Christmas Roast Turkey

Christmas TurkeyI have to give nearly full credit to Nigella Lawson for this roast turkey brining method. Though when brining chicken for Southern Fried Chicken (recipe still to come) I boil the spicy brine first to release more flavour. After trying it for the turkey I can confirm the it works. Don’t worry about it if you’re stuck for time though, the cold brine is lovely too.

Everyone always freaks out about how long to roast the turkey for, and with good reason. The last thing anyone wants for Christmas is food poisoning. But you really shouldn’t rely on internet resources because they way overestimate the cooking time for roast turkey. Instead, get yourself a reed thermometer or a meat thermometer and check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh. As long as it’s 75 degrees celsius or 165 Fahrenheit then it’s safe to eat. Use internet times as a very loose suggestion but I’d start checking the temperature every time you baste from about an hour and a half before the internet says it should be done.

SIDENOTE: I realise the irony of advising you on the internet to not listen to internet advice.

What I didn’t do, and should have done, is tent the turkey loosely in foil once it reached the desired brownness. This will slow the browning and I feel like I may have let mine go a little browner than preferable. It doesn’t matter all that much as it will still be juicy and flavoursome as long as the internal temp doesn’t go too far above 75C/165F.

Christmas Roast Turkey


  • 4 tbsp peppercorns
  • 10 cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 7 L cold water
  • 250 g salt
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 160 g maple syrup
  • 160 g honey
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 50 g ginger, sliced
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 2 oranges, halved
  • 1 fresh turkey
  • 200 g butter


  1. On Christmas Eve, in a large, dry saucepan toast the peppercorns for a few minutes over a high heat until aromatic. Then add the cinnamon stick, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves. Stir and allow to toast for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add 1 litre of water, the salt, sugar, maple syrup, honey, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, ginger and onions. Squeeze in the oranges and add the remaining halves. Stir well and bring to the boil. Once boiling, allow to simmer for half an hour then take off the heat and allow to come to room temperature.
  3. Then add the turkey to a large bucket and pour over the cooled brine followed by 6 litres of water. If the turkey isn’t completely submerged then turn it over so it is breast-side down. Allow to steep in the brine overnight.
  4. On Christmas Morning, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a large baking tray (about 2 inches deep) with thickly sliced onions. Remove the turkey from the brine and place it breast-side up on the onions.
  5. Pat dry with paper towels. Separate the skin from the breasts by inserting a tablespoon between them and put a 50g knob of butter between the skin and each breast.
  6. Now rub another 100g of butter into the breasts, legs and wings and transfer to the oven.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes then turn the heat down to 180. Baste the turkey every 20 minutes after the first hour. Once the turkey has an internal temperature of 75 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit, take it out, cover it in tin foil and a few tea towels and let it rest for an hour while you roast the accompaniments.
  8. Carve and serve.
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