Christmas, Food & Drink, News

Half of home chefs cooking Christmas turkey for twice as long as needed

Almost half of UK adults could be overcooking their Christmas turkey due to packet instructions which advise cooking the bird for more than double the time it takes to reach the optimum temperature.

A study carried out by Electronic Temperature Instruments (ETI), makers of Thermapen, showed that a 4.2kg turkey cooked to packet instructions hit 74°C after 99 minutes – yet the recommended cooking time was for an additional 152 minutes.

ETI found almost half (46 per cent) of UK adults diligently follow the cooking instructions on the packaging when it comes to preparing their Christmas turkey, rather than using the temperature method, which could lead the meat to be dry.

The study found when removed from the oven after the full four hours and ten minutes, the turkey measured 97°C.

The Food Standards Agency recommends cooking meat to 70 °C for two minutes or equivalent to be safe to eat.

ETI cooked two more turkeys, this time to temperature – one to 74°C and one to 67°C. They rested each turkey for two hours, lightly wrapped in tin foil.

The second turkey, weighing 4kg, reached 74°C at one hour and 20 minutes – two hours and 45 minutes less than the time indicated on the packaging, or equivalent to 33 per cent of the recommended cooking time. The third turkey, weighing 4.4kg, reached 67°C in one hour and 53 minutes – two hours and 48 minutes under the time indicated on the packaging.

While the first turkey cooked to 97°C dropped down to 66°C during the resting time, the second two both increased in temperature by 6 – 8°C.

Jason Webb, managing director of ETI, said: “Our experiment found that cooking your turkey to 67°C will meet food safety guidelines and produce the most juicy and delicious result. Cooking it to this temperature means your turkey will exceed 70°C for more than two minutes during the resting time.

“The time it takes for a turkey to reach a safe temperature is variable — it depends on the accuracy of your oven temperature and the size of the bird. The easiest way to know when it’s safe to remove from the oven is to use a cooking thermometer that will measure when it reaches the correct temperature.

“Always probe your turkey in a few different places with an accurate meat thermometer to ensure it is thoroughly cooked all the way through. Aim to check the thickest parts of the meat, usually in the centre of the breast, and avoid bones and gristle for an accurate result.”

With Christmas turkeys costing as much as £130, it’s not surprising that fear gobbles up many British cooks’ confidence, as it tops the list of most stressful dishes to cook at Christmas.

A study by ETI found nearly half the nation’s holiday cooks (41%) said the most stressful festive dish to get right was the turkey and almost a third (30%) had failed to nail the perfect roast potatoes.

It’s the most hotly anticipated meal of the year, with some home chefs (20%) spending as much as eight hours in the kitchen and others (59%) planning the day’s cooking well ahead of time.

Despite all this careful planning and time, many risk ruining their turkey lunch, with well over a quarter (27%) leaving the turkey to rest for under an hour. ETI’s study found that all three turkeys did not drop below 64°C after resting for one hour and 30 minutes.

According to Mike Tomkins, MasterChef finalist, accurate temperatures are important for quality and safety, and a meat thermometer is a cook’s best friend. He said: “It’s no surprise that ruining the turkey tops the list of Christmas cooking nightmares, but people can ensure consistent results if they cook to temperature, not time.

“The temperature our ovens run at can vary wildly so simply following the packet instructions won’t necessarily guarantee perfect results. Consider brining the turkey the night before and leave it to rest after it is cooked to ensure maximum moistness.”

Jason Webb added: “The food we buy is becoming increasingly valuable, especially at Christmas. That’s why it’s more important than ever to cook our food perfectly and avoid wasting costly ingredients. Cooking to temperature is a foolproof method for ensuring our Christmas dinner is a huge success, helping us to enjoy this special time of the year.”

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