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Eating & drinking   |   Recipes

How to cook the best Christmas turkey

A whole golden, succulent roast turkey: the classic Christmas centrepiece. Here are some simple tips for the perfect roast and sumptuous organic gravy, tried and tested by expert Riverford cooks.

Prep 15 mins, cook 45 mins per kg, 30 mins resting time

In addition to the turkey you will also need:

400g stuffing

1 lemon, quartered

1 large onion, peeled & quartered

A generous sprig of herbs (bay, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.)

50g melted butter


1. Take the bird out of the fridge 30 mins before cooking and untruss before roasting (if the turkey has been frozen, defrost thoroughly in the fridge or a cold place first). Each bird will already have its total weight on the label, so remove the giblets, weigh them separately and deduct their weight from the total. Add the weight of your stuffing (if using) to get the right cooking time. You’ll need to cook your turkey for 45 mins per kg

2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Lift the flap of skin at the neck end and pack in your stuffing, then pull the skin back over and secure under the bird, using wooden cocktail sticks if necessary. Season the main cavity, then push in the lemon, onion and herbs. Transfer to a large roasting tin breast-side up. Brush the breast and legs with melted butter before seasoning. Cover the whole bird loosely with foil to prevent over-browning, and transfer to the oven

3. Cook for the calculated time, basting with the juices every hour. 30 mins before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil to allow the skin to brown up. At the end of the cooking time, check the meat is thoroughly cooked by inserting a carving fork into the thickest area of both breast and thighs. If the juices run pink, return to the oven for a further 15 mins and test again. Repeat until the juices run clear.

4. Once cooked, remove from the roasting tray (you will need this tray for making your gravy in so don’t wash it!) Put the turkey on another tray or plate, cover with foil again and leave to rest for 30 mins to make it more succulent and easier to carve –  don’t worry, your turkey will stay hot for an hour after leaving the oven.

5. Next, make organic turkey gravy – try this basic recipe and use it as a base to create gravy just the way you like it. Add a little mustard, or a dash of red wine vinegar to add more piquancy. A little soy, Worcestershire sauce or even miso paste can add more depth if you feel it is lacking. Some like to sweeten a Christmas gravy with a dab of redcurrant jelly or a tangle of slow-cooked onions. When it tastes just right, enjoy it with your festive feast.

6. To enjoy as much of the bird as possible and reduce food waste, remove cooked leftovers from the carcass and put them in the fridge as soon as possible. Eat within two days and if you cook with leftover turkey, make sure it is piping hot.


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