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Christmas dinner FAQs

Every Christmas the safefood helpline bells ring to the sound of some frequently asked questions.

This year our Christmas message for home cooks is to Trust the Meat Thermometer when cooking your turkey. We know the focus on cost is a big feature in many people’s Christmas so getting dinner right is more important than ever. Whatever cooking method, timing or recipe you use for your turkey, you’ll know when it’s thoroughly cooked when you take it out of the oven, pop the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat between the breast and leg and it reads 75 degrees Celsius. 

What is basting?

Basting simply means to pour liquid over the surface of the turkey while it's cooking. This helps to keep the turkey moist and juicy. We recommend basting with melted butter before you put the turkey in the oven, and then basting once an hour with the cooking juices from the roasting dish. You can use a large spoon or ladle, a brush, or a turkey baster if you have one. It's important not to baste more often than once an hour because every time you open the oven door you reduce the temperature in the oven, meaning your turkey will take longer to cook.

What are giblets?

Turkey giblets are the little plastic package of parts sometimes included inside the cavity or neck of the bird. It generally contains the neck, liver, kidneys and heart. It's important to check if these are there and, if they are, to remove them before cooking.

The giblets make an excellent stock, so don't bin them. To make the stock, add the giblets to a pot along with the turkey carcass, some roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery, then add enough cold water to cover all the ingredients. Bring it to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pot and let it all simmer gently for 3 hours. Use the stock in place of stock cubes to make this delicious leftover recipe: Neven Maguire's turkey and vegetable broth.

How can I cook a turkey ahead of time and reheat it?

If your Christmas day is looking just too busy to roast the turkey, you can do that up to 3 days ahead as long as follow food safety advice. That means

  • Roasting the turkey as you would normally: here's our advice on cooking the turkey
  • Carving the turkey, cooling it as fast as possible and storing it in the fridge: follow our advice on storing and using leftovers
  • Reheating only as much of the turkey as you plan to eat. Remember, cooked food should only be reheated once.

To make sure it stays moist while you're reheating it, add some turkey or chicken stock to the bottom of the roasting dish and cover it all with a sheet of tinfoil. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and roast for 30 minutes until it's piping hot, or until it reaches 75 degrees on a cooking thermometer.

Can you cook a turkey from frozen?

Ok, so with all that's going on in the run up to Christmas, you've totally forgotten to take the turkey out of the freezer. Despite what you may read online, we do not recommend you cook a turkey from frozen - the food safety risks from a turkey that's not properly cooked are simply too high, and rapid thawing methods run the risk of spreading bacteria all around your kitchen. If the shops are still open, see if you can get a chicken or two instead, or just enjoy all the other sides and trimmings and leave the turkey for another day.

How do you cook a turkey in a bag?

Using an oven bag can help your turkey stay moist and cook more quickly. Follow the cooking and safety instructions given on the bag, and at the end of the cooking time follow our usual advice to check its properly cooked.

Can I cook my turkey in a slow cooker?

Fitting a whole turkey in a slow cooker could be a struggle, and we don't recommend it. If you don't have an oven and a slow cooker is your only option we suggest cooking smaller pieces such as a turkey breast or leg.

Can I cook my turkey in an air fryer?

As there is a wide variety of air fryers on the market, of different sizes and with different capabilities, we recommend you check with the manufacturer of your air fryer. As with a slow cooker, cooking smaller pieces such as a breast or leg would be the safest option.

Q: Can I freeze smoked salmon? 

A: Yes you can freeze smoked salmon but check the label as some products may not be suitable for freezing. Just remember to freeze it before it has reached its ‘use by’ date as foods that have reached their ‘use by’ date are not safe to eat. 

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