How to defrost, brine, cook and carve the big bird and crowd-pleasing ways to serve it
The safest defrosting method is in the fridge. However, this is no last-minute option. You need to allow about two-three days for an average sized turkey, longer if you are feeding a crowd and buying a big 7.5kg bird. Keep the turkey in its wrapper and put it in a container at the bottom of the fridge where dripping juices won’t contaminate other foods. A turkey defrosted in the fridge will keep refrigerated for 1-2 days before cooking.
If you are short on time, you could use the cold water defrosting method (never use hot water which will encourage bacterial growth). Submerge the turkey in cold water, keeping it in its sealed wrapper so it won’t absorb extra water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about one hour per kg. The defrosted turkey needs to be cooked straight away.
Brining is a great way to ensure your turkey is moist. However, you do need to check the turkey you buy. Some manufacturers sell already brined and basted birds so this step may not be needed.
Brining should really be done in the fridge for food safety. Peter Gordon discusses brining here and the recipes below all give instructions for brining and roasting.
- Roast brined turkey with gravy and cranberry relish
- Barbecued butterflied turkey with nut stuffing
- Date and macadamia nut roast turkey
It's best to stuff the turkey at the last minute before cooking, however 1-2 hours beforehand should be fine as long as the turkey is refrigerated. Never stuff the day before. The stuffing may not cool down enough even in the fridge and harmful bacteria could easily multiply. That's not a problem, of course, if you decide to cook your stuffing alongside, rather than inside, the turkey.
See what Peter Gordon has to say about the merits of cooking stuffing separately. The recipes below all feature a variety of stuffings.
- The Christmas turkey stuffing
- Roast turkey with cranberry and pecan stuffing
- Roast turkey with sausage stuffing and cranberry sauce
- Oyster and giblet stuffing
- Apple, pecan and cranberry stuffing
- Stuffing rolls
- Boned turkey with cranberry, apple and nut stuffing
It's not as scary as it seems... here are our step-by-step instructions on how to go about carving your glorious roast turkey.
Can’t face cooking that big monster? A turkey breast is a much more manageable (and quicker option) if you don’t have a crowd to feed. Peter Gordon discusses the merits here. And a few recipes to follow ...
- Turkey, pancetta and sour cherries
- Turkey breast stuffed with cherries, feta and pine nuts with glazed carrots
- Turkey saltimbocca with marsala sauce
- Turkey and ham parcels
A drum roll, please
If you’re tired of those fights for the drumsticks, forget the whole bird and serve the tasty drums instead. Here are a couple of smart ways to use them.
When you want to include a little turkey in a menu over the festive season, but don't plan on a whole roast, try these ...
- Christmas breakfast sausages
- Turkey burgers
- Turkey wings adobo
- Parmesan-crusted turkey escalopes
- Turkey rillettes
- Roast turkey, asparagus and pomegranate salad with macadamia dressing
Hopefully there will be some! There’s a lot you can do with leftover turkey but first, on Christmas Day after your meal, you need to get the meat, covered, into the fridge within two hours of removing it from the oven. Sure, you may be looking forward to turkey sandwiches but for a zingy, palate awakening change try …
- Day-after-a-roast salad
- Turkey larb
- Quesadillas after a roast
- Turkey breast with mole sauce
- Chicken (or turkey) and ham pie
Don't forget the sides
The turkey's not the only dish deserving of a starring role. Here's some side dishes for a buffet inspiration from Peter Gordon and lots of ideas in our Christmas sides and salads collection. Don't forget the cranberry sauce to serve with the turkey for traditionalists (ours also includes redcurrants), the mustard sauce for Boxing Day turkey sarnies and never forget the joy of crispy roast potatoes.
Your own serving suggestions
Recently, in a reader recipe competition, we asked you: What's your best way to serve turkey? The winner was Sarah Harman with her bacon-wrapped turkey legs. Turkey legs are wrapped in streaky bacon before roasting, and served with a turkey breast salad with little “gems’” of orange and cranberry for a Christmassy flavour. Here are some of your ideas.