In years gone by, when winters were reliably cold poultry producers could get away plucking their turkeys mid December and hanging them in the barn. Then, a couple of days before Christmas the birds would be drawn and delivered out to the customers. Producers would have to just hope the temperature was cold enough to prevent deterioration, but not so cold that the bird froze solid and became impossible to butcher! For many reasons this is not how we do it these days. We still practice the important artisan tradition of game hanging our turkeys prior to butchery but we have the piece of mind that the fridge gives us control. Game hanging allows the meat to become tenderer and results in a greater depth of flavour. It can only be done if the birds are dry plucked and it requires a VERY big fridge to hold them for the week but it is this vital stage that sets the traditional turkey producer apart from the super market offering.
I know most people have a traditional way of cooking the Christmas turkey that’s practiced every year, but the topic of cooking methods is normal discussion at most of the turkey meetings I attend and producers all tend to recommend the same few tips so I thought I’d share them with you.
A whole bird will taste better than a crown or breast joint as the carcass contains the fats and juices
Start with the best turkey you can, check its British and ideally free range. A bird from a farm or butcher should be grown to maturity and game hung – not many supermarkets offer this type of turkey so always carefully check labeling. A turkey that has reached full maturity will have much more fat and stay moist.
Cook your turkey breast side down for at least the first half of the cooking time. The fat is on the back of a turkey so this will drain down through the leaner breast meat.
Always use a meat thermometer, it takes the guess work out and prevents under and over cooking. Thermometers should read 70c in the thickest parts. Any hotter and you are just drying your turkey out.
Rest your turkey for at least half and hour and then carve the breast off as one piece before slicing.
For further tips there is a cooking video on the Lydiard Turkeys web site.
Happy Christmas and remember breast side down and use that thermometer!