Roasting a Christmas Turkey is a daunting task, but it's really not that hard. It just takes a bit of planning. So here are my tips.
1. Buy a turkey. A good one, free-range. It will make all the difference.
2. Brine your turkey for 24 hours before you cook it. This is this totally complicated scientific thing that I don't quite understand, but soaking a raw bird in salt water makes it retain its moisture and juiciness when it's cooked. Plus it's a good opportunity to add some FLAVOUR.
To Brine A Turkey
Get a bucket containing
  • about six liters of cold water
  • 2 quartered oranges
  • 250g Maldon salt
  • 3 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tbsp allspice berries
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 tbsp white mustard seeds
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 unpeeled quartered onions
  • 1 6cm piece of ginger, cut into slices
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • stalks from a bunch of parsley (you will use the leaves for the stuffing)
  • a bunch of sage
  • a turkey (5-6 kilos, will serve around 10 people)
Doesn't it look pretty? Cover it all up with some gladwrap, and stick it somewhere cool and out of the way for 24 hours before you cook it (the turkey should be pretty cold and possibly frozen anyway, so you don't need to worry about it going off. Just don't stick it in the sun).
3. Don't stuff it. Stuffing means your turkey is denser, which means you have to cook it for longer, and the meat is dry and tough. I cook my stuffing separately in a dish, which has the added bonus of it going all awesomely crunchy on top.
4. Prepare your turkey.
After taking your turkey out of his briney bath, give it a good pat down with some paper towel, then rub it all over (inside and out) with a lemon and some squished cloves of garlic. Then make a glaze containing:
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • chopped sage
  • a few cloves of garlic.
Paint the turkey inside and out, then chuck a bundle of fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme - really!) and your lemon carcasses in the turkey's front and rear cavities. I do not truss my turkey, because it takes longer to cook that way.
5. Cook your turkey. BUT NOT TOO MUCH.
Stick your oven on at 200C. Put the turkey straight onto the wire rack of the oven, breast up. You will not have to turn it. Put a pan below the turkey to catch the drippings. Chuck a cup or so of water into the pan, so the drippings don't burn. Baste the turkey with these drippings every half hour. Roast a 5-6 kg turkey for 2 1/2 hours. Yep. Two and a half hours. That's all. Then take it out and let it sit for AT LEAST 20 minutes, but ideally 40 or even an hour. The turkey will continue to cook when it comes out of the oven, and reabsorb all of the juices. Letting it sit also makes it easier to carve, and gives you a good opportunity to reheat your stuffing and bread sauce, and really CRANK your roast veggies to get them all crispy.
Here is last year's turkey, fresh out of the oven. So juicy! Such crispy skin on top! NOMMM. I'm about to tent a bit of foil over the top so he doesn't get cold.
And that's it! Not really that hard.
Next week, stuffing, bread sauce and veggies.