1. Prepare the brine about 60 hours ahead of the cooking time, so aiming for Christmas dinner, get it ready on the night of the 22nd December. Place all the brine ingredients in a large stockpot (if you haven’t got a large enough pan, use less water in a smaller pan and dilute it later) and bring to the boil. Cover and leave overnight.
2. Put the turkey breast side down in a tub, plastic bucket or an empty fridge drawer and pour over the brine. Keep it as submerged as you can by weighing it down with a plate or something similar placed on top of it. Place in the fridge or at least somewhere as cool as possible. Brine for 24-36 hours.
3. Remove the turkey from the brine the night before cooking (so on the night of the 24th), rinse very well under cold water, pat dry and keep in the fridge overnight.
Remove the turkey from the fridge on the morning of the 25th and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
4. Truss the bird with a butcher’s string – it will ensure more even cooking – by making a loop around the legs in the front and tying it up around the wings at the back.
5. Brush the turkey all over with softened butter and season with black pepper. Place it on the breast side in a large roasting tin. Pour at least a cup of water into the tin.
- 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 – 3.6kg) 2-1/2 to 3 hours
- 8 to 12 pounds (3.6 – 5.4kg) 3 to 4 hours
- 12 to 16 pounds (5.4 – 7.2kg) 4 to 5 hours
- 16 to 20 pounds (7.2 – 9kg) 5 to 5-1/2 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds (9 – 10.8kg) 5-1/2 to 6 hours
- *if you order a really good quality turkey it should come with the roasting times instruction. Birds with more intramuscular fat, like Kelly Bronze or Norfolk Black in the UK, will require shorter cooking so check with your butcher or supplier.
6. Turn the bird over to its back at least halfway through the cooking time, season the breast with black pepper again and brush with a little more butter. Continue roasting through the recommended time, until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh or breast reaches 65C/150F. If you don’t have a meat probe just insert a skewer in the thickest part and check if the juices are clear.
7. Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Don't cover it if you want to retain crisp skin.
8. In the meantime prepare the gravy: spoon most of the fat off the tray. If your roasting tray isn't too enormous, place it on the hob on low heat (if it is, scrape all the juices and bits off the tray into a small saucepan).
9. When it starts bubbling, add the flour and mix well with a sauce whisk. Add the jelly or cranberry sauce, bring to the boil, pour in the stock and bubble until reduced to thicker than required consistency – the resting juices poured in will dilute it further.