Clodagh McKenna: How to prepare the perfect roast turkey this Christmas
Chef Clodagh McKenna's guide to cooking the most fabulous festive lunch
So today is the grand Christmas finale. To prepare your turkey, first remove the giblets, which will make a stock to flavour the gravy. Place them in a saucepan with a chopped carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, herbs and black peppercorns. Cover with water and bring to the boil then reduce to simmer for an hour, to add flavour to your gravy.
Next, wash out the turkey and dry with a paper towel. Cooking the stuffing inside a turkey is tastier but you need to make sure the stuffing is cool, so only stuff half the cavity before tying the legs together with twine. If you decide to cook the stuffing separately, use juices from the cooked turkey to keep it moist. Place a wire rack in the roasting tray for the turkey to sit on. This will allow the juices and fats of the bird to drain off and you can use these juices to baste the bird. Tuck potatoes around your turkey so they soak up all the juices.
Before roasting I wrap my turkey with smoked streaky bacon or pancetta. Clementines and garlic cloves sliced in half, and generous sprigs of herbs tucked around the bird and in the cavity also add flavour.
Wishing you all a delicious, happy Christmas. See you in the new year.
Clodagh McKenna’s last word on the bird
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: varies depending on size
1 free-range or organic turkey, 4-4.5kg
12 slices streaky bacon (or 200g pancetta)
4 bunches thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 shallots, peeled and halved
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3in pieces
1 whole bulb of garlic, halved
4 small bunches sage
- Pre-heat the oven to 230C or Gas Mark 7.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge an hour before roasting to allow the meat to come to room temperature.
- Remove the giblets from inside the bird's cavity because these cannot be cooked with the turkey. Keep them for making stock for the gravy. Wash the cavity and dry completely with kitchen paper, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- If you're using bacon you first need to make the bacon thinner so it will stretch over the turkey. Place all your rashers between two sheets of cling film and roll with a rolling pin. If you're using pancetta instead of bacon you don't need to stretch it as it's already thin. Wrap the streaky bacon or pancetta around the top of the whole bird and each leg.
- Fill the cavity of the turkey with stuffing (if using). The cavity should only be filled halfway to allow air to circulate and the turkey to cook more evenly.
- Line the roasting tray with shallots, carrots, garlic, thyme and sage and place the stuffed turkey on a rack on top. The herbs will flavour the turkey even more while cooking.
- Put the turkey in the pre-heated oven. After 45 minutes reduce the heat to 180C, take the turkey out, and baste. Cover loosely with foil and return to the oven and cook according to the weight of the turkey. Continue to baste every 45 minutes.
- Check to see if the turkey is cooked by inserting a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh; the juices should run clear. When you have taken the turkey out of the oven, leave it to rest for 30 minutes with a loose tent of tin foil to keep it warm. This will allow the juices to redistribute themselves, giving tastier meat.
:: 8lb-12lb/3.5kg-5kg: 3 hours 20 minutes/4 hours 40 minutes
:: 12lb-14lb/5.5kg-6.5 kg: 4 hours 40 minutes/5 hours 20 minutes
:: 14lb-18lbs/6.5kg-8kg: 5 hours 20 minutes/6 hours 40 minutes
:: 18lb-20lb/8kg-9kg: 6 hours 40 minutes/ 7 hours 20 minutes