It’s hardly a secret that fresh food shops, and especially butcher’s shops, get very busy at this time of year, and through the Christmas and New Year period. At Meat London, we certainly don’t buck the trend. Our regular customers are very patient as our Team strive to serve everybody as quickly as possible, without letting our standards slip. It would be easy to imagine that we would have trouble keeping our Team cheerful and positive while confronted with so many customers, and possibly longer than usual days, but it’s not. We actually really enjoy what we do, and we take our pleasure from knowing that our customers get what they want, go away knowing that they are getting value for money and later hearing the tales of a successful dinner with family or friends. We’re quite easily pleased really.
And so it has been for generations. However, in recent years there has been a change that the Butchers have had to adapt to. More and more customers are asking for cooking instructions, or even recipe ideas. I can’t speak for every butcher shop, because I don’t know them, but at Meat London, we are very lucky to have an International Team of foodies, who are only too willing to share their ideas and knowledge. I sometimes find myself standing back and listening to an explanation of the ‘best way to cook it’, the ‘cooking time’, a ‘nice garnish’ and so on.
As Christmas approaches, here are my thoughts on your seasonal bird;
- Start by understanding your own oven. All the best advice in the world will come unstuck if your oven is too hot, or too cold. If your oven is relatively new, read the makers instructions and get to understand it. Opening and closing the door will affect the temperature, so don’t do it any more than necessary, and a nice clean oven will be more efficient.
- If you’ve gone to the trouble of getting instructions, and you’ve set off with a plan, halfway through cooking is not a good time to change your mind.
- Taking into account the above, generally speaking, 40 minutes per kilo and 20 minutes extra, will suffice for a moderately hot oven (200⁰c/Gas 7).
- But here’s the problem, although the basic cooking method will be suitable for most birds, a larger turkey will need more attention than the smaller Guinea Fowl, for example. I like to start my bird on its breast for the first 15 minutes. This will allow the juices to run through the bird, before turning it onto its back to continue cooking. Baste the bird every 15 minutes or so by spooning the cooking juices back over the breast. Again, this helps to keep it moist. For bigger birds, it’s a good idea to turn the oven down by about 20⁰ after the first hour and cover loosely with tin foil if the bird starts to colour too much.
- There are any number of methods for deciding when your bird is cooked. However, here’s a secret; At the tender age of 58yrs, I’ve wasted £20 on a meat thermometer. It’s changed my life! All summer, everything I’ve cooked has been spot on. If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce the bird between the leg and the breast and look for the juices to be clear and golden. If there is any sight of blood, the bird needs more time. My biggest tip for 2018? Spoil yourself and buy a meat thermometer. Your bird needs to read 75⁰ in three places*
(* Here’s the logic; bacteria will not die at low temperature. It just become dormant and springs back to life as the temperature rises again. Bacteria will die at 74⁰. Which is why we recommend that everything cooks to that temperature).
- Finally, when you take your bird out of the oven, leave it to sit for 20 minutes in a warm place to rest.
So, there you are, my method for cooking the seasonal bird. Every magazine and Sunday glossy is going to have their own take. Every cook book you read, every celebrity chef and friend you talk to will have their own ideas. Should you put bacon on top? Should you cover in butter? What herbs or seasoning will you add … and so on. At Meat London, our Team will give you their best advice with only one wish; that you should have a great Christmas, drink fabulous wines and enjoy your festive bird perfectly cooked.
Have a great festive season