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How to cook your Christmas turkey perfectly

By butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer Jack Knight

If you have ever hosted on Christmas Day, you’ll know how crucial it is to get the timings right on the cooker.

And it’s not easy when you are trying to balance roasting several different meats – including the all-important turkey centrepiece – and not to mention an array of vegetables and gravy, all with their own unique optimum cooking timeframes.

Thankfully, help is at hand.

Jack Knight – one of Stroud’s top butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers – knows a thing or two about cooking meat and veg for a big occasion.

Jack runs the popular Knights Artisan Butchers, based at Five Valleys shopping centre, and has also recently added The Cotswold Grocer and Knight’s Seafood to his portfolio.

Customers who have been to Five Valleys’ popular live cooking demonstrations, held on most Sundays leading up to Christmas, will be familiar with Jack’s expertise as he has held two demos – both to large audiences.

In this blog post below, he shares his top tips for cooking the perfect Christmas Day turkey dinner.

Why do we eat turkey at Christmas?

King Henry VIII made turkey a popular Christmas dish to replace the increasingly expensive and rare peacocks that were being used for banquets.

It’s a versatile bird with a mild flavour, much larger than chicken so ideal for feeding a larger table of people if friends and extended family are joining you for Christmas Day dinner.

The turkey also often provides leftovers for the weeks ahead when you’d rather not be cooking.

Preparing and cooking your turkey for Christmas Day

Aim for it to be ready at least half an hour before you plan to eat, so it can rest. For golden skin, remove the foil about 1hr before the end of cooking time, basting regularly.

Top tip – don’t stuff the cavity as this will prevent hot air circulating and you might end up with uncooked meat.

Instead, loosely stuff under the skin at the neck end only, using enough stuffing, so as not to break the skin of the neck cavity.

Timing is key

Weight Serves Defrosting time Cooking time
2.25kg 4-6 20-24hr 1hr 15 min – 1hr 30 min
3.3.5kg 6-8 24-28hr 1hr 45 min – 2hr
4-4.5kg 8-10 32-36hr 2hr 15 min – 2hr 40 min
5-5.5kg 10-12 40-44hr 2hr 45 min – 3hr 10min
6.6.5kg 12-15 48-52hr 3hr 15min – 3hr 50min

Don’t forget the all-important veg

Whilst turkey is the main event, Christmas is the perfect time to also celebrate the vibrant flavours of our wonderful vegetables. The following definitely deserve a place at your Christmas table this year.

1. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have long been a staple of Christmas dinners, and for good reason. These miniature cabbages offer a unique combination of earthy and nutty flavours.

Roasting them with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper brings out their natural sweetness and caramelises the edges, creating a delightful crunch. For a twist, try tossing them with balsamic glaze or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

2. Rainbow Carrots

Move over, regular orange carrots! Rainbow carrots, with their vibrant hues of purple, yellow, and white, add a pop of colour to any Christmas dish.

Roast them with a sprinkle of thyme and honey for a sweet and savoury side dish. Alternatively, steam or sauté them to retain their natural crunch and showcase their beautiful colours.

3. Parsnips

Parsnips, often overlooked, are a wonderful addition to your Christmas vegetable lineup. These creamy white root vegetables have a slightly sweet and nutty flavour.

Roasting them with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon elevates their taste to a whole new level. The caramelisation brings out their natural sweetness, making them a delightful accompaniment to any holiday meal.

4. Romanesco Broccoli

If you're looking for a visually striking vegetable, look no further than Romanesco broccoli. Resembling a fractal pattern, this lime-green vegetable is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

Roasting or steaming it brings out its delicate flavour and maintains its beautiful shape.

Knight’s Artisan Butchers is open Monday to Saturday (8am-5pm) and Sunday (11am-3pm). For more information visit