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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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  • Christmas Turkey

    I'm making Christmas dinner this year, except that I'm cooking it on Boxing Day. Have you got any tips for soaking the turkey?

    From the nigella team:

    In "soaking the turkey" we assume that you are referring to brining the turkey. Brining is a technique which involves soaking the turkey in brine (salt water) which is usually infused with herbs, spices and sugar. During the brining process the turkey absorbs some liquid so that when it is cooked it remains moist and flavourful. It is particulary useful for a Christmas turkey as the larger birds have a longer cooking time and can become dry.

    Nigella has a turkey brine which includes cloves, caraway, cinnamon, allspice and star anise. The recipe can be found in Feast (p10-11) and Christmas (p115). Some people like to warm some of the water to help the salt dissolve, before making up the remander with cold water. If you do this then make sure that the brine is fully cooled before using it. You need to find a saucepan or bucket which is big enough to hold the turrkey snugly and make sure that there is enough brine to cover the turkey.

    Sometimes the biggest challenge is to keep the turkey cold during the brining period as most domestic refrigerators aren't big enough to hold the turkey in its brine plus all of the other Christmas foodstuffs. We would not recommend leving the turkey at normal room (ie centrally heated) temperature as there is a risk of salmonella forming. A cold garage, shed or outbuilding is ideal but if you do need to leave the soaking turkey outside then make sure there is a lid on the pan and that the lid is adequately weighed down or properly secured to keep the contents safe from foraging wildlife. Always discard the brine once you have removed the turkey and make sure that the brine container and any utensils are thoroughly scrubbed with hot soapy water after use.

    For cooking times and tips we would suggest consulting the charts in Feast (p6) and Christmas (p117).

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