So, it is nearly that time again, that magical time of year, Christmas! We have noticed there is a shortage of advice on cooking a simple Small Whole Turkey.
This recipe is for making a Perfect tender whole Turkey between 2kg to 4kg (5lb - 9lb). We take you through every step of making the best Roast Turkey Xmas Dinner!
From where to buy a small turkey. Whether to buy fresh or frozen and how to safely defrost a frozen whole turkey.
To what to stuff with, how to remove a wishbone and string the poultry. And finally, of course, the temperature and cooking times for how long to roast?
How to prepare and cook a Small Whole Turkey?
Check out the slideshow below for step by step images for preparing and cooking a small whole turkey.
There is a wealth of information to read through on this blog page, if you don't want all the 'in's and outs of the turkey's a***' feel free to jump straight to the recipe card.Jump to Recipe
Although you may want to come back and check the images for removing wishbone, trussing the turkey and carving.
What size Turkey do I need for a small family?
The pictures you see in this blog post are of a 3.6kg Whole Turkey. There was plenty to serve us, a family of 4 (2 Adults and 2 Children) with enough for leftovers!
Check out the table below for how many people a small turkey will serve?
|Whole Turkey Weight||Number of Servings|
|2kg / 4.5lb||4 People|
|2.6kg / 6lb||5 People|
|3kg/ 6.5lb||6 People|
|3.6kg / 8lb||7 People|
|4kg / 9lb||8 People|
What is the smallest size whole turkey?
2kg is the smallest whole turkey you will be able to buy. Of course, if you need smaller than that you can opt for a Turkey Crown instead!
Where can I buy a small whole turkey?
Small Turkeys are actually easier to get hold of then a big Turkey. They are also available all year round, which is a bonus, whoever said a Turkey is just for Christmas!
Which is best, Frozen or Fresh Turkey?
Fresh is usually best, however it is not a massive difference. There is some argument that frozen turkey is not as tender.
This is not the case if you are buying a pre-frozen Turkey from a supermarket. Because they will have been ready basted and flash frozen to protect the meat quality
I happily buy frozen knowing that I can cross one more thing of my Christmas list. Before they all sell out!
Conversely, you can find mini or small whole turkey's all year round in the freezer aisle of most supermarkets.
Are small whole turkeys more tender?
Smaller turkeys are usually small as they are younger. This leads to a juicer more tender meat when roasted.
Can I cook a Small Whole Turkey from Frozen?
It is not advised to cook a whole Turkey from frozen. Unless it is specifically stated on the manufactures label of the Turkey.
Even if the packaging says you can I would still advise against it. It will cook unevenly, taking 50% longer to cook from frozen and dry out the meat.
How to defrost a frozen Small Whole Turkey?
The guidance from Food Stanadards Agency is to defrost your turkey, in a container big enough to catch any juices to avoid cross-contamination.
This should be placed in a fridge for about 2 days before cooking. Allowing your turkey enough time to fully thaw.
Thawing time for small turkey
The defrosting time for your turkey should be on the packaging. However, if for any reason it is not or you want to double-check see below table?
|Whole Turkey Frozen Weight||Defrost Time - covered in fridge|
|2kg / 4.5lb||20 hrs|
|2.6kg / 6lb||25 hrs|
|3kg / 6.5||30 hrs|
|3.6kg / 8lb||35 hrs|
|4kg / 9lb||40 hrs|
How to prepare a small whole turkey for roasting?
We will go through every step of preparation of the turkey with you from removing the wishbone, adding flavour and keeping the meat moist.
How to string up, preventing burning, what temperature and how long to cook for?
What to prepare turkey on?
We like to use a large cut of foil on the worktop whilst preparing our Turkey. This is to prevent cross-contamination on worktops. It can simply be thrown away once your prep has finished.
Remove your turkey from the packaging, throwing away excess fluids.
Do I need to keep turkey giblets?
First, locate the giblets and neck inside the cavities of the turkey and throw these away or use how you wish?
