11 best turkeys for Christmas 2019: Choose from whole, crown and stuffed to complete your feast
Top off your table with one of these tried and tested birds
The centrepiece of many Christmas dinner tables is the turkey, so you’ll want to make sure yours is spot on in terms of taste and texture and both cooks and carves with ease.
To save you the guesswork of finding the ultimate bird, we’ve brought found the best of the bunch for you, including whole turkeys, crowns and pre-prepared from retailers ranging from supermarkets to specialised producers.
So whether you want fresh or frozen, organic or free-range, large or small, we have it sussed.
Only those turkeys whose instructions were straightforward to follow made the cut and they didn’t pass muster unless the meat was tender and tasty.
Don’t forget to check if yours arrives fresh or frozen and that it will fit in the oven.
Remember that cooking times can vary dramatically – the turkey ballotine we included takes just 20 minutes to cook and even whole turkeys may not take as long as you think.
Always rest your turkey after it comes out of the oven – the strong heat of the oven forces the juices to the centre of the turkey, so this gives them to spread themselves out, as well as giving you time to get all the trimmings ready and make the gravy.
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Kelly Bronze free range whole turkey: From £74.12, Kelly Bronze
This company has the widest weight range of turkeys we’ve come across, from a tiny 2kg (the smallest turkey in the world) right up to a whopping 11kg (which feeds 24 people). The birds enjoy happy lives, having been slow grown, completely in wild woodland, rather than just free range pastures, and they’re dry plucked at twice the age of a standard industry turkey, then hung in a cool larder for 14 days. They cook quickly (ours was under two hours), with exceptionally simple and fool-proof cooking instructions and no need for foil. And the meat is melt-in-the-mouth, with gorgeously crispy skin.
Copas free range turkey crown: From £52, Copas
A turkey isn’t your average 18th birthday present, let alone 153 of them, but that’s what Tom Copas was given for his in 1957. Having gone onto successfully rear and sell them locally, he now farms more than 30,000 turkeys a year. Sold by many of the best independent butchers, as well as online, these turkeys live three times longer than the average and are game-hung for 14 days to optimise flavour, with a huge variety of options, both stuffed and unstuffed and even a breast roast for much smaller households. Our favourites are both the whole turkeys and the plump and unadulterated crowns, which are available in free range bronze or free range organic, serving from six to 15 people, depending on size. Unusually for a crown, you even get great gravy.
Aldi specially selected exquisite hand plucked, dry hung, free range bronze turkey: £8.99 per kg, Aldi
These Chesham bronze turkeys are reared on quiet farming land, where they do their roaming, roosting and foraging in woodland. This and the dry plucking and game hanging all make for a juicier, more flavoursome bird. Ours arrived beautifully presented with simple instructions on a coloured card plus a handy pop-up timer. We were wowed with the shape of the turkey (plump and curvy), the crispiness of the skin and the delicate flavoured white breast meat, although we’d hoped the dark meat would be a bit gamier.
Available from 19 Dec
COOK Christmas lunch for 12: £177, COOK
For a more intense flavour, this crown of turkey and duck comes with – brace yourself – COOK’s handmade pork and apricot stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips with cheese, sprouts with sage and red onion, roast carrots and turkey gravy. Everything, in other words, that you’ll need for a feast for the masses. You can buy the crown without the trimmings, but for the ultimate in laziness it’s a godsend and so good that your guests will never know. But be warned it arrives frozen in a huge number of packages, so you’ll need a roomy freezer. But we saved room by taking the dishes out of the boxes (saving the instructions) and decanting into freezer bags.
Forman & Field ballotine of turkey: £34.95, Forman & Field
Preparing the Christmas dinner doesn’t get quicker or easier than this – you simply defrost it (or bung it back in the freezer until you need it, then defrost) and pop it in the oven at 200C for 15 to 20 minutes. Yup, that’s it. Made up of free range turkey from Seldom Seen farm in Leicester, with a pork, apple and sage stuffing and pancetta wrapping, it is a cinch to slice and easily serves six even though it doesn’t look very large. There’s barely any washing up either. But you won’t get any gravy from the juices and it’s very easy to overcook so keep an eye on the clock.
