Turkey Cooking Guide

Here's everything you need to know about preparing and roasting a turkey, how to carve it and a fail-safe time-plan for a wonderful festive meal

Preparing the turkey

Prep in advance

Take your turkey out of the fridge about 30 minutes before preparing, to bring it up to room temperature. Before cooking, remove the wishbone to make carving easier later.

Use up the giblets

Every Waitrose whole turkey comes with giblets. Remove these before cooking but don’t throw away – they make fantastic turkey stock to make your own gravy.

Stuffing the turkey

If stuffing, with traditional sausage meat or similar, carefully fill the neck end, being careful not to tear the skin. Use a couple of cocktail sticks to secure any loose skin when finished. Remember to weigh the bird after it’s been stuffed for accurate cooking times.

You can also stuff the turkey cavity with flavour – bay leaves, herbs, citrus fruit, and onion. As the bird roasts, these will soften and release lots of steam to keep the bird moist.

View stuffing recipes

Get ahead with your accompaniments

You can also get ahead by making as much as you can and freeze or refrigerate in advance. Take a look at our easy to prepare recipes for Christmas stuffing, sauces and sides.

Cooking the turkey

1. Covering the bird

Place the turkey in a roasting tin. For crispy, golden skin, brush all over with melted butter. Cover with a large sheet of foil and secure around the rim of the tin to trap in the steam and keep the bird moist. It's now ready for the oven.

2. Setting the temperature

It's best to follow the turkey’s cooking instructions, but as a general rule, cook in a 180°C (160°C fan, gas mark 4) preheated oven for 35 minutes per kg (including stuffing).

About 15 minutes before the end of its cooking time, remove the foil to help the skin crisp.

3. Test if it's cooked

To test if a turkey is cooked, insert a small skewer into the thickest part of the thigh and see if the juices run clear. If there’s any pinkness, return to the oven and check every 15 minutes. Or if using a meat thermometer; the temperature needs to read 70°C when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.

4. Allow time to rest

This is very important to allow the meat to relax, stay tender and retain its juices. Cover with buttered aluminium foil and a tea towel, leave to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes up to the advised 1.5 hours. Don’t worry about the turkey going cold as it will stay warm enough when covered, and will still eat perfectly when served with piping hot gravy.

Carving the turkey

Once the bird is well rested, follow our simple carving guide to get the most out of your Christmas turkey. You'll need a sharp, long-bladed carving knife for the best results.

How to carve a turkey

Christmas Lunch Timeplan

Are you in charge of cooking the turkey this year? Follow our simple guide with step-by-step instructions for getting your feast on the table in time for lunch. These timings are based on a 4kg whole turkey to serve 6-8 people at approximately 2pm

9:30am

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan, gas mark 4).

Take the turkey out of the fridge and add your stuffing if using. 

10:00am

Weigh turkey to calculate your exact cooking time.

10:15am

Cover the turkey loosely with foil, and put in the oven, breast-side down.

11:50am

Remove the foil from the turkey and turn the bird over to brown the skin.

Baste with the juices, put back in oven.

12:50pm

Check if turkey is cooked, then remove turkey from the oven and transfer to a large board or plate, cover tightly with foil and tea towels to keep warm.

Increase oven temperature to 200°C (180°C fan, gas mark 6).

Preheat fat for potatoes in oven. Parboil potatoes.

1.00pm

Toss potatoes in the hot fat and put in oven on the top shelf.

Make gravy, if not already done.

1.15pm

Put carrots and parsnips in the oven to roast.

Serve starter, if having.

1.25pm

Put pigs in blankets and stuffing in the oven.

1.40pm

Reheat ready-made red cabbage.

1.50pm

Cook Brussels sprouts.

Reheat gravy, adding the turkey juices from the tin.

Heat up bread sauce.

Transfer sides and sauces to serving dishes.

2.00pm

Take turkey and all the trimmings to the table and enjoy your fabulous feast.