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How to Cook Roast Turkey or Chicken for a Lovely Holiday Meal

I used to help in our family restaurant. I love good food and enjoy thinking up creative recipes.

Easy Holiday Roast Chicken or Turkey

The perfect roast chicken or turkey should have crispy skin with moist meat that is well-cooked but not too dry. It's easy if you follow this recipe.

Bonus: Stuffing and Vegetable Side Dish Recipes

Don't you just love a roast chicken or turkey dinner with beautifully browned, crispy skin, crispy roast potatoes and parsnips, stuffing maybe, and lots of different vegetables, topped with aromatic gravy, the meat slightly moist, well-cooked, and not too dry, the food hot and aromatic when it is put in front of you?

I'm going to teach you how to make this meal, including two different methods of adding flavour to the poultry.

Ingredients for roast turkey or chicken dinner

Ingredients for roast turkey or chicken dinner


Note: Assemble the Ingredients before you start.

Ingredients for Method 1

NB: Precise amounts are not particularly important for this recipe

  • 1 turkey or chicken
  • 1 small onion for every 2 people or 1 large onion for every 4 people
  • Garlic cloves (2 or 3 for a chicken, 4 to 8 for a turkey)


  • Olive oil (or other cooking oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Jerk seasoning
  • Rosemary sprigs (2 for a chicken, 4 or more for a turkey)
  • Lemon juice (lemon dressing in a bottle is fine)


  • Mixed spice (in case you haven't got any jerk seasoning)
  • Mixed herbs

Ingredients for Method 2

Same as above, except add:

  • Streaky bacon (3-4 slices for chicken or 6-8 slices for turkey)

Equipment Needed

  • Baking pan large enough for the bird
  • Additional baking pan if necessary
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp kitchen knife
  • Baster

What Size Baking Pan?

I use a standard 14-inch pan for a chicken or for a turkey that is up to 15 pounds.

If you are cooking turkey for the masses, you would need the larger size, but do measure your oven first, to make sure the pan will fit. I once had to take my turkey round to someone else's house to cook, because it wouldn't fit in my somewhat modest oven.

You might find it best to buy the standard size - you could always borrow a larger pan for the one or two occasions when you need it (unless your prospective lender is intending to cook a festive turkey on the same day as you!).

Important: Defrost Poultry Completely Before Cooking

Cooking a partially frozen bird could cause food poisoning, as the outside will be cooked but the inside might be very undercooked and cause Salmonella poisoning. It takes between one and three days to defrost a turkey properly, depending on its size.

Here's a link to a Wikihow article that gives all the information you need about how to defrost a turkey.

Method 1 for cooking roast turkey or chicken

Method 1 for cooking roast turkey or chicken

Method 1

Step 1: Prepare the Bird

  1. Remove everything within the body cavity—sometimes butchers leave the neck or gizzard in there—people have been known to cook a bird with the innards still in a plastic bag inside it (and I speak about someone not far from home!). This is a chance to check that a frozen bird is fully unfrozen. If it is still a bit icy, sit it in a bowl of hot water until the ice has melted.
  2. Remove any feathers or roots of feathers and any hair either manually or by singeing the bird over a flame—don't burn the skin, just burn off the bits and pieces.
  3. Wash the bird in the sink, running water through it.
  4. Tear off a piece of silver tinfoil large enough to cover the base of the roasting tin and the whole of the chicken or turkey (alternatively, you don't need to cover the base of the tin and can just cover over the bird itself after seasoning it)
  5. Place the bird in the foil-covered baking tray, with the flat underside at the bottom and breast facing upwards.

Step 2: Season the Bird

  1. Crush the garlic cloves to release the oils, rub the skin with the crushed cloves and put the cloves on the breast, and other parts of the body;
  2. Sprinkle it with lemon juice, then olive oil, then add Jerk seasoning or any other seasoning of your choice;
  3. Use plenty of salt, as this helps to make the skin crispy (you can use less salt for health reasons);
  4. Lay the rosemary on top, so that it doesn't slip down.
  5. Put an onion poking out of the body cavity (so that it still cooks and browns).

Step 3: Prepare for Cooking

  1. Tie or skewer the legs together (this is optional; I don't normally bother with this).
  2. Loosely cover the bird with silver foil (to prevent it burning, whilst enabling the steam to circulate).
  3. Put it in the oven on gas Mark 5 for about 30 minutes
  4. Take it out of the oven, turn it over and season the underside of the bird as above, then wrap it back in foil and let it cook for a further 30 minutes.
  5. Then turn the bird over so that it is again breast side up and baste it (that means take the meat juices and fat from the bottom of the dish and pour or squirt them over the whole of the exposed part of the bird)—use a baster or a serving spoon to do this.
  6. If the bird is small (about 3 pounds), remove the foil at this stage, and continue cooking for 20 - 30 minutes. It should be crispy and brown on the outside, and the meat should come away from the bone easily. If there is any blood showing when you separate the leg from the body, then it is not cooked sufficiently, and should go back in the oven for about 15 minutes.
  7. For a bigger bird, leave the silver foil on the bird, and continue cooking in accordance with your calculations—remember, 20 minutes per pound plus an additional 20 minutes at the end. Just remove the foil and baste it before returning it to the oven for the last 30 - 40 minutes.

