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Avoid the dreaded dry turkey this year with these tips
Christmas dinner is the biggest meal of the year, and a lot can go wrong if you mess up the timing or ingredients. Not ideal when you’ve got a table full of hungry family members walking waiting at the table.
Christmas turkey is all about crisp, evenly cooked meat smothered in juices. But how exactly do you cook it? How do you know it’s cooked? And what the hell is basting? Here, we’ve pulled together the most common mistakes people make when roasting turkey and how to avoid them so that you’re left with perfectly roasted juicy meat that works for dinner and leftovers -because when you get it right, there will always be room for leftovers.
5. Size matters
First things first, you need to decide how many mouths you’re feeding at the table. Lidl’s Deluxe Fresh Irish Free-Range Whole Turkey (from €27.99) is available in two sizes: 4kg, which could generously feed about four to six people, or if you have a larger group, go for the 7kg bird. The 7kg option is also handy if you’re planning on using as many leftovers as possible to tide you over for festive meal planning during the week between Christmas and New Year. One thing to note is that larger turkeys take more time to cook and are more prone to drying out. So choose wisely. If you’re not too comfortable with carving up the turkey, you can opt for Lidl’s Fresh Irish Turkey Crown (from €21.99). It looks like a whole turkey, but the thigh and drumsticks have been removed, leaving you with two breasts that are generally easier to work with.
4. Don’t forget to brine
Turkey can get a bad rap and is often criticised as being too dry and stringy. But you can usually avoid that through the process of brining. The basic process involves submerging the turkey in a water and salt mix for about 24 hours before cooking. But that can sometimes dilute the flavour of the meat. Not to mention, trying to find a pot big enough to hold the turkey and salt solution in a regular kitchen is tricky. The best bet is a dry brine and for that, you can rub a salt and marinade mix with garlic, butter, soy sauce (for a rich umami flavour), and herbs like rosemary and thyme over your turkey and inside out. The salt will break down some of the tougher tissue in the meat, which prevents them from overcooking and becoming dry in the oven, while the other ingredients will really enhance the flavour. You can place the uncovered turkey on a rack in the fridge for a day or two before cooking.
3. Don’t baste too often
People tend to overdo this step, opening and closing the oven door too many times and messing up the temperature. You only need to baste your turkey once every 45 minutes or so. Focus on the breast meat as that will dry out first. Use the juices from the tray or melted butter.
2. Use a meat thermometer when cooking
There’s no real way of knowing when your turkey is ready unless you use a thermometer. It eliminates the guesswork and the risk of over or undercooking your meat. Plus, it looks the part. It will make your guests realise you mean business in the kitchen. When roasting a free-range turkey, you can take your turkey out of the oven when the thermometer hits 70C. If you’re cooking with just a crown, you can probably take it out a few degrees shy of 70C as breast meat tends to lose moisture at higher temperatures.
1. Give it a rest
If you’ve watched enough episodes of Masterchef, you’ll know that even some of the most talented chefs ruin their chances to impress the judges by not letting their meat rest. Do not skip this part. Before you place your turkey in the oven, you need to let it rest for about an hour to bring it up to room temperature. Once you remove it from the oven, it needs at least half an hour to 40 minutes to rest. If you’re cooking with a large bird, an hour is ideal.
Now, that's what to look out for, here's how we recommend cooking your bird:
● 5kg turkey
● 2 tbsp deluxe Irish rapeseed oil
● 2 onions, quartered
● 1 stick celery, chopped
● 2 carrots, chopped
● 1 deluxe single clove of garlic, quartered
● Salt and pepper to taste
● 100g butter, softened
● Zest of 3 clementines
● Take your turkey out of the fridge for at least an hour before cooking to reach room
● Preheat oven to 180C fan. Make the clementine butter by combining the ingredients in a bowl
and season well with salt and pepper.
● Place the veg into a large and deep roasting tin and place the turkey on top. Use your hands to rub the butter all over the turkey and season well with salt and pepper.
● Place the turkey into the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour until very golden.
● Turn the oven down to 160° and cover the turkey very loosely with kitchen foil and roast for a
further 1 ½ to 2 hours. Use a meat thermometer and the temperature should read 70C when
● Rest the turkey for at least an hour before carving. This keeps the turkey juicy and tender.
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