The most important thing to remember when trying to cook the best turkey is to buy the best bird that you can afford. A large bird is very good value for money especially when you think about all those sandwiches from the leftovers.
Try to get your order in early at the butchers as this will ensure you get the type and size of bird that you want. Another thing to consider is whether the bird will fit in your fridge, so it makes sense to collect the fresh bird a day or two before you need it. If you have a bird that is frozen, make sure it is fully defrosted before you cook the bird.
Stuffing can be made a few days beforehand, and some people believe the earlier it's made, the better the bird will taste. This is even entirely up to you. However if you are going to use raw eggs in the stuffing then it is advisable to make it on the day. Always make sure that the stuffing is cold before it is put into the bird. Some people would not recommend stuffing the main cavity of the bird due to the risk of bacterial growth. Remember not to stuff the bird too tightly as it will expand as the bird cooks.
If you do not wish to stuff the bird then you may place within the cavity a half onion, half lemon and some fresh herbs. This will not only give the bird a great flavor but will also enhance the gravy as well.
The next thing to do is work out the weight of the bird as this will tell you how long it needs in the oven. All ovens are different so you need to find out if yours is fast or slow. You can get the weight of the bird from your butcher or you can use the weight written on the packaging. A good tip is to add the weight of the bird to the weight of the stuffing together. This will give you the total weight to calculate the oven roasting time.
To prepare the bird, place it ia roasting tin, rub with butter, season with salt and pepper and cover loosely with foil. The foil will allow the bird to go brown and at the same time will stop it form drying out. The foil should also be loose to allow for basting. Make sure the oven is set to max when the bird is put in, for large birds start with a high temperature and decrease it with time.
Using the approximate times given below, let the bird cook for half its roasting time, then begin to baste using a spoon. Do this at 20 minute intervals and at 10 minute intervals for the final half hour of cooking.
Roasting times for a turkey, and approximate times for serving.
4-5 kg: 3 hours at 200C / 400F / gas mark 6; start at 9, 10 or 11am to eat at 1, 2 or 3pm
5-6 kg: 3-4 hours at 200C / 400F / gas mark 6; start at 9, 10 or 11am to eat at 1:30, 2:30 or 3.30pm
6-7 kg: 30 minutes at 200C / 400F / gas mark 6, then 3 1/2 – 4 hours at 180C / 350F / gas mark 4; start at 8, 9 or 10am to eat at 1:30, 2:30 or 3:30 pm
8-9 kg: 30 minutes at 200C / 400F / gas mark 6, then 4 1/2 – 5 hours at 180C / 350F / gas mark 4; start at 7, 8 or 9am to eat at 1:30, 2:30 or 3:30 pm
To find out if the bird is fully cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. The skewer should come out clean and the juices should run clear. If your bird is not ready, return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.
When your turkey is cooked, allow it to rest for 30-60 minutes. This will give you some time to finish roasting the vegetables in the oven. Cover the turkey with foil and keep it in a warm place and add the drained juices from the pan to your gravy.