Some people like to boil them to use for stock. However, I like to make my gravy using the leftover cooking fluids instead.
Should I wash my turkey?
It is espically important not to wash your turkey, because this can lead to cross contamination. Instead, simply use kitchen towel to pat it dry, removing any excess moisture.
How and when to remove Turkey wishbone?
We prefer to remove the bone before cooking as it makes it easier to carve. Also saves you time fiddling around later when everyone is waiting for a slice of turkey!
Lift up the skin at the neck end (between the wings). Feel with your fingers to find the long upside-down v-shaped wishbone. Use a sharp knife to slice down both sides of the bone. Scrapping against the bone with some force.
Put your fingers into the cuts and wiggle the bone to release both bottom parts. You will need to use some force to tug it out without snapping the wishbone.
Should I stuff a Small Whole Turkey?
We never stuff our turkey with stuffing, especially a small turkey. Instead, we like to fill the cavity with vegetables, fruit and herbs.
Don't worry you can still have lovely stuffing. We will be posting our delicious pork, apple and chestnut stuffing balls soon!
Ways to add flavour to a Small Whole Turkey?
If you want to add some delicious flavour to your turkey. Cut up an onion and lemon into quarters and stuff inside the Turkey cavity. In addition to a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme.
The flavours will not only infuse into the turkey meat. But, also aid in making delicious turkey gravy, from the drippings. Like our absolutely divine Red Wine Turkey Gravy.
How to keep the Turkey meat moist?
Unlike a large turkey, a small turkey will not need regular basting to keep the meat moist.
Simply rub a generous amount of herby butter. Which we show you how to make in the recipe card, under the skin in addition to over the skin.
This will not only keep the meat well basted during cooking but also add a delicious herby flavour.
How to stop Turkey wings from burning?
In order to prevent the wings from burning, pull the wings out and twist them back under the neck area.
How to string up (truss) a Small Whole Turkey?
Indeed, it is best to truss the turkey to keep it compact and help it cook evenly. Use kitchen twine to string together.
Trussing (tying up with string) a Turkey, is fairly tricky. Especially with it being a smaller Turkey the neck is only tiny!
Starting at the neck, which you will find under the flap of skin between the wings. Twist the string around it.
Pull the string under the wings, and up and around the breast, tie off tightly here.
Finally, cross over the turkey legs, pull, wrap and tie them up tightly with remaining string to keep them together. Cut off any excess string.
What to cook Turkey in?
You can buy a disposable turkey tray if you wanted. On the other hand, being a small turkey it should fit in most roasting trays you already own?
If you have a Roasting Tin with a rack? Use that to keep the turkey off the base of the tray. Thus allows the heat to circulate around the whole of the turkey & it cooks more evenly.
What to use instead of a Rack when cooking Turkey?
I do not own a rack. In my case, I like to DIY my own with roughly chopped onions and carrots.
Not only do these work in the same way as a rack does. By lifting the turkey up off the base of the pan.
Futhermore, they double up to give extra flavour to the Turkey drippings which will be used for gravy.
What should I add to roasting pan before putting Turkey in the oven?
Use roughly chopped carrots and onions as a rack to prop up the turkey from the base. Then add seasoning to the whole turkey and finally stock (we used chicken stock) to the roasting tin.
Adding stock, is an important step. As this will work to keep your Turkey moist, through the steam that is released. In addition to helping create a delicious gravy after the turkey is cooked!
The stock should not be touching the base of the turkey. We use 500ml, adjust depending on the size of your tray.
We will go through making the gravy later.
Should I put foil over a small Turkey during cooking?
The last step before the turkey goes in the oven is to put foil over the top of the turkey. DO NOT wrap the foil tightly all the way around.
Simply lay over the top of the turkey and tuck the foil under the two long ends of the pan. Meanwhile, keep the two shorter ends open.
This foil should be removed 40 minutes before the end of cooking. At which time you add the glaze to allow Turkey to brown.
