Cooking the perfect roast turkey can be stressful but these ten easy steps give you a perfect, moist bird for Thanksgiving and Christmas.​ The trick here is to brine the chicken before cooking which ensures a tender, succulent roast on the table.  It also means you can use a frozen turkey which is a cheaper alternative.

High Christmas lunch expectations from family members aside, serving up a perfect roast turkey is a tricky job, especially when you only do it once a year! If you want to get a bit of practice in to master the process, try cooking a turkey for a Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada, and is a wonderful way to bring family and friends together.  For Thanksgiving dessert, you might like to try a traditional pumpkin pie.  Here are some great pumpkin pie recipes.

Christmas turkey roast, roast turkey

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

What size turkey do you need?

The size of your perfect roast turkey depends on how many other dishes you are serving at the same time.  For example, if you are also offering ham and seafood, you won’t need as much turkey.

Turkey Size Serving Size 150 gm Turkey Weight Cooking Time
26 – 34 Serves 9 – 12 2.6 – 3.4 kg 2 – 2.5 hrs
36 – 44 Serves 13 – 16 3.6 – 4.4 kg 2 hrs 4 minutes – 3 hrs 20 minutes
46 – 54 Serves 17 – 20 4.6 – 5.4 kg 3 hrs 25 minutes – 4 hrs
56 – 60 Serves 21 – 30 5.6 – 6 kg 4 hrs 10 min – 4 hrs 30 minutes

How to cook the perfect roast turkey

Here are ten tips for serving up a five-star meal, a roast turkey that will impress the whole family.

Buy a good quality frozen turkey

It’s cheaper to buy a frozen turkey than you can afford to splurge here. Thaw turkey for 24 hours per 2kg, i.e. 4kg turkey will take 48 hours to thaw. Always thaw on the lowest fridge shelf – never on the benchtop or sink. Check the inside cavity for trimmings or giblets and remove these.  You can feed them to your dog. Pat the inside cavity dry.

Brine your turkey

Brine your turkey the evening before or the morning you are going to cook the turkey.  Get a large flat bucket that can fit in your fridge. I used an old bucket that was great for washing up when camping.  Boil together a cup of salt, half a cup of brown sugar, some peppercorns, and whatever herbs you like (ginger, thyme, and rosemary are good) in a large saucepan.  You can also add chicken stock for a richer flavour.  Put the turkey breast down in the bucket and pour over the cool mixture. It needs to cover most of the bird, although you can turn it over halfway through.

Cook the turkey from room temperature

Keep the turkey in the fridge until a short time before you are ready to cook.  The bird needs to come up to room temperature, and you’ll have to pat down the skin, so it’s dry and ensure there is no excess moisture in the cavity.  You can fill the cavity with more herbs and aromatics before cooking for extra flavour. Tress the turkey (i.e. tie the legs and wings together and put foil on the ends) to avoid the tips from burning. Place the breast-side up on the baking dish, and brush with oil/butter and seasoning.  I don’t like to stuff the bird as stuffing requires longer cooking times, which can dry out the meat. If you really love stuffing, you can cook it separately.

Baste with bacon butter

Baste the turkey with a layer of bacon butter (four rashers of bacon, rosemary, thyme and 200 gm butter processed together till smooth) pushed under the breast skin. Just run your fingers between the skin and the breast to separate.  Try not to make any holes.  I used my very favourite Berkshire bacon that I purchased from Schulte’s Meat Tavern on the Warrego Highway.  This gives a delicious smokey flavour to the meat and also helps keep the bird moist.

Christmas turkey roast, Thanksgiving turkey

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Use a baking rack

Use a baking dish with a rack with the turkey suspended above a small amount of water.  You might have to buy a special pan for this as the turkey could be larger than your normal roasts, but it will be worth it.

Cover with foil

Once the turkey is golden brown, cover with foil to prevent burning, and continue cooking time. You may need to put foil on the legs earlier than the body.

Don’t open the oven door

Don’t be a peeping tom. Opening the oven door can result in uneven cooking!

Carve carefully

For best results, carve using a sharp or electric knife.

Proper storage is important

Store any leftover turkey in foil with seasoning removed.

When the perfect roast turkey comes out of the oven, golden brown with an aroma like heaven, you’ll be pleased that you made the effort!

Tips for your Christmas lunch

Celebrating Christmas means different things to different folk.  For me, it is all about rum balls (here is my favourite rum ball recipe). I also like to see luscious ham and fresh seafood on the table.  Here is how to pick the perfect ham and also buy fresh seafood.

perfect roast turkey tips