Cooking a Christmas dinner can be a nerve-wracking experience... but don't worry - just a bit of preparation and a sprinkling of knowledge can help ensure you get the best possible meal out of your Christmas favourites.
Of course, no Christmas dinner is complete without stuffing and a good selection of vegetables. And if you work with what's in season you can find a wide variety of British produce to go with your Christmas dinner.
Visit your local farm shop or farmers market for a delicious range... and why not add a lovely British wine to the mix?
Choosing the right bird
When thinking about the perfect Christmas dinner the first step to success is choosing the right bird.
Choose a size which is enough for you and your guests. Many people order a bird which is too large and takes longer to cook. Ideally, leftovers should be just that. A bird size of 12lbs feeds about ten people.
The weights below will give you plenty on Christmas Day and enough for some inventive cooking in the days that follow:
Make a note of the weight as you will need this to calculate the cooking time.
Preparation and cooking times
When cooking your Christmas turkey the key is good preparation and getting the timing right. Follow our guidelines for the perfect turkey dinner.
- For a bird weighing 5-7kg, allow 30 minutes per kg. For example: 6kg = 180mins
- For every additional kilo, above 7kg, allow 20 minutes per kilo. For example: 9kg turkey = 7kg x 30 mins plus 2kg x 20 mins = 250 mins.
REMEMBER: If the turkey is stuffed inside, calculate the cooking time based on the total weight of bird and stuffing. Weigh the stuffing separately, as few domestic scales or balances can cope with huge weights.
Six steps to preparing the perfect Christmas dinner:
- Remove your bird from the fridge about two hours before cooking so it is at room temperature for stuffing. To stuff your bird use your hands to push some of the stuffing into the neck end. Put the remainder in the body cavity.
- Check the weight of your turkey and calculate your cooking times. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F) in a conventional oven, or 160°C (320°F) in a fan oven. Oven temperatures vary so check your manufacturer's handbook.
- Mix some freshly chopped herbs with butter and apply this to the turkey breast.
- Cover your bird loosely in foil and place in a roasting tin. When your oven is up to temperature put the turkey on the bottom shelf. You could try putting it upside down on its breast, so the juices from the back and legs run into the drier breast meat and keep it moist. Cooking a turkey uncovered and upside down will reduce the cooking time, so check on things with 30-40 minutes to go.
- Regularly baste to retain moisture and remove the foil for the last 40 minutes of cooking, so the skin turns a golden brown.
- Is it cooked? Pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. If the juices run golden and clear it is ready, if they run pink continue cooking. Once fully cooked, allow excess juice to run out of the turkey then carefully transfer to a warm dish. Allow to rest for around 30 minutes before carving.
You will need a strong, sharp knife. All directions are for whole birds:
- Holding the wing by the tip, cut it at the mid section. Repeat with the other wing.
- Holding the leg by the end knuckle, cut through the skin between the leg and the body then twist off. Repeat with the other leg.
- Using knife’s tip cut along the breast bone, keeping the knife close to the bone, until the breast is removed. Repeat steps 1-3 for the other side of the bird.
- Slice the breast to suit.
- Slice dark meat from leg and wing.
- Arrange the meat on a platter and pour the hot cooking juices over the sliced meat. Allow the meat a few moments to soak up all the lovely juices before serving.
Our favourite Christmas recipes
Alternative Christmas meats
Don't fancy turkey? Break away from tradition and use another British meat for your Christmas meal.