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Christmas: How to roast the perfect turkey

Pro Cambridge chef Ashley Sargent shares his top tips for roasting the perfect turkey this Christmas

“Brining may sound like a daunting process, but it’s a simple technique to ensure your turkey stays as moist as possible," says Ashley Sargent, private chef at Kale Dining. Follow his step-by-step, below, for the perfect roast this Christmas.

Turkey - Kale Dining (53241796)
Turkey - Kale Dining (53241796)


For the brine:

8 litres of water

180g table salt

180g demerara sugar

6 black peppercorns

2 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

5 bay leaves

Sprig thyme

Sprig rosemary

Rind of 2 oranges

For the herb butter:

500g unsalted butter

2 tbsps dried mixed herbs

1 clove garlic crushed

Good pinch sea salt

Black pepper

For roasting:

Carrots, onion, celery, garlic


The day before, to make the brine, place all of the ingredients and one litre of the water into a pan. Bring it to the boil until everything is dissolved, then add it to the remaining seven litres of water. Place your turkey breast side down in a container and cover with your brine. Leave for 12-16 hours in the fridge.

On the day, make your herb butter by bringing 500g of unsalted butter to room temperature and placing it in a bowl with your herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Give it a good mix and leave out on your kitchen side until you need it a little later.

Remove the turkey from the fridge one hour before placing it in the oven. This will help the turkey’s skin not shrink immediately when it is introduced to the heat. When you take it out of the fridge, also remove it from the brine. Pat dry with kitchen towel and leave covered on your kitchen side. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C for at least 30 minutes.

While waiting, chop some carrots, onion, celery and garlic in large chunks and place at the bottom of a roasting tray, creating a trivet for the turkey to sit on.

Once an hour has passed, place the turkey on the trivet, generously smother with the herb butter then place a sheet of greaseproof then foil over the turkey and place in the oven.

A couple of things to note: although it looks pretty, tying the legs together makes a dense part of meat between the legs and breast and results in an unevenly cooked end product, so ensure the legs are spread as wide as possible. Also, do not stuff! Stuffing adds density, which means it will take even longer for the bird to cook and makes the breasts dry before the rest of the bird has reached its final temperature.

A rough guide is to leave the bird in the oven for 35 minutes per kilo, so if you have a five kilo bird, it will be just under three hours. Every 20 minutes, using either a baster or a spoon, suck up the juices in the oven tray and pour over the bird, and then cover back over with the foil. I can’t stress how important basting is! All that liquid in the bottom of your roasting tray came from the bird, so basting will put some of that moisture back in, and keep it from drying out.

When you have 45 minutes left on the timer, remove the foil completely and allow the skin to crisp up and go golden. You will know the turkey is cooked once you pierce it with a knife in the thickest part of the thigh and the juices run clear, or if you want to be extra safe, use a meat thermometer and it should read 75°C+.

Remove from the oven, give it one final baste and place in another tray, cover with foil and leave to rest for around 1 ½-2 hours. Resting is probably the most important part of the process and will give you plenty of time to get your roasties in the oven and anything else you want to serve.

TIP: Make sure you keep all of the juices that are in the bottom of your roasting pan and use them for gravy!

See kaledining.co.uk and follow @kale_dining

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