Asda stuffed turkey crown in a bag: £13 for 1.75g, Asda
This came out much juicier than expected, no doubt partly thanks to being cooked in a bag. And although the skin wasn’t quite as crispy as with some other turkeys we tried, it did have an inviting golden colour. The sage and onion stuffing with pork and herbs made for mouth-watering aromas wafting from the oven and gave a flavoursome taste to complement the delicate flavours of the meat and it all carved like a dream. It freezes well too, in case you want to buy it well in advance. It’s not the best for making gravy and lacks the depth of flavour of more expensive turkeys in this roundup, but for the price it’s impressive.
Rhug organic Dee Valley bronze turkey: From £80.78, Rhug
Organic turkeys are quicker to cook than conventional ones because of their self-basting properties under the skin and they also boast more vital vitamins and minerals. And because these ones are also free-range with slow growth, the meat is particularly rich and juicy. Reared on rich fertile pasture, they are even sung to by a choir to stop them getting stressed. No wonder these moist, flavoursome award-winning birds are used by Michelin-starred restaurants including Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. A fabulous luxury option, with gravy to die for.
Barra bronze free range turkey: From £65, Barra Bronze
The Michie family have been farming in the wilds of Scotland for nearly 100 years. Their award-winning turkeys, which live three times as long as most turkeys, forage for insects and graze on brassicas, apples, pears and ryegrass – all making for a rich, deep and slightly sweet flavour and gamey dark meat. The gravy practically makes itself, although we chucked in some wine, cornflour and seasoning for good measure. The dry-plucking means the skin looks golden and is almost like crackling when it comes out of the oven. Another bird with no need for foil, and it comes with a pop-up thermometer so you don’t overcook it.
M&S collection the perfect turkey, serves 12-14: £65, M&S
Serving all your rellies (well, up to 14 of them), this generously sized pre-prepared British Oakham turkey crown has a pork, sage and onion stuffing and deboned, bacon-wrapped thighs. It’s beautifully presented with practically no prep required – it even comes in the cooking tray. We cooked it exactly according to the instructions and the bacon wraps crisped up nicely, while the meat was a tiny bit pink – perfect for our taste. The meat was tender, moist and very tasty but the stuffing could was a little bland. Some might find the bacon makes the gravy a bit too salty too. Overall, though, a great low maintenance option.
Donald Russell ultimate free-range turkey crown meal for six: £83, Donald Russell
This free-range Loue turkey crown comes frozen with all the trimmings to create a Christmas dinner for six: pigs in blankets, streaky bacon, goose-fat roast potatoes, sprouts with shallots and bacon, red cabbage and even Christmas pud. The instructions are easy to follow and make for a low-maintenance meal with juicy, tasty turkey although we could have done with a few more roast spuds and it’s a shame they don’t include their own-brand gravy which we know from experience is delicious. If your want to make a real feast, you might also want to top up the veg, perhaps with some broccoli and cauliflower cheese. But for just a touch over £80, it offers great quality with minimum fuss.
Morton’s Norfolk bronze turkey: From £69.16, Morton’s
Producing just 1,500 birds per year, which makes it easier to ensure they’re all happy and healthy during their 24-25 week lives – both practically since they get to roam around the whole farm including the orchards and meadows, where they forage in addition to being fed naked oats and apples. The resulting layer of fat keeps them particularly moist when cooking and the final result is a delicious, easy-carve texture and plenty of rich, dark juices for gravy. The skin had the ideal golden glow and we found the flavour on the milder side.
The verdict: Turkeys
For the ultimate whole turkey, we don’t think it gets better than the Kelly Bronze whole free range turkey – the flavour and succulence were second to none and it comes from a friendly and efficient company that treats the birds well. For turkey crowns, our vote goes to Copas free range turkey crown and for a completely pre-prepared bird with trimmings, we loved COOK’s Christmas lunch.
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