How long you need to cook your Christmas turkey for – and other clever tips

Roast turkey is the traditional centrepiece of the British Christmas dinner and also American Thanksgiving – but with so many dishes to have ready at the same time, getting it there is a triumph of organisation.

Preparations may start the night before (or even earlier if the bird needs defrosting) to get the stuffing ready and the turkey prepared if an early lunchtime celebration is to be ready on time.

The traditional Christmas dinner includes turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and of course the flaming Christmas pudding. So it is important to get the main centrepiece perfect before you start worrying about all the trimmings.

Many Americans would say a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is "incomplete" without cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy and of course pumpkin pie.

But as most people roast a turkey only once or twice a year – if that – it is understandable if the detail of what to do with it has got a little rusty. We have some handy tips to help you get dinner on the table in time.

When will my turkey be done?

Crucial to any roast is how long it takes to cook the meat. This is worked out by the weight of the joint (including the weight of the stuffing).

The turkey should be at room temperature before cooking.

For a roast turkey weighing less than 4kg, British Turkey recommends 20 minutes per kilogram plus 70 minutes at 190C (180C for fan ovens), GM5, 375F.

Birds weighing more than 4kg require 20 minutes per kilogram plus 90 minutes at that temperature.

And always make sure you check it’s cooked through (see how below).

Don’t forget to allow time for the meat to rest too – 15 to 20 minutes. Loosely covered with foil it will stay warm while you can get on with the vegetables.

When you know what time your turkey should be cooked you can work out the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner cooking timetable.

Oh yes, defrosting my turkey would be a good idea. How long will that take?

British Turkey estimates a 4kg turkey will take 16 hours to defrost.

So much for timings, how can I tell if the turkey really is cooked?

All ovens vary, and moving other dishes around in the oven will affect the temperature, so you still need to check the bird is actually cooked rather than just relying on timings.

The juices should run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer. If you have a temperature probe it should measure 72C or above in the thickest part of the breast.

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What should I do to make it really tasty?

MasterChef’s John Torode likes to fill his turkey with water while Mary Berry likes to spread hers with butter.

And Asda have put together a video guide for preparing the perfect turkey in five minutes.

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