Keeping the turkey moist during cooking
Because turkey breast meat is so lean, you need to protect it from drying out during cooking. There are different ways of doing this. The simplest are using steam, using covers or basting. More effort is required for brining.
For a brine recipe, please follow this link.
Many cooks swear by brining as a way of ensuring that the turkey remains moist during roasting but this is not an essential step. Brining the turkey simply means that it is soaked in a salty (brine) solution with added flavourings and seasonings prior to cooking. It is usual to brine overnight or for a minimum of six hours. To be absolutely safe, brining should take place in the refrigerator. Raw meat of any kind should not be stored at room temperature. The difficulty here, is that a turkey in a container of brine takes up a lot of space and many people don't have enough spare refrigeration space to do this.
The following steps provide an alternative safe method for brining without a refrigerator:
- Refrigerate the prepared brine solution until thoroughly chilled
- Sterilise a plastic chilly bin (insulated cooler bin/"Esky") by rinsing with boiling water and wiping dry with paper towels. Allow it to cool down. Use a cooler size that will allow the turkey enough room to be surrounded by liquid but is not overly large.
- Pour the chilled brine into the cooler.
- Using clean hands, place the thawed turkey breast-side down into the brine.
- Fill two or three sealable plastic bags with crushed or cubed ice and pack these around the turkey (as many as you can fit). Don't use loose ice cubes as these will dilute the strength and flavour of the brine.
- Put on the lid and place the cooler bin in a cool place.
- Half way through the brining, turn the turkey over and check the ice, replenishing the ice if needed.
- After removing the turkey from the brine, rinse it inside and out with cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels before continuing with cooking preparations.
- Discard the brine and sterilise the cooler bin.
This is the method that the Croziers use most often. Simply pour water into the bottom of the roasting pan and keep it topped up during the cooking. As the turkey cooks, the water will create a steamy atmosphere that keeps the flesh moist. Additional suggestions include:
Place a rack / cake rack /trivet in the roasting pan so that the turkey is held above the liquid and is less likely to "stew" on the base.
Use flavoured liquids instead of water e.g turkey or chicken stock mixed with wine or fruit juice and herbs.
Using a cover
Start the roasting process by placing a sheet of baking (silicon) paper over the breast and then sealing it with a layer of foil. If baking paper isn't used, the foil tends to stick to the turkey skin and pulls pieces off when removed. After calculating the cooking time, leave the foil in place for half of the cooking time, removing it in order to allow the skin to colour before cooking has finished.
Basting is the technique of spooning fat and cooking juices over the breast of the bird at regular intervals during the entire roasting process. It is a good idea to baste every 20-30 minutes. Basting can be done with a basting brush, a spoon or a turkey baster. A turkey baster is a simple tool that sucks up cooking juices and when squeezed can release them onto the turkey breast. The disadvantage of basting is that the oven has to be opened regularly, which lowers the oven temperature and interrupts the cooking process so make sure you work quickly.
Stuffing-To stuff or not to stuff?
Turkeys that are stuffed take longer to cook than turkeys that aren't. This is because the stuffing forms a dense mass in the centre of the bird and heat takes much longer to penetrate to the centre.
If you are cooking the turkey with stuffing inside the cavity, make sure that the stuffing has been prepared and chilled beforehand. Turkeys can be stuffed in two places: the main cavity and the neck-end cavity. Some cooks like to use a different stuffing for each part; others use the same. During cooking, most types of stuffing expand a little so don't overstuff and do leave a little space. Place the stuffing in lightly and compactly but not too forcefully. The stuffing needs to be sealed in so either use small skewers or a large needle threaded with cotton-string (not plastic string- it melts) and sew the flaps of skin together. The alternative is to cook the stuffing in a separate baking dish and serve as a side accompaniment.
How far ahead can the turkey be stuffed?
Don't be too eager. It's best to stuff the turkey just before you want to start cooking. You could stuff an hour or two ahead as long as you then store the turkey in the refrigerator until cooking begins.
DON'T STUFF THE DAY BEFORE. To an extent, the stuffing is insulated from the cold temperatures of the refrigerator by the turkey cavity. If there are any harmful bacteria present inside the turkey or in the stuffing, they can multiply during storage.
Knowing when it's cooked
Estimating cooking times
We recommend a total cooking time of 15 minutes per 500g plus an extra 15 minutes when cooking at 180°C. A 5 kg turkey takes approximately 2¾ hours. A 5 ½ kg turkey takes approximately 3 hours.
A whole turkey and turkey parts are safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 80 °C (176 °F) as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast or if the turkey is stuffed, check the temperature in the centre of the stuffing. Remember that if you have inserted the thermometer into the turkey and the temperature is not safe, you must sterilize the thermometer probe before re-using it. Otherwise, you risk contaminating the cooked meat
Pop- Up Timer
If your Crozier turkey has a pop-up timer inserted in the breast, it will pop up when it reaches the temperature of 85 °C (185 °F).
If you pierce the thickest part of the turkey thigh with a skewer, juices will run out. If the juices run clear the turkey is cooked. If there is still some pinkness (blood) present, longer cooking is required.
In addition to the skewer test, give the drumstick a wiggle The leg should move freely when cooked, with little resistance.
Why is turkey meat (and chicken) sometimes pink close to the bone, even when it is fully cooked to 80 °C degrees or higher?
Younger turkeys (and chickens) have underdeveloped porous bones, which may allow red pigmentation (haemoglobin) to run into the meat. If the bird is fully cooked (80 °C and the thigh juices run clear) the meat is safe to eat even if there is some pink colouring in the flesh surrounding the bones.
After removing your delicious cooked turkey from the oven, lift it from the roasting pan to a carving platter or board and lightly cover it with foil. Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes while you prepare the gravy. Resting allows time for the flesh to relax and for juices to be reabsorbed into the meat before carving.
There are a number of methods used to carve turkey. Here is one:
- Keeping the turkey on its back (breast-side up), cut the skin between the thigh and the body.
- Remove the entire leg (thigh and drum) on both sides.
- Place the legs flat on a chopping board and cut between the thighs and the drums to separate them.
- Pull each wing outward from the body and cut through the joints where they join the body.
- Cut the wings in half at their joints.
- Insert the knife on one side of the breast bone as close to the bone as possible. Cut along the side of the breast bone. Using the knife, follow the rib cage and cut down under the breast meat, lifting it away from the rib cage.
- Repeat for the second side. (An alternative is to carve the breast in slices directly from the turkey)
- Cut the breast meat into slices or portions.
- If you have stuffed the turkey, remove the stuffing with a spoon into a serving bowl.
Even though you'll be enjoying your turkey dinner, don't forget that unserved turkey meat will make great leftovers. But only if you treat your leftovers with respect. Don't leave them sitting out in the kitchen all night. Make sure you package and chill them within two hours or removing from the oven.
Place leftover turkey into a dish and cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating. Store for a maximum of two three days at 4 °C.
Place leftovers into a freezer bag or wrap in plastic wrap. Squeeze out as much air as possible before freezing. Mark with the date. Use within one month
Wines to serve with roast turkey
- Light bodied aromatic e.g Pinot gris (dry rather than sweet style)
- Medium bodied fruity e.g Pinot noir
- Medium bodied deep full flavour e.g Merlot