I use a meat thermometer when cooking turkey – it helps to judge when the turkey is done. When working out when to put the turkey in the oven, allow at least 1 hour of resting time, and for bigger birds even 2 hours resting, this also frees up the oven to roast the potatoes, parsnip, and cook the stuffing.
Loosen the skin over the breast of the turkey by slipping your fingers between the flesh and skin at the neck end, leaving the skin attached at the cavity end. Spread two thirds of the softened butter over the top of the breast under the skin, holding the skin up. Slip in lemon slices and sprigs of thyme, under the skin.
Fill the body cavity with the onions and herbs, including the onion skins and the lemon trimmings. Tie the legs with string to give a neat shape. Tuck the wings under the back of the bird. Lightly butter the skin of the turkey with remaining butter, season with a little salt. Sit the turkey on a rack in a large roasting tin.
Cook the turkey in the preheated oven for about 2-2 1/4 hours until golden brown, basting from time to time. You may need to cover the bird with foil if it is getting too brown. Take the turkey out of the oven and check if it is cooked. If using a meat thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the thigh and the thermometer should read 165F, alternatively if you do not have a thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a small sharp knife. If the juices are clear, then the turkey is done; if they are still tinged with pink, then roast for a little longer. Ovens do vary, so it may take a little longer.
Once out of the oven, cover with foil and lots of tea towels and rest for 1½ hours. Turn back the foil and drain off any surplus juices from the tin into a jug. Leave the fat to rise to the top in a cold place ready to make the gravy.
Carve into thin slices and serve
Prepare ahead: Prepare up until the turkey is in the tin, up to 12 hours before. Cover and chill until ready to cook.
The gravy is so important for the Christmas meal, use good stock made from the giblets. The day before, heat the giblet stock in a saucepan. Taste the stock, if it is a little weak in flavor, add a chicken stock or chicken bouillon cube and stir to dissolve.
This is a stress-free, make ahead gravy that you can finish on the day.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and stir over the heat for a few seconds. Whisk in the hot giblet stock. Bring it up the boil, whisking until smooth and thickened. The consistency will be thick. Leave to cool and chill in the fridge, ready for Christmas day.
Pour off the turkey juices into a jug. The fat and juices will separate. Skim and discard the turkey fat (which will be floating at the top). Measure 1 ¼ cups of turkey juices.
Put the gravy into a saucepan, then add the turkey juices and bring up to the boil. Add Worcestershire sauce to taste and a little gravy browning, if you like a darker gravy color.
Serve with the turkey.
Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Suitable for freezing.
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