Roast Turkey has been a Christmas staple for hundreds of years.  Henry VIII was seen as being the first British king to eat roast turkey, but Edward VII made it a popular festive fashion, and it has been at the centre of a traditional family Christmas dinner since the 1950s. 

As the season approaches and we think about the Christmas shop, we consider what size bird to buy, how best to prepare it, roast it and everything else that goes with it.  Keep reading to find out our top tips to perfect the most important meal of the year.

Buying Your Bird

There are a few things to consider when buying your Christmas turkey such as do you buy fresh or frozen, what breed is best, you may want to consider the welfare of the meat and the size based on the number of people you will be feeding.

Fresh Or Frozen

Either is perfectly fine.  Frozen is great if you have space to store it and want to get ahead of the game.  You will need to bear in mind the defrosting times though; allow at least 4 hours for every 450g in the fridge or approximately 2 hours for every 450g in a cool room.

You can usually order fresh turkeys for collection just a few days before Christmas day.  Fresh birds will normally stay fresh in the fridge for two days.  Take the turkey out of the fridge an hour or so before cooking so it doesn't start cooking at a 'cold' temperature.


Not sure how big a turkey to buy? This depends on a few things.  Will you opt for a whole bird, a crown or a prepared joint?


  • Up to 6 people, 650g each. 
  • Up to 12 people, 600g each. 
  • Over 12 people, 550g each.


  • Up to 6 people, 500g each. 
  • Over 6 people, 400g each.


  • 250g each.

This should allow enough for the main event as well as some left overs for those Boxing Day sandwiches. 


Something else you may be aware of and would like to consider when purchasing your turkey is the welfare of the animals and how they were bred and raised.  

Here are a few categories that may appear on the labels:

  • Organic: Organic birds are usually slow-growing heritage breeds, they have lived for at least 80 days.  They are allowed to roam freely and are fed organic, non-GMO feed. They are bred in small flocks and are most likely to be dry plucked and hung.  No chemical sprays, artificial fertilisers, or antibiotics will have been used.

  • Free-range:These birds have free reign during the daytime, they are fed grain, live for at least 58 days and are kept in flocks of relatively low numbers.

  • Freedom Food Assured (RSPCA): There are three standards available: organic, free-range, and indoor. Farms must meet RSPCA standards for diet, housing, natural light, and the ability to express natural behaviour, amongst other things.

  • Red Tractor: Reared quickly, in large flocks and farmed indoors. The red tractor stamp means the meat is traceable to inspected farms in the UK and produced to specified standards.

  • Traditional free-range: Free-range, slow growing heritage breeds that are fed a high-cereal diet with no antibiotics or additives. Generally bred in small flock sizes and are likely to be dry plucked and hung.


Some turkey breeds grow more slowly and have smaller breasts compared to the common white. The most common turkey in the UK is the Broad-breasted white – bred to put on the most breast meat in the shortest amount of time. This results in a top-heavy bird with a breast that is so large it prevents them from being able to fly or reproduce naturally.  Heritage birds tend to be more like wild birds.  They grow and mature slower, resulting in a dense texture.

Breeds to look out for include:

  • Bronze – The Standard Bronze is lighter and more lustrous than the Broad-breasted Bronze.  It boasts a large size, plump breast and juicy legs. 
  • Norfolk Black – Gamier than the Bronze, the Norfolk black has a longer, narrower breast with fine-grained white meat.  Tends to be lighter than the Bronze but with a thicker layer of fat.
  • Bourbon Red – Offers a distinguished nutty flavour and has a more pink coloured flesh with a fairly low fat cover.
  • Narragansett – A heritage turkey that is most similar to wild breeds, it has longer legs and a much higher breast bone.

Preparing Your Turkey

Lots of people may have different opinions or ideas about how best to prepare and stuff the turkey ready for roasting.  For us it’s all about flavour and keeping the meat moist.  It’s important to let your bird sit out of the fridge for at least an hour to come up to room temperature before you cook it so that it doesn’t go into shock when you put it into the oven.  The result is a juicier meat.

  • Trussing - Whilst trussing gives a neat shape, it keeps the legs close to the body of the bird which can prevent drying out but can increase cooking time.  By cutting the string to let the legs hang loose will help it to cook more evenly.
  • Stuffing - If you stuff your turkey, be aware that a stuffed cavity will add to your cooking time.  You could just stuff the neck end or under the skin on the breast.  This will all add flavour to your meat.  If you choose to cook your stuffing separately you could place herbs, onions, garlic bulbs and a lemon inside the cavity to infuse flavour.
  • Butter & Bacon - Combine some chopped herbs and your choice of seasonings with some softened butter.  You can use this flavoured butter to coat the skin of the turkey and rub underneath the skin directly on the breast.  Cover the bird with strips of streaky bacon.  Both the butter and bacon will offer moisture and flavour.


Firstly, make sure the turkey will fit in your oven! If not, you can remove the legs and roast them separately.  To calculate the cooking time, you may need to weigh your stuffed and fully prepared turkey.

Whole turkeys should be roasted for approximately 40 mins per kilo at 180 degrees C.  Cover the turkey loosely with foil, and remove the foil 30 mins to an hour before the end of cooking to allow the turkey skin and bacon to brown and crisp (the bigger the bird, the longer the time). 

Use a turkey baster to baste the turkey regularly throughout the cooking time, up to every 30 minutes to add moisture back to the meat.  Try to do this as quickly as possible so as not to lose heat from the oven or let the turkey cool down.

To ensure your turkey is ready at the end of the cooking time, stick a metal skewer into the thickest part of the leg - if the juice that runs out is clear, it is fully cooked.  Alternatively, use a meat thermometer with a probe and check it has reached an internal temperature of at least 74 degrees C.

When you take the turkey out of the oven, it needs to rest.   This is incredibly important and should be covered loosely with foil and put somewhere warm for at least 45 minutes.  Larger birds can rest for up to 2 hours and the meat will stay perfectly warm.  This gives you plenty of oven space and time for pigs in blankets and roast potatoes.

Don't Forget The Roasties!

Top tips for fabulous roast potatoes: 

  • Par-boil them for 10 minutes and drain
  • Leave the potatoes to steam dry for 5 minutes this allows excess moisture to escape and will make them extra crispy
  • Shake the potatoes in the pan to rough up the edges to create a crispy edge with a fluffy inside.
  • When you put them into the roasting dish the fat must be really hot - almost smoking.
  • Turn them carefully in the dish to coat them with the oil and roast them for 40 minutes at 200 degrees C.
  • Turn them during cooking for an evenly cooked and golden coating.

Well, that’s it, our top tips for roasting the Christmas turkey.  All you need to do now is choose your turkey and get ready for the big day and when it comes around, we hope you are instilled with the knowledge to deliver the best Christmas dinner ever!