How to cook and thaw a turkey safely so you don’t poison everyone this Christmas

Preparing Christmas dinner can be extremely stressful, especially if you are not the most experienced of cooks. Generally their is a lack of oven space and so many components cooking at once that you’ll most likely forget something. However, the pièce de résistance of the meal, if not the whole day, is the turkey.

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But mess that up and you’ll have a lot of deflated looking faces in paper crowns darting evils your way as they chomp on the grey and dry mush. So how on earth do you cook the big bird to perfection so the rest of the family will want to gobble it down?

Well firstly it needs to be cooked right through to avoid any risk of food poisoning as frequently festive toilet trips are not very merry at all. If you’ve been super organised and had your turkey frozen for weeks then better begin thawing your bird.

How long will it take to defrost a turkey?

Well, how long is a piece of string? It depends on the size of your bird… The packaging should tell you the time needed, however, here is a rough guide.

At room temperature (around 20C) you should allow two hours per kg, in a cool room (below 17.5C) allow three to four hours per kg and in a fridge (around 4C) leave it for around 10-12 hours per kg.

As soon as the turkey is fully defrosted store it in the fridge or get cooking!

How to tell when your turkey is done

You should plan your cooking in advance to make sure you leave enough time for the bird to be cooked thorough, as a large one can take several hours. There are three ways to tell that it is cooked through; the meat is hot throughout, there is no pinkness when you cut the thickest part and the juices run clear when you pierce the turkey or press the thigh.

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Also if you are using a food thermometer you must make sure that the thickest part of the bird reaches 70C for at least two minutes. Additionally if you are stuffing your bird, make sure to give it more time in the oven as the stuffing makes it cook more slowly. Cooking stuffing in a separate roasting tin is actually much safer, so you can following the cooking time more accurately.

If you don't have instructions to hand it is roughly 40 minutes per kg for a medium sized turkey under 6.5kg and 35 mins per kg for a larger bird.

Additionally you should cover the turkey with tinfoil while it is cooking, but remove it for the last 30 minutes so the skin can go golden and crispy. Also remember to baste it every hour so it doesn't turn dry!

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