How to Cook a Turkey & my Favourite Stuffing Recipe

The turkey is the centrepiece of both the traditional Christmas Dinner, Thanksgiving Dinner and the 4th of July Dinner and it’s great for any other special occasion, which is why cooking it properly is so important. Mess it up and not even the best side dishes will save you! Turkey is becoming very popular because it is relatively low in cholesterol and high in vitamins that boost the immune system. It’s also very juicy and tasty!
So here are some tips on how to prepare & cook that perfect Turkey!

 How to Cook a Turkey

A juicy & tender whole roasted turkey really does add to the sense of occasion at Christmas!

  1. First things first. Buy a Fresh Turkey if you can. Don’t buy a turkey that has been pre-stuffed as mishandling or incorrect cooking can cause bacteria to multiply inside the stuffing.
  2. It’s so important that if you’re buying a frozen bird, that you thaw your turkey the right way. If it’s done improperly, the bacteria can multiply to a point where even oven temperatures won’t be able to kill all of them off. This can cause severe food poisoning. The worst thing you can do is to leave your turkey out on the kitchen-counterto thaw. The safest method is to thaw your turkey in the fridge.
  1. When you place the turkey in thefridge (raw meat should always go the bottom shelf) put it on a tray to catch all the juices that will leak out. You should leave the turkey in its original wrapper. It takes approximately 2 days for a 15 pound turkey to fully defrost.
  1. Add some extra flavour by loosely filling the cavity of the bird with vegetables — carrots, celery, onion & garlic work nicely together. Don’t wash your Turkey. The water splashing around will spread more bacteria than you are washing off it – let the oven do the work.
  1. Before roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with butter, seasoning with sea-salt and ground black pepper. Cover the bird with streaky bacon to add more flavour and to keep it from browning too much. Don’t forget to cover the legs too!
  1. Cover the complete loosely bird with tin foil and once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation to open the oven door! Every time you open the door the temperature drops and all the moisture escapes increasing the likelihood of a dry bird.
  1. Have your oven Pre-heated to 180°C (170°C for fan assisted ovens), 365°F, so that the turkey is going into a hot oven.

The simple rules for Turkey cooking times are:
If it’s Less than 4kg (8½Lbs) weight cook for 20 minutes per kg then add 70 minutes extra time.

If it’s More than 4kg (8½Lbs) weight cook for 20 minutes per kg and add 90 minutes extra time.

  • To Convert your Pounds (lbs) to Kilograms (kg) multiply by 0.46
  • To Convert your Kilograms (kg) to Pounds (lbs) multiply by 2.2

e.g. 20 lbs weight Turkey = 20 x 0.46 = 9.2kg weight
9.2 kg x 20mins =184 minutes. Add 90 = 274 minutes.

Divide this by 60 (minutes in an hour) = 4 hours and 35 minutes Turkey Cooking Time.

  1. About 30 minutes before the turkey should be done, remove the foil from the breast to crisp up the skin.

9.Test the turkey after this time using a pointed knife inserted into the area between the base of the wing and the top of the leg. Push in the blade and the gently ease down on it. Juice from the turkey will run down the blade. If the juices run clear then it is cooked. If there are traces of pink in it give it another little while in the oven.
If you have a cooking thermometer ensure that the centre of the thickest parts return a temp of 75°C.

  1. After you take the turkey out of the oven let it rest, under the loosened foil, for about 15 minutes before carving. This lets the hot juices relax and spread evenly through the meat, giving a moist and juicy bird.

(No. 11. Relax and Don’t Panic…)

My Favourite Stuffing Mix

This is a stuffing recipe that I have used for years. It is versatile and adaptable and can be used with any type of meat. This makes enough for 8 people – generous portions!

 Zacks Irish Food Guide stuffing

This is my recipe but you can add whatever herbs you like to your stuffing!

My Ingredients:

250g (10oz) butter

200g (8oz) diced onion

100g (4oz) diced red onion

100g (4oz) grated carrot

1 tblsp chopped thyme

1 tblsp chopped parsley

1/2 tspn cracked black pepper

2 cloves garlic diced

1 tspn chopped rosemary

1 tspn chopped basil

1 tspn chopped oregano

300g (12oz) white breadcrumbs made with crusts and all

300g (12oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs made with crusts and all

My Method:

  1. Simply place the butter and all other ingredients, except the crumbs, on a medium heat and cook gently, stirring, until the onions and other veg are soft.
  1. Add the breadcrumbs and mix in well until the crumbs have absorbed all the butter and juices.
  1. If the stuffing feels a little dry (depending on the type of day, the weather, the heat of the kitchen or one of another hundred amazingly uncontrollable conditions) I tend to add a little splash of my favourite white wine at this stage and mix well and then add a little of the cooking juices from the cooked turkey just before serving.

Enjoy your Turkey!



About - Zack Gallagher

Chef. Zack Gallagher. @IrishFoodGuide on Twitter. News about Food, Food Producers, Chefs and Irish Food Tourism, in Ireland. HDip in and Food & Tourism Marketing. Irish Food Blogger & Chef. Food Ambassador for Failte Ireland. Judge at Blas Nah Eireann Irish Food Awards
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