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Buying, storing & cooking tips for turkey


JUMP TO:-   Before you buy your turkey  |  What size turkeyDefrosting  | How much stuffing  | Preparation , Roasting, Accompaniments Storing Cooked Turkey Using up Leftovers

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How many times have you served or been served  turkey which is bland and dry? Worse still,  how many times have you had to wait because the bird wasn't quite cooked in time?  We tell you how to buy, prepare and cook the perfect, succulent, flavoursome turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day,  PLUS some wonderful recipes for using up the leftovers....if you have any!


Before you buy your turkey

Check your oven is large enough if you intend cooking a big bird, and buy a special turkey roasting pan.  If worse comes to the worse and you find yourself with a bird which just won't fit in the oven, try removing the legs which can be cooked separately. If that's still no good, separate the crown (i.e. the whole breast section) from the back of the bird, but remember, it will take less cooking time.


If you are cooking for just a few people and/or you don't want too much leftover turkey, consider buying a crown. This is just the breast section of the bird which is still on the bone. They have the added advantages of being able to be cooked much more quickly and taking up less space in the refrigerator when storing and oven when cooking.


Remember - turkeys are heavy so take care when lifting in and out of the oven so make sure you get yourself some really good heavy duty oven gloves.


How big a turkey do you need?

You should allow 350g/12oz per person (with bone) but bear in mind that's just for one meal. Below are some example bird sizes, but we've allowed extra so you have some left to either eat cold or for use in other recipes  :-

Serves 4   

2.7kg/ 6 lb

Serves 6   

4.5kg/ 10 lb

Serves 8   

5.4kg/ 12 lb

Serves 10 

6.8kg/ 15 lb

Serves 12 

8.1kg/ 18 lb

Serves 14 

9.4kg/ 21 lb


Defrosting a Turkey

If you have bought a frozen bird do make sure it is well defrosted first. Check by putting your hand inside the body cavity to see if there are any ice crystals left. Smaller turkeys (up to 7 kg) take about 24 hours to defrost in a cool place (around 18 C), larger birds up to 48 hours.  If possible, remove it from the plastic packaging and re-wrap in aluminium foil as the plastic tends to make the bird "sweat".

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How much Stuffing do you need for your turkey

The amounts below are approximate and sufficient to stuff the neck end of the turkey with some left over for baking separately in a tin or making extra stuffing balls. If you prefer you can cook the whole amount outside of the turkey in a shallow tin or made into balls.


Size of Turkey

Amount of Stuffing

Serves 4   

2.7kg/ 6 lb

480ml/ 16fl.oz.

Serves 6   

4.5kg/ 10 lb


Serves 8   

5.4kg/ 12 lb


Serves 10 

6.8kg/ 15 lb


Serves 12 

8.1kg/ 18 lb


Serves 14 

9.4kg/ 21 lb



Preparation, Roasting and Accompaniments - click here for a complete guide, Menu, time plan and recipes


Storing Cooked Turkey

It is important to refrigerate leftover turkey as soon as possible. Make sure it is completely cold before wrapping securely in aluminium foil. As the carcass is large, it's a good idea to remove the meat from the bones before refrigerating.  Serve cold within 2/3 days.


Using Leftover Turkey

When reheating cooked turkey in made up dishes such as pilavs, savoury pancakes or in a sauce or curry, make sure it is piping hot all the way through.  Here are some usual and unusual recipes using leftover turkey.


Oriental Salad     CD  MC  15mins plus cooling

Turkey Hash     HT  MC  25mins

Turkey & Spinach Bake HT MC British 40mins

Turkey Biryani    HT  MC  40mins

Turkey, Almond and Cheese Bake    HT  MC   British  45mins

Turkey and Stuffing Bake    HT  MC  50mins

Turkey Cacciatora    HT  MC   Italian  50mins

Turkey and Ham Crumble    HT  MC  55mins

Leftover Turkey Pancakes    HT  MC  60mins

Leftovers Turkey Pie HT MC British 65mins

Cranberry, Almond Turkey Flan    HT  MC  British  75mins

Turkey Soup      HT  SP  140mins

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