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Christmas Kitchen tips, buying and cooking fresh and frozen turkeys etc., cooking times and important things to remember

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cooked turkey on plate




This should be put into your freezer as quickly as possible after purchase.  It
can be kept for up to six months after which time it will lose some of it’s flavour and

Birds should not be cooked from frozen, it is imperative the bird is thoroughly
defrosted before cooking. The turkey should be defrosted in the fridge although this does
take longer. Place it on the bottom shelf and as this ensures it cannot drip onto any
other foods. Allow at least 24 hours defrosting for every 4/5 lbs (2/2½ kg) of weight.

To check it is fully defrosted make sure there are no ice crystals inside, the body is
soft and the legs and wings move freely.


This should be bought as late as possible as it should be cooked within two days of
purchase.  It should be stored in the fridge but be careful it does not contaminate
other food.

At this time of year fridges are usually well stock and room can be a problem.  If
you own a summer cool box this can be used to store vegetables and drinks (with the
exception of dairy products, fruit juices etc.). Alternatively a container of cold water
can be used to store unopened bottles of drink.


It is imperative poultry is cooked properly in order to kill the bacteria which causes
food poisoning. To check if it is fully cooked pierce the thickest part of the leg and the
juices should run clear – any sign of pink shows it is not cooked properly. If you have a
meat thermometer or a temperature probe check that the internal temperature reaches 72ºC.
Temperature and time settings for cooking vary from oven to oven.

The following are approximate cooking times for turkeys in an oven, which is at 180ºC
/ 350ºF / gas mark 4:

Size of Turkey

Stuffed Turkey

Unstuffed Turkey
8-12 lbs / 3.5 – 5.5kg

3 – 3 ½ hours

2 ¾ – 3 hours

12-14 lbs / 5.5 – 6.5 kg

3 ½ -4 hours

3 – 3 ¾ hours

14-18 lbs / 6.5 – 8kg

4- 4 ¼ hours

3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hours

18-20 lbs / 8 – 9kg

4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hours

4 ¼ – 4 ½ hours

20-24 lbs / 9 – 11kg

4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hours

4 ½ – 5 hours

The modern way of thinking seems to be it is best not to stuff the
cavity of the bird but to cook the stuffing separately, especially if you are likely to
have some left over for another day.  Not only does it cook better without stuffing
but it also keeps better afterwards.  If you are determined to stuff the bird don’t
overstuff and use the neck cavity only.  You will need to allow extra cooking time of
approximately 10-15 minutes per lb/450g.

Any leftover meat should be taken off the bone and placed in a shallow dish and
refrigerated.  It should be eaten within two days.  When reheating ensure it is
hot right through (72 deg).  It can be used for making  Turkey pies or pasties
but these should be prepared within 2 days, however, once made can be frozen up to 6


  • Cooked food that was frozen and then defrosted should not be refrozen

  • Remember you should reheat food only once as lukewarm food is perfect for fast growing

  • Leftover gravy should be re-boiled and eaten within 2 days.
  • Check use-by dates in shops and pay particular attention to perishable goods such as
    vacuum packed smoked salmon or ham and dairy products.

  • Store food requiring refrigeration quickly after purchase and do not overstuff your

  • Remember fridges should be kept below 5ºC and freezers below -18ºC.

  • Store raw meat, including turkey, on the bottom shelf of the fridge and do not let other
    food come into contact with raw meat or fish or unwashed vegetables





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