The Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association has the following tips for choosing and cooking your Christmas turkey.
One factor which can make all the difference to the flavour and texture of a turkey is whether or not it has been dry plucked and matured. This method of production is known as traditional farmfresh.
Also, ask your butcher how old the turkey is. The majority of birds are slaughtered as ‘teenagers’ (about 8-12 weeks), having been grown very quickly and cheaply. As a result, the flesh is effectively ’stretched’ and has no fat cover, resulting in meat that is often dry and coarse. Totally Traditional Turkeys are reared for 2-3 times longer, to full adult maturity in a natural environment, and are never given additives for growth promotion.
The white (breast) meat of a turkey cooks quicker than the dark (leg and wing) meat. It is better to cook turkeys breast side down for the first half to three quarters of the cooking time, which will help to keep the juices in the breast and stop it drying out.
If the turkey is tightly trussed with string, this will make it difficult to cook evenly. A loosely trussed bird is best for cooking. Therefore, although it doesn’t look as attractive, it is better to cut the string if it appears to be too tight.
Do not stuff the cavity as this will stop the turkey cooking properly. Instead, place an onion and an apple, both quartered, inside.
Gravy always tastes better if the turkey giblets are used to make it. However it is recommended that the liver is not used as it may give the gravy a slightly bitter flavour. Instead, lightly sauté the liver in butter, chop it up and add to the stuffing.
It is very important not to overcook a turkey – many people do and are then disappointed when it is dry. This can be avoided by either using ‘poprites’ that detect when the turkey is cooked, or alternatively you can test the bird by ensuring that clear juice comes out of the leg when you pierce the cooked bird.
After removing the turkey from the oven and before carving, allow it to rest for a few minutes.