The Perfect Turkey

The chances are, most of you will be having turkey for lunch this coming Christmas. There will be those having goose, or perhaps ham or beef, but for the majority of us, turkey is the Christmas meat of choice.

We do, however, seem to have something of a love hate relationship with the festive bird. Some people consider it to be a “glorified chicken”, whilst others find it “intolerably dry”, or “boring”. To help you get the best out of your turkey this Christmas, we spoke to our friends at Bodnant Welsh Food for their advice.

Tansy Rogerson told us how Bodnant Welsh Food make sure their customers will be satisfied with their Christmas roast. “When visitors come into buy a free range Turkey from us, the team in the butchery ask an assortment of questions to ensure that the customer gets exactly what they need. The questions include finding out if the customer has a preference for darker or light meat as this will decide if they would like a Black Turkey or a bonze turkey. Generally most go for the Bronze turkey as that has more flavour and is generally more juicy.

“The team will also ask how many people it will serve, as they work to 8-10oz per person per serving and this will help decide on the size of the turkey. One of the other questions is whether they would like it with bones or without. The more information the customer has to offer the butcher team, the more they will leave the shop happy and with the turkey they want.”

If you’re looking for a wine to serve with your turkey, White Castle Vineyard in Monmouthshire recommend “Phoenix”, a dry delicate white wine made from Phoenix grapes. The wine has floral aromas of elderflower and ripe citrus fruits on the palate, and should complement the most lavish of Christmas Dinners. The wine is priced at £15 per bottle.

Chris Neaum, Cookery School Manager at Bodnant Welsh Food suggests this foolproof method for roasting a stuffed or unstuffed turkey.

Prep Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 6- to 24-pound dressed free range turkey from Bodnant Butchers, fresh or frozen (allow 1 pound per serving for birds 12 pounds or under)
  • Halen Mon salt and ground pepper
  • Dried herbs and spices of choice: sage, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder
  • Dressing (stuffing) of choice, optional
  • Vegetable oil
  • Turkey Gravy
  • Preparation:

    • To refrigerate fresh turkey:
      • A whole turkey purchased fresh (not frozen) may safely be refrigerated up to 2 days before roasting
    • To prepare the turkey for roasting:
      • Do not stuff the turkey until immediately before roasting. When ready to roast the turkey, rinse the outside and cavities of the bird under cold, running water. Cut away and discard any fat remaining on the bird.
      • Place the turkey on several layers of paper towels to drain.
      • Using additional paper towels, pat the outside and cavities dry. Sprinkle cavity liberally with salt and pepper.
      • To stuff the turkey, stand the bird on its tail end in a large bowl; using a tablespoon, stuff the neck cavity loosely with dressing. Pull the neck skin over the dressing and fasten it to the body with a poultry skewer. Turn the bird and place the neck end in the bowl; stuff the body cavity loosely with dressing. It is important to stuff the dressing fairly loosely in the bird because dressing expands during cooking.
      • Remove the turkey from the bowl and lay the bird, breast side up, on a piece of waxed paper or directly on a clean work surface. Pull the legs close to the body and tie the ends together with cotton string. If the tail has been left on the bird, tie the legs to the tail to partially close the body cavity. Some frozen turkeys are packed with a metal clamp to secure the legs, in which case it is not necessary to tie the legs with string. Fold the wings under the bird to provide a platform for roasting.
      • Place the turkey, breast side up, on a wire rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush all the exposed surfaces with vegetable oil. Sprinkle liberally with your choice of herbs, spices, salt, and pepper. Insert a meat thermometer into one of the inner thigh areas near the breast, making certain the tip of the thermometer is not touching bone. A standard meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the thigh at the time the turkey is placed in the oven for roasting, is considered a more reliable means of determining doneness. Also, a standard meat thermometer makes it possible to know how close the turkey is to being done – an aid in timing preparation of the remainder of the meal.
    • To roast the turkey:
      • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
      • Cover the turkey loosely with extra-heavy aluminium foil, leaving space between the bird and the foil. Lightly tuck the foil around the front, back, and sides of the bird. Do not add water to the pan. Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees F. and the juices run clear.
      • The roasting time may vary up to 30 minutes, depending upon the bird and the oven. Use the meat thermometer to check the temperature of the dressing. The centre of the dressing inside the bird (or in a separate baking dish) must reach a temperature of 83 degrees Celsius. for food safety.
      • Remove the aluminium foil about 30 minutes before the turkey is done to complete the browning of the bird.
      • When done, remove the turkey from the oven and place it on a serving platter or carving board; cover loosely with aluminum foil and let it stand 10 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, make the turkey gravy. Remove all the dressing from the neck and body cavities before carving the turkey. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat and pass at the table.
      • To roast unstuffed turkey:
      • Follow the instructions above, omitting the dressing (stuffing). Roast the turkey until the meat thermometer reaches 83 degrees Celsius.

      Traditional turkey side dishes include roast and mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.

      Calculate 3/4 to 1 pound turkey serving per guest.