Cooking the perfect roast turkey or roast chicken is actually really simple but there are some tips and tricks that the top professional chefs learn that you are probably not aware of.
- Practice makes perfect: This ones a bit obvious but if you only cook a roast dinner once a year at Christmas how can you expect to be good at it? Try and do a roast Chicken lunch once a month for the family to develop and practice your technique. Top chefs work in kitchens where they are roasting birds every day so they really perfect the art and science of roasting.
- Don’t cook your turkey or chicken straight from the fridge. Let your turkey or chicken warm up to room temperature before you put it in the oven. Obviously don’t leave it out too long in a hot kitchen before cooking it. You want the flesh not to feel really cold to the touch. When the bird comes out of the fridge it will be cold all the way through and the muscle fibres will have contracted. If you cook the bird while it is cold like this it will be tough and the coldest affects the cooking time.
- Steam. Most professional kitchens use ovens that allow the chefs to control how much water vapour / steam is in the oven in contrast most domestic ovens just get very hot and dry. It’s the difference between a sauna and a steam room. If you want a moist tender roast turkey or chicken you need to get steam happening in your oven. I recommend making sure that your bird is in a tray but raised up on a bed of onions and carrots. You can then put some water in the roasting tray that will boil and generate steam to help the bird roast. It is however essential that the bird isn’t sitting in the water or you’ll end up with boiled turkey rather than roast turkey and that’s not so nice. The other option is to put an old cooking tray at the bottom of your oven and fill it up with boiling water. This will evaporate and boil off during the roasting process and keep the bird lovely and moist. You may want to top this up occasionally. Do be careful however when you open your oven door as you may be surprised by the steam that comes out – stand well back!
- Remove the legs and the wishbone: The legs are much denser and need more cooking time that the rest of the bird. It’s almost impossible to cook a perfect roast turkey or chicken if you leave the legs on. Taken them off and either use them for another meal or cook them separately.
I highly recommend using the Turkey legs to for Turkey Leg Ballotine, this is a deboned turkey leg stuffed with sausage meat. You then cook these long and slow rapped in silver foil. The result is wonderful tasty brown leg meat with a sausage stuffing. It’s a great way to use the legs, help you cook your turkey better and gives you a lot more turkey meat to feed people with.
- Pre-heat the oven to its maximum temperature. The oven temperature will drop anyway when you open the oven door to put the bird in. I put the bird in when the oven is at it’s hottest give it 5 minutes and then turn the oven down to the cooking temperature. This initial heat helps to seal the bird and keep in the moisture.
- Resting time. It’s really important to let your turkey or chicken relax after your roasted it and before you carve it. If you cut into a roast bird as soon as it comes out of the oven you’ll find all the juices just run out onto your carving tray, leaving the meat dry. Instead take the bird out of the oven and double wrap it in tin foil and then cover it with a couple of warm towels. You can then leave it to gentle cool for and up to 90 minutes. During this relaxation time the juices will go back into the meat and make it nice and moist. This also allows you to free up oven space so that you can put roast potatoes or Yorkshire puddings in. After an hour or so your turkey will still be pipping hot and then ready to carve and serve with the freshly cooked roast vegetables.
If you have other tips for cooking a perfect roast Turkey or Chicken I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.