How to cook the perfect turkey on Christmas Day

How to Cook the perfect turkey on Christmas Day

IN the 40 years or so that I have been cooking I have seen hundreds of different ways of getting that Christmas bird to the table!

My mother who was a great cook used to put it in the oven at about 2 am on Christmas eve and cook it really slowly, it would be ready by about 3 pm on Christmas day! I will never forget the amazing smells through the house early Christmas morning but the Turkey was cremated!

The best training I had was when I was at The Savoy in London where we cooked a number of birds, pheasant, grouse, partridge and turkey in a similar way. It is a simple method and creates a perfectly moist bird retaining all the flavours.

I use these simple techniques in both my restaurants (The Little Geranium La Cala and Marbella) for cooking chicken and game and clients are always telling me it’s the best chicken they have ever tasted!

So this Christmas I thought I should write it all up in an article and also put it on our web sites to help guide you correctly and simply to serving up the best Christmas turkey.

If you have any questions feel free to email them to me in plenty of time before the day! My email address is below the article. Good luck and have an amazing Christmas!


Steven´s Top Ten Christmas Turkey Tips:

1: Turkey originally comes from the forests of North America and Mexico, there are some fantastic varieties available like bronze or black which have a great gamey flavour. In Spain the National Turkey is not as intensively farmed as they are in the UK.

I lived opposite a Turkey farm and I couldn´t believe the amount of Turkeys bred in such a small space, horrendous. Choose a large fresh bird to ensure the best flavours between 5 kilos to 7 kilos. (Serving 8 upwards)

2: If frozen ensure you defrost it at least 24 hours per 2 kilos. (A 5 kilo Turkey needs a minimum three days defrosting, I would allow four days in the fridge) Never defrost a turkey at room temperature as it breeds bacteria.

3: Take the turkey out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking

4: Put soft butter mixed with parsley and seasoning under the skin of the turkey and add salt and pepper to the outside and inside the turkey.Don’t add garlic as turkey is a gentle simple flavour and garlic is often overpowering.

Any butter left over smear into the breasts on the outside skin (This can all be done the day before) Lay slices of streaky bacon over the breasts horizontally to cover the carcass of the bird after the bird has had 15 minutes sealing, See 6 below.

5: Put an onion and some bay leaf and thyme inside the bird but do not put the stuffing in the cavity.

6: Cook the bird upright (breasts up) in a deep dish ( to collect the fat) in a preheated oven 225 c to get the bird nice and brown for about 15 minutes then remove the bird and lay the bacon on the breasts as described in 2 ….Now lower the heat to 160c.

7: Roast for 30 minutes per kilo about 2 ½ hours for a 5 kilo bird.

8: Remember to baste the bird, every so often (approx.once every 20 mins)

9: Use a thermometer to check that the meat in the thicker thigh of the turkey or the thicker part of the breast when it is cooked it should read 165F about 74C.

10: Allow the turkey to rest (it will continue to cook internally) for at least 20 minutes after cooking then present it and carve!


It is important to make your stuffing on the side, and don’t include it in the cavity of the turkey. Do this to avoid bacteria (salmonella), which will drain off the bird and into the stuffing.

Ingredients for a homemade stuffing
Cooking time: 45 minutes | Serves about 10
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1/2 pound of good sausages
4 small diced onions
½  head of diced celery
300g approx. of wild mushrooms
300g of bread crumbs or use Panko crumbs even better
Approx. 4 tablespoons of roasted peeled and chopped chestnuts

A small sprig of fresh sage and thyme leaves

Brown the sausage meat in a largepan. Drain the juice into a separate pan. Put aside. Add the onion and celery to the large pan with the sausage, sautéing frequently until tender.

Add all the remaining ingredients — mushrooms, bread crumbs, chestnuts, sage and thyme. After 15 minutes of cooking to make sure all the ingredients and natural juices have blended together. Pour the grease from the sausage back into the pan to add flavour and moisture.

Put the stuffing into anoven proof dish with slices of butter on the top and put into a preheated oven. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Basic Gravy

Cooking time: 2-3 hours | Serves 10
10 pounds ( 4 kilos) mixed poultry bones, pre roasted
4 onions, chopped
1 head of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 tube of tomato paste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
Thyme, two sprigs
2 bay leaves

½ bottle red wine

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Fill pot with cold water or use a chicken stock in tetrapack (Caldo) available in all supermarkets which is better than water.  Add a couple of bay leaves and sprigs of thyme.

Simmer (do not boil) for three hours. Strain and transfer the ingredients to another pot. Add red wine. Reduce this by cooking it until it’s all a bit concentrated almost by half.

To thicken the stock, combine with the butter and flour and whisk in. Cook this out for at least 30 minutes. Finally use a little of the turkey juices from the roasting tray and add this to the sauce above, taste and season well and serve.

Steven Saunders FMCGB

The Little Geranium

[email protected]

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