Saturday, 17 November 2012

Turkey day

Whether your favourite turkey day is Thanksgiving or Christmas, buy the best bird you can afford and don’t stuff it up. Here are our tips for making the most of your festive bird.

The turkey

Ours are a traditional Bronze bird reared by Gerald and Richard Botterill. The birds are fed a natural diet of homegrown cereal and vegetable protein, and are left to free range on the Belvoir Estate (lucky things). They grow slowly and naturally to full maturity, after which they’re slaughtered on the farm (no distressing transporter), carefully dry-plucked and hung for 10-14 days to give great depth of flavour and succulence. 

A note on quills: one of the characteristics of the bronze turkey is their dark plumage, when plucked it can leave dark marks and tiny pieces of quill in the skin, especially around the wing and under carriage. These are a little more prevalent in Thanksgiving birds as they haven’t yet all moulted, but rest assured that they are absolutely nothing to worry about, and are a trait present in all Bronze turkeys; the marks and quills disappear during cooking. 

The Botterills showcase all of the elements of good animal husbandry, and continue to produce the best, tastiest birds we’ve ever tried. Try one for yourself and see.

At home

Take the vacuum-packed giblets out of the cavity, and rest the bird on a large plate at the bottom of your fridge - don’t be tempted to wrap it in cling film, as this can make the skin clammy and encourages bacteria. 

If you’re not cooking your turkey for a few days, it’s wise to use the giblets now. Make a simple stock using everything except the liver, and a few aromatic vegetables; this stock will keep 4-5 days if covered and placed in the fridge.


Truth be told, we prefer to leave the stuffing on the side rather than in the bird, as stuffing adds extra weight, increasing the cooking time which can dry out the meat. Instead we like lots and lots of streaky bacon over the top of the bird, which adds flavour and bastes the flesh without increasing the cooking time. That's not to say we don't like stuffing! Mix together pork mince, breadcrumbs, an egg, grated onion, fresh herbs, seasoning and grated lemon zest, form into balls and pop in with your roast potatoes for the final 15-20 minutes.


Possibly the most important thing to do when you’re cooking a big turkey, is to take it out of the fridge a long time before it goes in the oven - eight hours should do the trick. If you only give it an hour or two then the bird will still be quite cold in the middle, and this is what leads to uneven cooking, meaning dry turkey or even worse - still raw in the middle. Just make sure the dog doesn't get it while it comes up to room temperature...

To cook
Rub the skin with plenty of butter and pepper and cover the breast with lots of streaky bacon. Make a big tin foil cross inside your roasting pan, place the turkey in the middle and wrap the foil around to make a loose but closed parcel. Cook at 220˚C/ 425˚F/ Mark 7 for 40 mins. Reduce heat to 170˚C/ 325˚F/ Mark 3 and cook for approximately a further 3 hours (small turkey), 3 1/2 hours (medium), 4 1/2 hours (large) and 5 hours (X-large). Uncover for the last 30 minutes and remove the bacon to crisp the skin. Stick a long skewer in the fleshiest part to test for doneness; the juices should run clear. Wrap the turkey well in foil, lay a bath towel over the top, and rest it for up to an hour before carving - trust us, it’ll be super-succulent.

And then there are leftovers, a subject which deserves a post all of its own.


  1. The C-word is fast approaching. I'm not yet ready to acknowledge it and speak it's name. But I'm cooking for 11 adults and 5 kids this year...So I'm marking this page to come back to. Thank you

    1. Carolyn, How did you get on? I cooked a large Turkey too for 12 people and it was fab. Don't think it was a 'Ginger Pig' one but it came from Lockton!

  2. thanks for sharing.