Clodagh McKenna’s how to cook a Christmas turkey recipe

Tuesday 12th December, 2017

Cooking a Christmas turkey can be daunting so follow Clodagh McKenna’s detailed guide to make the perfect turkey.


  • 1 free range or organic turkey, 4-4.5kg
  • 12 slices of streaky bacon (or 200g pancetta)
  • 2 bunches of thyme
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • For the flavoured butters (if using)
  • 150g salted butter, softened
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons of mixed thyme, sage and flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • For the roasting tray
  • shallots, peeled and halved
  • carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 1 whole globe of garlic, halved through the center
  • 4 small bunches of thyme
  • 4 small bunches of sage


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C or Gas Mark 7.
  2. If you are using a frozen turkey it’s best to thaw the bird in the fridge. A turkey will need about 24 hours to thaw for every 2kg. If your turkey is fresh it is best to store it in the fridge if possible. Take the turkey out of the fridge one hour before roasting to allow the meat to relax and come to room temperature, which will make the meat more tender.
  3. Next remove the giblets from inside the bird’s cavity because these cannot be cooked with the turkey. Keep them for when you are making turkey stock or gravy. Wash the cavity and dry completely with kitchen paper, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. If you’re using a flavoured butter, mix all the butter ingredients in a bowl using the back of a spoon and smear under and on top of the turkey skin. If you’re using bacon you first need to make the bacon thinner and therefore stretch over the turkey.  Place all your streaky bacon rashers between two sheets of cling film and roll with a rolling pin. If you’re using pancetta instead of bacon you don’t need to stretch it as it’s already thin.  Wrap the streaky bacon or pancetta around the top of the whole bird and each leg.
  5. Fill the cavity of the turkey with the stuffing (if using), the cavity should only be filled half way to allow hot air to circulate and the turkey to cook more evenly.
  6. Line the roasting tray first with the shallots, carrots, garlic and thyme and place the stuffed turkey on top, this will flavour the turkey even more whilst cooking.
  7. Lastly place the turkey in the pre-heated oven. Then reduce the heat to 180°C after 45 minutes, take the turkey out, and baste the juices from the pan over the turkey. Cover loosely with tin foil and return to the oven and cook according to the weight of the turkey (see timetable). Continue to baste the turkey every 45 minutes.
  8. Check to see if the turkey is cooked by inserting a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh; the juices should run clear. When you have taken the turkey out of the oven leave it to rest for 30 minutes with a loose tent of tin foil to keep it warm. This will allow the juices to redistribute themselves, giving tastier meat.


8-12lbs/3.5-5kg –

Cooking 3hours 20 minutes – 4 hours 40 minutes


12 – 14lbs / 5.5 – 6.5 kg

Cooking 4 hours 40 minutes – 5 hours 20 minutes


14 – 18lbs / 6.5 – 8kg

Cooking 5 hours 20 minutes – 6 hours 40 minutes


18-20lbs/8-9 KG

6 hours 40 minutes – 7 hours 20 minutes


20-24lbs / 9 – 11kg

7 hours 20 minutes – 8 hours 40 minutes