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No more dry turkeys! A chef’s tips on how to cook the perfect Christmas bird

PUBLISHED: 09:01 08 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:16 08 December 2018

Head chef, Colyn Payne. Photo: Emily Prince

Head chef, Colyn Payne. Photo: Emily Prince

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If you’re head chef in your household this Christmas, the preparations have probably already started.

From cooking the perfect bird to choosing your favourite sides, there’s plenty to think of.

Colyn Payne, head chef at the Three Horseshoes, a pub on the outskirts of King’s Lynn, in Roydon, prides himself on his Sunday roast platters - and has dished out some of his top tips for cooking the perfect turkey this Christmas.

• Step one - prepare vegetables for a mirepoix (a flavour base made from diced vegetables). Peel and roughly chop four carrots, two leeks, half a head of celery and one large white onion and mix before adding to the roasting tray for the oven.

• Step two - make a butter to go under the turkey skin. To one block of softened butter add two cloves of puréed garlic, the zest of one lemon, a teaspoon of thyme and season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands and then set aside in a warm place until you are ready to prep the turkey.

Head chef Colyn Payne and Pastry Chef Ben Prince. Photo: Emily PrinceHead chef Colyn Payne and Pastry Chef Ben Prince. Photo: Emily Prince

• Step three - the turkey. Season well inside the turkey and add the lemon left over from the butter to the cavity. Next, with your hands, peel the turkey skin back, working along the breast and trying hard not to rip the skin. Once you have peeled the skin back put the butter underneath it, and recover. This will help keep the breast moist.

Then put some smoked, streaky bacon on top of the turkey, cover it with a sheet of tinfoil and place on top of the vegetables. Put in the oven, preheated to 180C or gas mark 5/6 and cook for 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 20 minutes.

• Step four - make sure it’s cooked. When your turkey has been in the oven for the correct time, remove it and test it. There are three ways to test - put a probe into the thickest part of the breast to see whether it reaches between 75C and 85C. You can also pierce a hole in the bird and check if the juices run clear, or get hold of the leg with a cloth and twist the bone and pull. If it moves freely it’s cooked.

Place the turkey on a cooling rack to rest for around 20 minutes, until ready to carve.

The Three Horseshoes, Royden, King's Lynn is a tradtional English pub that serves real ales and home cooked pub food. Photo: 3HSThe Three Horseshoes, Royden, King's Lynn is a tradtional English pub that serves real ales and home cooked pub food. Photo: 3HS

• Step five - making the gravy. Tip the entire contents of the roasting tray into a saucepan, add a glass of wine and simmer for 30 minutes, then add two pints of boiling water and thicken with any nice gravy granules.

Bring back to the boil and then separate the vegetables from the liquid with a sieve into another pan.

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