Perfect Roast Turkey

Perfect Roast Turkey

It is so important when preparing and cooking your turkey, whether for Christmas or for your Sunday lunch, that , above all, you cook the turkey safely . Make sure you are cooking your turkey with this simple tried and tested guide. I developed these tables and cooking instructions and have used both for years for perfect roast turkey every time. 

Step 1 for Perfect Roast Turkey – Know Your Weights and Cooking Times

First, you need to know the precise weight of your turkey (once defrosted if previously frozen) and decide whether stuffed or not.

Please Note: for safety never place stuffing in the cavity, the stuffing will not cook and neither will the cavity Stuffing must be placed between the breast and the skin. Or, simply cook the stuffing separately.

Once you know the weight and stuffed or unstuffed use one of these tables below to ascertain the cooking times.

The first stage of cooking, the temperature is higher for the first 30 minutes then reduced for the major part of cooking.

Lowering the temperature and cooking more gently means the heat can permeate through the bird whilst keeping it moist. The final 30 minutes, raising the temperature to finish the cooking, and importantly, to crisp up the skin.

Turkey Cooking Times for Stuffed Turkey

Oven Ready Size Starting Temperature Roasting Temperature Browning Temperature
    220° C/ Gas 7   160° C/ Gas 3   220° C/ Gas 7
 3.6 – 5.2 kg   30 mins   2 1/2 – 3 hours   about 30 mins
5.4 – 6.4kg   40 mins   3 – 3 1/2 hours   about 30 mins
6.75 – 9kg   40 mins   3 1/2 – 4 1/2 hours   about 30 mins


Turkey Cooking Times for Unstuffed Turkey

Oven Ready Size Starting Temperature Roasting Temperature Browning Temperature
   425° F/ 220° C/ Gas 7  325° F/ 160° C/ Gas 3  425° F/ 220° C/ Gas 7
3.6 – 5-2 kg   30 mins  2 1/4 – 2 3/4 hours  about 30 mins
 5.4 – 6.4 kg   40 mins  2-3/4 – 3 1/4 hours  about 30 mins
6.75 –  9.0 kg   40 mins  3 1/4 – 4 1/4 hours  about 30 mins


Step 2 for Perfect Roast Turkey – How to Cook the Turkey

A good quality bird will need little more than butter, a little salt and a loose covering of foil for cooking. 

First, and a very important tip, always cook the bird from room temperature, never straight from the fridge or the inside of the bird will be very cold and take much longer to cook. 

Pat the room temperature bird with kitchen paper. Smear the breasts and legs with a thin layer of butter. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Lay the turkey on a trivet or rack in a large roasting tin.  Cover with a large sheet of aluminium foil and tuck loosely under the bird. Make sure the foil is not stuck to the skin of the turkey. 

Cook in the middle of the oven to the timings for your weight of the turkey. 

For the last thirty minutes remove the foil to crisp the skin. 

To test doneness, a thermometer between the thickest part of the leg and breast. A temperature of 80°C and above is needed. No thermometer? Pierce in the same place with a skewer, the juices of the turkey should run clear, no blood!

Finally. Rest the turkey before carving. I would allow an hour if you can. Cover the turkey with foil and a tea towel and leave in the kitchen while you make the gravy.



Credit: © Elaine Lemm