The most common pitfalls of poultry
It’s the centrepiece of Christmas dinners across the country – that majestic, golden, succulent bird, the turkey. But despite the best efforts of TV chefs, we lose sleep, quake in terror and come out in a cold sweat at the thought of cooking this festive dish. Take heart however, as we help you avoid the pitfalls of poultry, stop you flapping and prevent you from committing culinary crimes against the turkey.
1. You buy the wrong size bird
The trick here is to make sure you get a turkey big enough to feed your guests and fit in the oven. While no one likes a paltry festive feast, neither do you want a bird so big that it requires the whole family to lift it. As a general rule, a 2kg bird will be enough for four people with extras for that turkey sandwich.
2. You forget to thaw out a frozen bird
Serving your guests properly cooked food should be a top priority. Start by thawing out thoroughly, bearing in mind this can take 48 hours for a large bird. It’s best to thaw in the fridge or a cold room, and not advisable to stick it in a bucket of cold water and hope for the best because you’re running behind schedule and panicking.
3. You put a wet bird in the oven
You want a lovely, golden, crispy skin when you triumphantly place your perfectly cooked bird centre stage. Make sure you dry the turkey (inside and out) with kitchen paper before you start cooking, as extra moisture stops the skin browning and crisping.
4. You don’t baste the bird
Dribbling the roasting tin juices over the turkey as it cooks helps add flavour to the bird and keeps the meat moist and tender with fat. Make sure you do this every half an hour or so and you’ll get a lovely even cook.
5. You incinerate the bird
There is a fine line between subjecting your guests to dangerously raw poultry and something that tastes like it’s been cooked by a flame-thrower. And this balancing act is brought about by careful checking: insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh and, if the juices run clear, it’s done. Invest in a meat thermometer to be absolutely sure of a winning roast.
6. Forgetting to rest
We’re not talking about you, unfortunately – it’s the bird that needs to sit for a while before the feasting begins. It’s tempting to overlook this particular stage – surely you want it hot from the oven, right? Wrong. During resting, the flesh firms up and absorbs all the juices, which keeps it lovely and moist during carving.
7. You destroy the bird when carving
So you’ve thawed and roasted perfectly and your bronzed beauty is just waiting to be carved. Don’t fall at the final hurdle with blunt knives and no clue how to serve it – give your bird some dignity and check out how to master the vital art of carving.