Talking turkey: Six steps to a perfect Christmas roast

We've spoken to two top chefs to get tips on how to make a beautiful, moist Christmas turkey


Ensure your turkey is at room temperature before roasting, insists Elliot Knox, head chef at the Bison Grill on the Rhug Estate in Denbighshire. Once you’re ready, season the skin with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil and butter on top of the skin rather than under the skin.


Don’t stuff the turkey while it’s roasting, says Elliot Knox: it takes longer to cook and can even dry the bird out, if the stuffing is very dense. Instead, put lemons in the cavity to keep it moist, and cook the stuffing separately, shaping and baking it into squares.

Vegetable trivet

Don’t just plonk your turkey in its roasting dish, suggests Elliot Knox. Instead create a ‘vegetable trivet’ from a selection of root vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery and garlic and use as a bed for the bird as it’s roasting. Use whatever’s left to flavour the gravy, and add white wine as a gravy reducer.


Roast on a low temperature until the juices run clear. Take as long as possible – and we mean as long as possible. Michael Bedford, a Michelin star-winning chef who trained with Gary Rhodes, Pierre Koffman and Raymond Blanc, has an extraordinary suggestion. Put your turkey in the over at 7pm on Christmas Eve, he says, wrapped in foil and with the temperature set to 80 degrees. It should also be stuffed with a bit of fruit and have a couple of pints of stock and a generous slosh of ruby port around it.

Michael works with the rather lovely Everhot cookers these days – your cooker might not turn down that low, or at least not reliably. But if it does and you fancy giving his method a try then on Christmas morning turn it up to 200 degrees at 10am (assuming a 6kg/13lb bird). Take the foil off at 12pm to brown it, basting every 20 minutes thereafter and checking regularly from 12.45pm onwards to see if the juices are running clear in the thickest part of the breast.

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CHT237189 The Christmas Dinner at the Inn, c.1900 (colour litho) by Aldin, Cecil Charles Windsor (1870-1935); Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France; ( Le Diner de Noel a l'Auberge;); Archives Charmet; English, out of copyright

The Christmas Dinner at the Inn, c.1900 (colour litho) by Aldin, Cecil Charles Windsor

To baste or not to baste?

Elliot Knox’s personal preference is not to baste the turkey. Instead, he suggests covering the bird for the whole cooking time to generate and store steam which naturally bastes it, and remove the foil only in the last 20 minutes to crisp the skin. However, if you’d rather baste, do so every 20 minutes. Once it’s reached its peak crispiness, it’s ready – take it out and prepare for the final stage.


Rest the bird for as long as possible – think hours, not minutes, and make sure that it’s wrapped up in foil as it does so. If you’ve cooked it on Christmas morning at a normal temperature, Elliot Knox says to rest if for at least half of the cooking time to give the meat the chance to relax. As the muscles tighten up when you put it in the oven, giving it time to relax allows the juices to settle back into the meat – the heat coming from the bones will keep it warm during this time.