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How to Cook the Perfect Christmas Turkey?

This article is kindly reprinted from THE WEEK, 21 December, 2002.

To cook the perfect Christmas turkey, don't use the whole bird, says Jill Duipleix in The Times. Instead, use a crown of turkey - a double breast on the bone, with wings and legs removed. It cooks more quickly and evenly, and still looks impressive when you bring it to the table.

To feed 6 to 8 people, buy a turkey that weighs about 3kg, preferably from a butcher or poultry specialist. Protect the breast meat by pushing the stuffing up between skin and meat, and by coating the skin with bacon when cooking. To calculate roasting time, weigh the stuffed turkey, and allow 18 mins per 450g/1lb. For example, if it weighs 3.3kg (7lb), it will take roughly 2 hours 20 mins, plus 15 mins resting time, before carving.



1 turkey crown, around 3kg

Stuffing of your choice

Sea salt and pepper

500g streaky bacon rashers, rindless

4 Clementines or small oranges


         Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Wipe the turkey crown inside and out with a paper towel. Remove the wishbone to make carving easier.

         To stuff under the skin: starting at the neck, work the skin free of the breast by gently inching your fingers forward under it, to about halfway along the length of the bird. Push some of the stuffing in, spreading it over the breast area. Don't pack it in too tightly as the stuffing will expand. Secure with string or a skewer. Prick the breast skin a few times, or it may split as the stuffing expands.

         Rub the skin with sea salt and pepper. Cover the base of the pan with a couple of rashers of bacon, and lay the turkey on top, breast-side up. Arrange more bacon rashers over the top of the breast.

         Bake for one hour, then turn the pan around 180 degrees, remove the bacon and baste the turkey with the cooking juices.

         Now is a good time to put the remaining stuffing into the oven, either in the same pan, or a separate one. Baste the stuffing with the turkey juices and cook until golden.

         Roast the turkey for the remaining time you have calculated, brushing with the juices every 15 minutes.

         Cut the Clementines or oranges in half and add to the pan, cut-side down, for the last ten minutes of cooking time, until they are soft.

         Test the turkey with a skewer to see if it's thoroughly cooked. Any juices should run clear. Strain the pan juices and set aside for the gravy. Allow the turkey to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes before carving.

         Transfer the turkey to a serving platter, and arrange Clementines and herbs around it. Carve from the top to the bottom of each breast, at a slight angle, and you'll get wonderfully big slices with a good inch or so of stuffing under the skin.

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