Step 4: Final Presentation

  1. Tip the bird up to let the juices run into the roasting pan (to use as gravy), and then place the turkey or chicken on the board or plate where you will be carving it, and let it stand for a few minutes.
  2. Whilst it is standing, remove the roast potatoes and roast onion and put them in a warmed dish. Then pour off all the surplus fat into a bowl, and leave the juice and bits and pieces to make the gravy (see below).
Method 2 (with bacon)

Method 2 (with bacon)

Method 2: Flavoured With Bacon

  1. Copy all the stages as for Method 1, but instead of using rosemary, use streaky bacon rashers. The other seasoning is optional as the bacon gives it a distinctive flavouring of its own (I personally do like strong seasoning, so I do add the other seasoning).
  2. Lay the bacon rashers on the breast and legs. When you turn the bird over to cook the underside, you could lay the bacon on that part too, or just leave it on the breast.
Stuffing ingredients

Stuffing ingredients

How to Make Stuffing

Even if you don't usually have stuffing, it's nice to have it occasionally. It's very easy to make, and only takes 5 minutes.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes


  • 1/4 to 1/2 packet of sage and onion stuffing for 2 - 4 people (use a whole packet for turkey)
  • 1 small onion (optional)
  • 1 egg (optional; use 2 if using a whole packet of stuffing)
  • 1 or 2 slices white or brown bread (optional)
  • Butter or olive oil (other cooking oils would do as well)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

NB: Precise amounts are not particularly important for this recipe, so you can add more or less or vary the ingredients


  1. Put the stuffing in a small oven-proof bowl (or a silver foil one will do).
  2. Crumble the bread and add to the mixture.
  3. Add boiling water, egg and any optional herbs or spices.
  4. Mix the whole lot and smooth out the top—the consistency should be soft but not runny
  5. Let it stand for a few minutes
  6. Put a few blobs of butter or a little olive oil on the surface
  7. Bake in oven Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until browned. If you are short of oven space, you can put it on the floor of the oven, but for a longer time. It should be soft with a slightly crispy top when ready.
Root vegetables to accompany your roast dinner

Root vegetables to accompany your roast dinner

How to Cook Crispy Roast Potatoes and Parsnips

  1. Peel 1 large potato per person and one extra potato for luck.
  2. Peel the parsnips (one large one will do for 3 people).
  3. Cut the vegetables into golf-ball-size pieces (precise size and shape not crucial).
  4. Cover them with cold water in a saucepan until needed (to prevent the raw vegetables turning brown).
  5. One hour before the meal is ready to be served, boil up the water and continue to boil for 5 - 10 minutes (this is called par-boiling). You can cook any other vegetables such as carrots at the same time, or afterwards, in the same water.
  6. Place as many as you can (without piling them on top of each other) round the meat and, if necessary, place the rest in a separate baking tray. They have a better flavour if cooked with the meat and garlic.
  7. Sprinkle them with salt (to make them crispy).
  8. Pour a very small amount of olive or other cooking oil over them or brush them with oil (this might be the fat from the bird itself) - don't let them stand in a lake of oil, as this will make them soggy.
  9. Cook them for about 45 minutes, turning them over and basting once or twice during this period.
  10. Take them out of the oven when you take the bird out; but if the potatoes are not crispy and brown enough at that stage, baste them again, turn up the gas to its highest point, and cook for a further 10 minutes whilst you are making the gravy and carving the bird.
  11. Remove them from the oven and place them in a warm serving bowl and keep them hot until you are serving up.
Roast potatoes and parsnips

Roast potatoes and parsnips

How to Cook Other Vegetables to Accompamy Your Dinner

Prepare: Wash the vegetables and cut to the size you like.

Season: Sprinkle a small amount of salt in the water. Some people don't cook with salt, for health reasons, and leave people to add their own when the food is on their plate.

Cooking Instructions

  • Green vegetables, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, runner beans, cauliflower, broccoli leeks and kale take about 15 minutes to cook in boiling water. The vegetables should be placed in a saucepan with water already boiling. Once cooked, they should be removed from the water, and placed in a warm serving dish. They can stand in hot water for a few minutes to keep hot, but if you keep them standing in the water for long, they get soggy and overcooked.
  • Spinach and frozen peas only need about 5 minutes to cook in boiling water
  • Swede needs to be cut up into marble-sized pieces, and boiled in water for 20 - 25 minutes, then drain them and mash with a blob of butter, and then put in a warm dish.
  • Carrots, turnips, potatoes and parsnips need to be boiled in water for about 20 minutes (assuming you are not roasting them).

All these vegetables can be steamed over boiling water in a steamer instead of actually placing them in boiling water—this is supposed to be healthier, as the vitamins don't leach into the water so readily as boiled vegetables.

When you drain the vegetables, don't throw away the vegetable water—use it to make the gravy, or to make soup with the meat bones.

More vegetables

More vegetables

Leftover Poultry Ideas

I would use these leftovers in a variety of ways, and I have even written an article about this, called 8 Quick and Easy Recipes to Use Up Leftover Turkey and Chicken.

It looks good, doesn't it?

It looks good, doesn't it?

© 2010 Diana Grant