As a South African expat, the concept of a roast turkey on Christmas day is somewhat unusual, isn’t it? While television has presented the idea of foreigners digging into a big roast turkey on Christmas for many years, the reality is that we have never really jumped on board with the whole roast turkey Christmas dinner idea in SA. And while that’s okay, it might put you in a bit of an uncomfortable position when spending Christmas in a new country and being expected to whip up that country’s traditional feast. If you don’t know how to cook turkey, you’re going to need a good Christmas-proof roast turkey recipe.
Christmas Turkey Roast
Tips from a chef:
Roll Up Your Sleeves & Let’s Get Started on a Traditional Christmas Turkey Roast
What you need for the roast turkey:
- Large turkey with skin on (around 6kg, fully defrosted and rinsed)
- 3 cloves of garlic each cut into chunks
- 3 slices of lemon divided
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- 6 sprigs of rosemary
- 1/2 a cup of olive oil
What you need for the herb butter:
- 125g of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme)
- Salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
- First you need to preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and set your oven shelf to the lowest setting within the oven.
- In a bowl, combine the herb and butter ingredients well. Keep half of the butter mixture in the fridge – you will need this later.
- Grab a large roasting pan,line it with foil and spread half of the garlic chunks around on top of the foil.
- Spread 4 sprigs of thyme and rosemary as well as half of the olive oil and 1 slice of lemon on the foil as well.
- Now, pat the turkey down with kitchen towels to ensure that it is dry.
- Stuff the other half of the garlic chunks, a slice of lemon and a squeeze of lemon from the remaining slice, herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil into the turkey.
- Melt the butter and rub it all over the outside of the turkey. This will contribute to a crispy skin.
- Season the turkey generously with salt and pepper and then place it breast-side down on top of the tin foil.
- Drizzle the remaining oil over the turkey.
- How long does it take to cook a turkey? Quite long – that’s the truth – so be prepared. Leave the turkey uncovered and roast for around 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your chosen turkey.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the heat to 165 degrees Celsius.
- Then, turn the turkey over so that it is breast-side up and baste it generously with the juices in the roasting pan.
- Now is the time to grab the reserved herb butter. Using the back of a spoon, spread it all over the top of the turkey and then pour any and all juices all over the turkey.
- Return the turkey to the oven and roast for a further hour before removing it and smearing it in the remaining butter.
- Roast for a further 30 minutes, take it out of the oven, baste again, and then return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.
- If you think the turkey is browning too quickly before it is cooking through, loosely lay tin foil over the turkey.
- If you want extra crispy skin, grill the turkey uncovered for around 5 to 10 minutes. While doing this, make sure that you keep a very close eye on the turkey as it could very easily burn at this stage.
- Once you are happy with the brownness and crispiness of the skin, create a tent over the turkey with foil and allow it to rest for at least half an hour before carving and serving.
To make a lovely rich gravy for serving, use 2 and a 1/2 cups of the liquid from the roasting pan and some stock to create it. Strain your gravy before serving so that it is smooth and creamy.
If you want to make the tastiest roast potatoes, you can also use some of the liquid in the roasting pan with some of the left over liquid. Serve with a variety of veggies, salads, and fresh home-made bread and butter. It’s delicious!
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