Our Perfect Woodfired Christmas Turkey
Tis the season to be jolly and we find, as long as we’ve done as much prep as possible, it’s a very jolly time of year indeed. Here’s our we roast our woodfired turkey –
We brine our turkey in advance in a solution of 12 pints water, some bay leaves, 1tbsp juniper berries, 200g salt, 2tbsp black peppercorns, 1 chopped orange, 2tbsp coriander seeds, a small bunch of fresh thyme sprigs and 2 thinly sliced onions. Put the turkey in a large container and add the cooled brine. If the turkey bobs up, weight it down so it’s under the surface of the liquid and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Make sure you leave plenty of time so you can plan ahead. Take the turkey out of the brine and pat it dry all over with kitchen paper. This may seem unnecessary but since we’ve been brining our turkey, they do stay incredibly moist so definitely worth it….
The day you’re ready to cook, light a good fire in your oven and make sure it’s fully heated. We take the embers out so the bird is cooking in retained heat at around 250C, and then a falling oven. Put the bird on a rack over a roasting tin, rub with olive oil, season well and put it in the oven. After about 15 minutes, we cover it with some wide catering foil to protect the skin as it’s cooking. Shut the door and leave for about 90 minutes, basting from time to time. If you’ve left the embers in the oven, leave the door slightly ajar so the bird is not sitting in the smoke and the smoke can escape; otherwise it’s going to taste far too smokey and acrid; not good at all.
Use an electronic probe to test the temperature of the meat – you want the thickest part of the bird to be 72C. If it’s not quite ready, put the bird back in the oven until it’s cooked; we found a 5kg turkey only took around 2 hours to cook so less time than in a conventional oven. We check it from 90 minutes in so it doesn’t overcook. Once it’s ready take the turkey out of the oven and leave it to rest for an hour well wrapped in foil. When you’ve taken the bird out of the oven, reheat the oven with another fire so you can cook your sides.
In advance, we wrapped chipolata sausages in thin streaky bacon to make pigs in blankets and parboiled some potatoes to roast. We also chopped carrots and parsnips lengthways so they won’t take long to cook and halved some sprouts to sauté in the oven. Add to that slow-cooked red cabbage, pre-made bread sauce and gravy made from turkey stock and any juices from the resting bird – fantastic!