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Christmas turkeys: What size to get, and what temperature should you cook at?


Everything you need to know about cooking a turkey this Christmas (Picture: Getty)

There is plenty to get worried about in the run-up to Christmas: presents, the tree, decorations, and most importantly, food.

If you’re in charge of cooking Christmas dinner, the stress of organising it all may make you wish it was January.

Let’s be real: we’re not all born with a sense of how many people a 9kg turkey will feed. But with this guide, you’ll soon get the hang of it.

As well as the ideal turkey size, you also have to consider what form you want the turkey to come in.

Do you want the centrepiece of all centrepieces with a whole turkey, or will a turkey crown suffice?

Here’s everything you need to consider.

What size whole turkey should I get?

Is a full turkey right for what you need? (Picture: Getty)

For the true Christmas traditionalist, getting a whole turkey is a no-brainer.

A whole turkey is ideal when you have a larger family or big appetites to satisfy. Also, is it really Christmas without leftovers for sandwiches?

The smallest turkeys – weighing 2kg and averaging about £10 when bought frozen – will serve between four to six people.

A 3kg to 4.5kg turkey will feed six people, which would be an average family Christmas dinner, and will set you back around £35.

From 4kg to 6kg will feed eight people, which may satisfy your family and their leftover demands.

From 6kg to 8kg will feed 12 people, but watch to make sure your oven can handle this size bird.

Between 8kg and 9.5 kg will feed 16 people. For this size bird, you will be paying around £50.

Keep in mind: the turkey will need to fit in your oven (Picture: Getty)

A 9.5 kg turkey will feed up to 20 people – but this is really for serious entertaining, and unsurprisingly you’ll need to check if one would even fit in your oven.

The pricing of turkeys depends greatly on all the add-ons and extras that are offered. Many places will sell pre-stuffed turkeys or a free-range selection which will obviously cause the price to rise.

For example, a free-range turkey weighing 6kg could (shockingly) set you back more than £100.

When deciding what size turkey to buy, make sure you take into account how many guests you will have. If there are lots of children, keep in mind that they have smaller appetites.

Additionally, the vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians in your life will not be tucking into the bird.

And if you know you want plenty of leftovers, then bring that into the mix when it comes to the all-important decision-making.

What size turkey crown should I get?

How much turkey does your Christmas dinner need? A crown might be a better option (Picture: Getty)

The turkey crown is exactly what you need if you think a mammoth whole turkey is far too much to handle.

You can get turkey crowns from 2kg to 3kg that will feed five people, or even smaller 1.25kg size if you are having a very small gathering.

A 3kg to 4kg turkey crown will feed nine people at your Christmas table.

Many supermarkets will offer turkey crowns that are pre-stuffed and glazed which may take even more stress out of your Christmas dinner.

Should you buy fresh or frozen turkey?

Frozen turkeys are better value, but if you are in search of a particular breed then go for fresh.

If you opt for frozen then you need to factor in thawing times, which are no joke.

Will you opt for fresh or frozen turkey? (Picture: Getty)

Here are a few known examples:

Weight: 2.25kg
Thaw in fridge 27 hour, or a cool room for 9 hours.

Weight: 3-3.5kg
Thaw in fridge 42 hours, or a cool room for 12 – 14 hours.

Weight: 4.5-5.5kg
Thaw in fridge 66 hours, or a cool room for 18 – 22 hours

Weight: 6.75-7.5kg
Thaw in fridge 90 hours, or thaw in cool room for 27 – 30 hours.

Of course, you could always buy a fresh turkey in advance, and freeze it for a few weeks before you prep your festive meal.

When and where to stuff your turkey

OK, so you’ve got your turkey (or crown) – and you’ve decided whether you want fresh or frozen.

Now, you need to think about the stuffing.

You can serve stuffing separately, or inside the turkey itself (Picture: Getty)

Fortunately, it can be prepared ahead of time. But do not insert it into the turkey until you are about to cook it.

You should only stuff the neck cavity of the turkey and never the body, as it will stop the turkey from cooking all the way through.

You can, however, fill the body with sprigs of fresh herbs and slices of lemon or onion so they can diffuse into the meat while cooking.

How long should you cook your turkey?

How long you cook your turkey really depends on the size.

A good estimate is to cook your bird for about 35 to 40 minutes per kg at 180°C/350°F/gas 4.

Cover the turkey in tin foil and put it on a baking tin/tray into a pre-heated oven. Check on the turkey every 20 minutes and baste it with juice from the bottom of the tin.

When the turkey is on its last 30 minutes, you need to remove the tinfoil to get that delicious, crispy skin.

For exact cooking times, it’s a good idea to consult your butcher – or the packaging.


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