ONE THING I’ve noticed this week is that it’s suddenly Christmas time again.

The festive adverts are on television and the supermarkets already have their trees up and the crackers on the shelves. I’m not one to complain however as I love Christmas; mince pie anyone?

Any festival that involves sitting around drinking and eating can’t be bad can it? I even like sprouts! (tip: par-boil, then sauté with a little cream and whole grain mustard. Much nicer than just boiled!).

Back to the turkey. I personally really enjoy eating it on Christmas Day.

I think It’s always best to buy Free Range and from your local butcher, it’s only once a year so you really should buy the best you can afford.

For this exercise I ordered mine from Herb-Fed Poultry near York via The Grid Iron Meat Company. Both these companies are Yorkshire based and I’d recommend them for good quality meat purchases online, with local delivery.

Turkey is at its best then it’s cooked well with a crispy golden-brown skin and succulent melt-in-the-mouth meat, both in the breast as well as the thighs.

Having spoken with Ian at Grid Iron Meat, I found that one of the best ways to avoid a dry bird is to brine it.

Brining is more popular in the USA however more and more people are increasingly doing it on this side of the pond too.

Brining is easy to do: it’s simply immersing the meat in a salt and water solution, the turkey absorbs moisture which helps it stay moist and juicy when cooked. The turkey also absorbs salt making it nicely seasoned throughout.

After the bird is brined, a drying period of a few hours ensures the skin is as dry as possible which will help make sure the skin will crisp up nicely in the oven.

To help with crisping the skin you will need a good airflow around the bird when it’s in the oven: this will take more moisture from the skin to allow it to crisp better.

The next problem to solve is the moist succulent meat in both parts of the bird.

The breast of the turkey is comprised of muscles that do very little work and are designed to give a burst of power during take-off.

These muscles are lean and tender. In contrast the thigh and leg muscles are carrying the weight of the bird and in constant use while it’s active. For this reason they have more fat and connective tissue and are tougher.

Ideally we would cook the breast separately from the rest of the bird, a good reason why many people opt for a crown. In an ideal world we would want the breast to cook to an internal temperature of around 65c and the legs/thighs to reach a much higher 75c, or higher, to Breakdown the connective tissue.

After some internet research and a bit of experimentation, Ian from Grid Iron came up with a way of getting to the desired result without separating the crown from the rest of the bird. The problem it seems, is the conventional roasting tin that many of us go out and buy once a year to roast a ridiculously large bird.

The roasting tin stops the airflow we’re looking for meaning that we end up with wonderful crispy skin on the top of the bird and flabby pale skin underneath. We’re also protecting the thighs and legs from the heat by sitting them inside a pan.

This is the opposite to the goal we set out with. I tried roasting the turkey upside down and then turning it over half way through cooking. This works, but it’s not ideal.

The answer is to replace the deep sided roasting tin with a shallow lipped baking tray. This will expose the legs and thighs to the heat from the oven.

The next step is to use one of those V shaped wire racks to sit the bird on. This will raise it above the surface of the tray and allow the air to circulate under the turkey, avoiding the soggy bottom, to allow the skin to crisp all of the turkey.

However we then have still got the problem of the breast cooking before the legs and thighs. I found an answer on the internet in the form of a baking steel, something I’d never heard of before.

This is a thick piece of steel that you can put in your oven for baking bread and pizza etc. The baking steel holds large amounts of heat energy that can be released into the bottom of your turkey.

I’ve tested this and discovered that a cast iron griddle works almost as well, if you’re really stuck it will also work with a heavy cast iron frying pan turned upside down.

For my recipe, you will need a large pan or container that will fit the turkey in and enough fridge space to store it, alternatively an outbuilding or pantry will work as long as the temperature is below 6°c which shouldn’t be a problem in Keighley during December!