and the meat keeps cooking. During the resting period, the meat relaxes and the juices that have been driven to the core of the bird during cooking redistribute, so it’s moist through and through.

Eating: Oh, you don’t need any help from us on that one. Just tuck in. And don’t scrimp on the bread sauce.

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