How to Cook a Christmas Turkey


Preparing a Christmas turkey for loved ones can be a daunting affair with questions such as “what if it doesn't defrost in time” running through your mind. To help ensure you’re prepared to cook the Christmas turkey this year, below we’ve shared a range of turkey cooking tips.

Defrosting Your Turkey:

Frozen turkeys must be completely defrosted before you can start cooking, as the recommended cooking times won't be long enough to cook a partially-frozen bird, and bacteria that cause food poisoning may survive the cooking process.

To help you defrost your bird, it’s important to work out defrosting times in advance so you know how much time to allow, after all it can take a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw. To check if your turkey is defrosted, make sure there aren't any ice crystals in the cavity and try testing the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork to see if the meat feels frozen.

Defrosting Times:

Check your turkey's packaging for its defrosting time. If there aren't any estimates or instructions, use the following as a rough guide to work out how long it will take – but always remember to check that it's fully thawed before cooking.

How To Defrost a Turkey:

Food Safety:

Bacteria can spread from any raw meat or poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. Keep your Christmas food safe by knowing how to handle turkey safely:


Cooking Your Turkey:

Plan your cooking time in advance, so you can get the bird in the oven early enough to cook it thoroughly. A large turkey can take several hours to cook properly.

Cooking Times:

Our estimates are based on an unstuffed bird. It's better to cook your stuffing in a separate roasting tin - it will cook more predictably, and cooking time estimates will be more accurate. If you cook your bird with the stuffing inside, allow extra time depending on the amount and type of stuffing.

As a general guide, in an oven preheated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4):

Top tip: Cover your turkey with foil during cooking and uncover for the last 30 minutes to brown the skin. To stop the meat drying out, baste it every hour during cooking.

How to Check Your Bird is Cooked:

All cooking times are estimates, always check that the bird is properly cooked before serving. Eating undercooked turkey or poultry may cause food poisoning.


Preserve your precious proof of success for safe consumption another day by following this advice:

Cover and refrigerate any leftovers as quickly as possible, it’s recommended to cover them within 1 to 2 hours. If cooked meat is left at room temperature, food poisoning bacteria can grow and multiply.

When serving cold turkey, take out only as much as you're going to eat, leaving the rest safely refrigerated. Put any extras back in the fridge within an hour.

Make sure any leftovers you reheat are steaming hot all the way through before you eat them. Don't reheat more than once. Ideally, try to use leftovers within 48 hours.