The really useful turkey roasting guide

Avoid pound based roasting times

Now that turkeys in the UK are sold in metric weights (i.e. kilograms), it makes sense to calculate roasting times based on minutes per kilogram. Unfortunately many turkey suppliers have not bothered to give proper metric-based roasting times and quote roasting in 'minutes per lb/450 g'.

Turkey label

This is unfriendly to the consumer who either needs to convert the labelled weight in kilograms to pounds with a calculator or has to reweigh the bird in imperial. As turkeys are often too heavy for kitchen scales it is difficult for consumers to reweigh birds to get the imperial weight – unless they use bathroom scales:

Bathroom scales

Not a hygienic way to weigh a turkey!

Using 40 minutes per kilogram is easy!

So, the UKMA recommends a roasting time of 40 minutes per kg at 190 °C, Gas 5.

The weight label in the example given earlier (8.0 kg) shows that the bird would require 8 × 40 minutes i.e. 5 h 20 min.

If the weight had been, for example 6.7 kg, the calculation would be 6.7 x 40 min = 268 min, which you could round to 270 min, or four and a half hours.

Other tips for a perfect roast turkey on Christmas Day

  • Check your oven is large enough if you intend cooking a big bird, and buy a special turkey roasting pan.
  • Turkeys are heavy so take care when lifting in and out of the oven.
  • Smear the breasts with olive oil or softened butter and protect the breast with butter papers or foil. Alternatively, work your hands between the skin and flesh of the breasts and slide in large wedges of soft Brie.
  • For a tasty attractive finish sprinkle the turkey with ground paprika and crushed thyme before cooking.
  • If you have bought a frozen bird, do make sure it is well defrosted first. Check by putting your hand inside the body cavity to see if there are any ice crystals left.
  • Smaller turkeys (4 to 6 kg) take about 24 hours to defrost in a cool place (around 18 °C), larger birds of 9 kg and more take up to 48 hours.
  • For hygiene reasons, don't stuff the body cavity. Instead lift the neck flap and press your stuffing up against the wishbone.
  • Check the meat is cooked by parting the skin between the leg and breast. If it is still a little pink then allow an extra 20 minutes on top of your calculated time. Juices should run clear, not pink.
  • Never carve a bird straight from the oven. Allow it to stand for at least 20 minutes. It won't lose heat if you cover it loosely with a foil 'tent'. This also allows you to get your roast potatoes nice and crisp.
  • Chill leftover turkey as soon as it is cold and serve within 3 days. If serving hot in a sauce or as a curry, then reheat until piping hot.