How to safely cook a turkey

There’s just over two weeks left till Christmas so it’s perfect time to start thinking about your cooking plan for the big day – nobody needs the last minute stress so get your strategy sorted in advance. And first on your list is probably the turkey.

While there are more vegans and vegetarians than ever at large in Ireland today the turkey remains the star of the Christmas dinner. There will be over a million of these birds rolled out on December 25th.

Perhaps you’re a dab hand, and have been roasting a big bird for years, or maybe this is your first attempt. 

But whatever your situation you should read on because the food safety watchdog Safefood has some stellar advice on how to handle and cook the big bird, and a lot of people do the wrong thing each year.

They carried out some alarming research a few years ago that showed 43 percent of us did not know you should never give your turkey a scrub before cooking as this spreads bacteria all over the kitchen.

Preparing your turkey

  • Handle your turkey as little as possible – Unpack it directly into a roasting tray 
  • Don’t you dare wash it!! – Most turkeys are oven-ready so they don’t need to be cleaned. 
  • If your turkey is not oven ready – just wipe it down with a disposable paper towel and then throw this straight away and put the turkey directly in the oven.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly – Before and after you handle your turkey with warm soapy water.


  • Prepare the stuffing just before cooking. Stuff the neck or the cavity of the turkey.
  • Don’t overstuff.
  • Allow extra cooking time for stuffed birds. Check out Safefood’s super handy turkey cooking time calculator to find out how long.

Cooking your turkey

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  • While the oven is heating, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan
  • Place the turkey on the roasting tray
  • Baste the turkey with the melted butter
  • Cover the whole turkey loosely with tin foil and place in the hot oven
  • Baste the turkey every hour with the juices coming out of it
  • About half an hour before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil to allow the turkey skin to brown and become crisp. If the skin is already brown, keep the foil on the turkey to keep it moist

4. How to tell when she is cooked

Pierce the thickest part of the breast meat (between the leg and breast) with a fork and check can you honestly answer ‘yes’ to the below

  • Are the juices running clear?
  • Is there no pink meat?
  • Is the turkey piping hot all the way through?

How to cook a turkey crown

A turkey crown is the body of the bird with the legs and wings removed, leaving the white breast meat attached to the bones. An excellent choice if there are only a few of you around the table this year. No point in setting yourself up to fail in the food waste stakes.

If you are cooking a turkey crown, the oven should be 180°C / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4 and you should allow 20 min per pound, plus 20 minutes. If your butcher is preparing the joint for you, make sure you find out how much the joint weighs.

Remember,  even when ovens are at the right temperature, opening and closing the oven door, or having other items in the oven, may mean you need extra cooking time.

Good luck!

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