Roast turkey

Roast turkey

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy

If possible, buy a fresh turkey within a day or two of cooking. Take the giblets out of the cavity and store the bird and giblets separately in the fridge, removing the bird at least an hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Calculate the cooking time, adding the weight of your stuffing to the weight of the bird. The roasting time is affected by various factors, including your oven, the shape of the bird and the temperature it is at when it goes into the oven. Plan the timing so that the bird will be ready 30 minutes before you are eating. This will give you some leeway, and allows time to make the gravy and finish roasting the potatoes while the turkey rests.


Quantity Ingredient
1 turkey, about 5.35 kg, with giblets
1 glass white wine
150ml water
170g butter
freshly ground black pepper

For the gravy

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 onion
2 bay leaves
parsley stalks
6 black peppercorns
500ml Chicken and veal stock
40g plain flour

For the stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
2 onions
60g butter
200g vacuum-packed, cooked, peeled chestnuts
3 celery sticks
1/2 small bunch parsley
1 turkey liver
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
freshly grated nutmeg


  1. To prepare the stock for the gravy, remove the wishbone from the turkey. Put the giblets, except the liver, into a saucepan with the neck. (The liver is used to flavour the stuffing; it would make the gravy bitter.) Peel and slice the onion and add to the saucepan with the bay leaves, parsley stalks and peppercorns. Add enough water to cover and bring to a simmer over a low to medium heat. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour, then strain through a fine sieve, discarding the vegetables.
  2. To make the stuffing, halve, peel and finely dice the onions. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, add the onions, cover and sweat until very soft and translucent. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C. Roughly chop the chestnuts. De-string and finely chop the celery and finely chop enough parsley leaves to give you 1–2 tablespoons. Prepare the turkey liver (as for chicken livers) and finely chop. Add the chestnuts, celery, parsley and liver to the cooled onions. Add the breadcrumbs and plenty of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add enough beaten egg to just bind the mixture.
  4. Push the stuffing into the neck end of the turkey, making sure the breast is well plumped. Draw the skin flap down to cover the stuffing and secure with a skewer. Season the turkey well with salt and pepper and place it in a large roasting tin. Pour the wine and water into the bottom of the tin.
  5. Melt the butter in a small pan and place a muslin cloth, large enough to cover the whole turkey, in the melted butter; soak the muslin until all the butter has been absorbed. Completely cover the turkey with the buttered muslin, tucking the ends down the sides of the turkey inside the tin. Roast the bird for the calculated time. Add a splash of water to the tin if the juices look like they may evaporate and burn during the cooking time.
  6. Check the turkey is cooked by piercing the thigh with a skewer to see if the juices are clear; the legs should also be wobbly. If not, return to the oven and roast for a little longer, then test again. Repeat, if necessary, until the bird is cooked. Remove the muslin and carefully transfer the bird to a board over a tray (to catch the juices). Leave to rest somewhere warm for 20–30 minutes before carving.
  7. Meanwhile, make the gravy. Pour the juices and fat from the roasting tin into a jug. Skim off the fat, return 2 tablespoons of it to the roasting tin and discard the rest. Reserve the juices. Make up 600 ml liquid from a mixture of the giblet stock, chicken stock and vegetable cooking water (potato or carrot water works best). Stir the flour into the fat in the roasting tin. Cook over a medium heat until the flour turns straw coloured. Stir in the 600 ml liquid with the reserved roasting juices and any resting juices. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then strain into a warmed gravy boat or jug.
  8. Carve the turkey and serve, with traditional garnishes and accompaniments.


  • You can serve chipolata sausages and bacon rolls with the turkey. To serve 12 people, use a minimum of 12 chipolatas and 12 rashers of streaky bacon and roast them in a separate roasting tin in 1–2 tablespoons oil, putting them into the oven 15 minutes before the turkey is due to be ready. They can continue cooking while the turkey is resting and you are making the gravy.


  • It is important to stuff the neck end of the turkey, not the main cavity. Stuffing the main cavity can impede heat penetration, preventing the temperature in the cavity from becoming high enough to kill any bacteria present, which can cause food poisoning. If preferred, you can cook the stuffing separately in a small roasting tin.
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