Turkey masterclass

The turkey is the crowning jewel of Christmas Day lunch so it's important to get it spot on. Here's our guide to ensure it's moist and delicious.

Serves 8-10Prep: 10 minutes, plus resting overnight in the fridgeCook: 2 hours approximately


4kg turkey250g salted butter2 tsp sea salt2 tsp ground black pepper6 large onions, unpeeled


1 large roasting tin big enough to fit the turkey in

A trivet to cook the turkey on (or use a cake cooling rack)


The night before:

  • Soften the butter and add half the salt and pepper. Remove the giblets from the turkey, and wipe the bird clean inside and out with kitchen paper. Remove any feathers – if there are a lot you can singe them over a flame. Open the cavity of the bird and season the inside with the remaining salt and pepper.

  • Take the butter mix and rub all over the turkey. Take a piece of greaseproof paper double the size of the breast and fold to make it a double thickness. Lay this over the breasts to protect them during the cooking. Return to the fridge and leave until the morning.

  • Calculate your cooking times for the morning – allow 20 minutes at high heat, then 30 minutes per kilo after you have reduced the heat. So a 4 kg turkey will take approximately 2 hours in total.

Christmas Morning:

  • Preheat oven to 220C/gas 7.

  • Remove turkey from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating up.

  • Cut the onions in half and place in the baking tray.

  • Put the seasoned turkey on a trivet and then into the tray.

  • Bring a kettle to the boil and pour one cup of boiling water into the cavity of the bird. Seal with a skewer.

  • Pour about 2 cups of boiling water (or about 1cm depth in the tray) into the tray with the onions, cover the whole thing with greaseproof and a double thickness of foil. Make sure that it is well sealed around the edges.

  • Put the tray in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/gas 6 for the remaining cooking time.

  • After one and a half hours, remove the foil and greaseproof paper and turn the turkey over so the breasts are now facing down and close the door.

  • Do not open it again until the cooking time is up. To test whether the turkey is cooked, insert a skewer or knife blade into the point where the thigh joins the breast, and the juice should run clear. If it is pink, then leave it for another twenty minutes and test again.

  • Remove the turkey from the oven, strain the juice in the bottom of the tray into a large jug to settle. The fat will rise to the top, leaving the aromatic turkey and onion juice beneath. Skim off most of the fat and use the juices to make gravy (see recipe below).

  • Leave the turkey to rest in a warm place breasts down for at least 30 minutes.

  • All the juice will run back down into the breasts and the breasts will be moist and delicious, the skin along the back all crispy and the joints between the legs all cooked. Serve with gravy and all the trimmings.


Prep: 10 minutesCook: 35 minutes


4 large onions, sliced20ml vegetable oil or drippingApproximately 300ml cooking liquid from the turkey1 tbsp malt vinegarSalt and pepper50g flour


  • Sweat the onions in the vegetable oil or dripping for about 10-15 minutes until soft but not coloured.

  • Pour off the cooking liquid from the turkey roasting tin into a large jug. Discard the onions in the base of the tin.

  • Place the roasting tin over a medium high hob. Add about 3 tbsp of the settled fat from the top of the turkey roasting juices. Add the softened onions and season with salt and pepper and stir well.

  • Add the vinegar and continue to stir and cook for a good 10 minutes until the onions have some colour.

  • Sprinkle in the flour and continue to cook and stir for 5 minutes.

  • Slowly add the reserved turkey stock and give a good stir, scraping the bottom of the tin to take off all the crust that has built up from the flour (this is full of flavour and will thicken up the sauce).

  • Bring to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes stirring continuously. Serve with the turkey and sides.


Save time on the big day. The onions can be sweated the day before, or up to a couple of days before using. Store in a container in the fridge.

If the gravy gets too thick add extra water.

Adding vinegar helps to cut through the fat.

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