The Ultimate Turkey Cooking Guide By Kay Plunkett-Hogge, Food Writer & Broadcaster

Kay-Plunkett-Hogge Food WriterKay Plunkett-Hogge, a cookery writer and broadcaster, based in London who was so impressed with her Turkey from Morton’s Traditional Taste she offered to note down her top turkey cooking tips for our blog!

Kay’s latest book, Make Mine A Martini, published by Mitchell Beazley, is out now

It’s That Turkey Time Of Year Again…

… which means that a number of food writers (you know who you are) will be putting out columns packed with what I can only call Anti-Turkey Propaganda. You know the story before it’s even gone to press: turkey is bland; turkey has no taste; why not serve roast beef, pork, goose, fish… delete as applicable.

All I can say is that, if your turkey is bland or tasteless, you’re not doing it right.

Or, worse, you’re not doing it with the right bird.

I love a roast turkey so much that I cook one at Thanksgiving too. (We’ve literally just polished off the leftovers.) But even with twice as much turkey in my year as the average Brit, I understand the roasting trepidation. It’s an expensive beast, which rather prohibits experimentation. And the whole family expects so much from it that you want it to be “just so”.

Kay’s turkey tips to ease your pain

1.  Get a good turkey.

This year, mine’s coming from Rob Morton at Hall Farm in Norfolk.

Rob’s exactly the kind of farmer I try to champion. His is a family business raising free range poultry, including Bronze turkeys and Norfolk Blacks, in proper barns and paddocks where they can get the shelter and the space that they need.

You can buy from him directly through his website.

2.  Don’t stress.

Roasting a turkey and its trimmings is really just like cooking a big Sunday lunch, so let’s not flip out about it.

Things start becoming a lot easier when you realise that a 5-6 kg bird really benefits from resting for a good 45 minutes to an hour before carving. Which is pretty much perfect for cooking your stuffings, vegetables, gravy etc.

Work out how long your turkey’s going to take to cook on Christmas Eve, using the chart below, and plan backwards. (These timings are for unstuffed turkeys — I always cook the stuffings in separate pans.)

Oven Ready Roasting Weight Time (without stuffing)
4Kg 2 hours
5Kg 2 ¼ hours
6Kg 2 ½ hours
7Kg 2 ¾ hours
8Kg 3 hours
9Kg 3 ¼ hours
10Kg 3 ½ hours
11Kg 3 ¾ hours

3. Don’t overcook your bird

This is always the biggest source of dryness. The other is the lack of fat around the breast meat.

Most of the turkey’s fat lurks around the thighs and back, so I always:

  • a) make a lovely flavoured butter to push carefully up under the turkey’s skin (perversely, I rather enjoy this…), and
  • b) roast it upside down for the majority of the cooking, turning it over onto its back to brown (with extra basting) for the last 30 minutes.

If you need it, you can find my favourite turkey recipe in Leon: Family and Friends.

4. It’s a family feast, so get family to help.

It’s the best way for kids to learn and become comfortable with cooking.

5. You’re going to have leftovers.

Which doesn’t mean you have to have turkey sandwiches for days. You can’t go wrong with a pot pie or a savoyade.

If you have the Leon, you could make Deb’s Enchiladas, which are fantastic with turkey. (Actually, I might have to post a screen grab of that one.)

And one of my favourites is something we call Turkey Kick Curry:

  1. Fry off one finely chopped onion in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  2. Add a finely chopped garlic clove and an inch piece of peeled and grated ginger.
  3. Cook until the onion’s translucent. Then add 2 tablespoons of Bolst’s Hot Curry Powder.
  4. Stir it in, cooking for a further minute or so.
  5. Add 400g roast turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Stir it through the spices, then add 400ml turkey stock, some cherry tomatoes, and a squeeze of tomato purée.

Turn down the heat and reduce gently until it reaches a nice curry-like consistency.

And finish with a tablespoon of live yogurt and a good couple of pinches of chopped fresh coriander. Serve with basmati rice.

Enjoy!

Kay Plunkett-Hogge