Cooking time for a small turkey?
Most Turkeys will indeed, have a time already calculated on the front of the packaging.
Check out the chart below to give you an idea of how long it will take to roast your size bird. This may vary depending on the turkey you have purchased.
|Whole Turkey Weight||Oven cook at 180°C fan / 350°F - start covered loosely with foil.|
Remove foil, glaze and leave uncovered for the final 40 minutes.
|2kg / 4.5lb||1 hr 50 min|
|2.6kg / 6lb||2 hrs 00 min|
|3kg / 6.5||2 hr 10 min|
|3.6kg / 8lb||2 hr 20 min|
|4kg / 9lb||2 hr 50 min|
What temperature to cook a Small Whole Turkey
Our turkey cooking times are calculated when cooked in a fan oven at 180°C (190°C conventional)/ 350°F /Gas mark 5.
It should be noted to always rest the bird after it comes out of the oven. In this case, 30mins - 1hr covered loosely with foil.
Do I need to baste a small Turkey whilst cooking?
When cooking a small turkey there is no need to continually baste the turkey. Unlike you would with a big Turkey.
We only baste it once during cooking, which is when we add a delicious oil, herb and maple syrup glaze.
What to glaze Turkey with?
We use a deliciously sweet glaze made from oil, fresh rosemary, thyme and maple syrup.
Not only does it add great flavour to the turkey. The maple syrup also helps give the turkey a delightful golden brown colour.
Regardless of the size, remove the turkey 40 minutes before the end of cooking, take foil off and pour all over the turkey. Return to the oven, leaving uncovered.
The glaze should be added for the final 40 minutes of cooking and left uncovered to begin the browning. Do not add the glaze earlier as it will burn!
How to check if your small turkey is cooked?
There are a couple of ways to check, either using a cooking thermometer (if you have one). Or, check the juices run clear from the thigh meat.
How to check juices of Turkey?
Pierce the thickest part of turkey thigh with a knife or skewer. Squeeze the juices out, they should run clear.
Of course, if the juice is still pink. The turkey will need to cook for another 15 minutes before checking again.
When is Turkey cooked in Celsius or Fahrenheit?
If you own a cooking thermometer, poke it into the thickest part of the Turkey thigh.
It should be noted, do not push too far in. As a result the thermometer will end up in the inside cavity. Or hit a bone, as a result the reading will be wrong!
The thermometer should read 74°C (165°F).
If not return to the Oven for 15 minutes and check again.
Why rest cooked Turkey?
Once you are happy that the turkey is cooked by checking the temperature or juices. It is equally important to give the turkey resting time.
Remove the turkey from the roasting tin and place on a chopping board.
Layer a single sheet of foil loosely over the top of the whole turkey, do not wrap it up tightly.
Rest the whole turkey covered for at least 30 minutes.
Of course, leaving longer, up to 1 hour 30 minutes, will certainly allow time for the juices to settle and redistribute.
As a result, the turkey meat will be juicier and easier to carve.
Meat of small turkey leg is still pink, is it safe to eat?
It is normal for smaller turkeys to have pinker and darker flesh espically around the joint areas, this is because they are usually younger birds with les fat covering protecting the .
So as long as the juices run clear and the temperature is correct there is nothing to worry about.
If you are still worried you can always remove just the legs and return just them to the oven for 15 minutes to rest your mind!
What to do with leftover stock and turkey drippings?
Remove the vegetables, you can eat them if you wanted or just discard. Now the best thing for this delicious leftover stock and drippings is to create a gravy with it!
How to make a gravy from Turkey juices?
Check out our turkey gravy with red wine post for what to do to make a delicious gravy from the Turkey juices.
Even if you do not want to use red wine you can still follow the recipe in the same way but using extra stock instead of red wine. More details on the gravy blog page for this.
How to carve a Small Whole Turkey?
Carving instructions are illustrated by the pictures below, start with the legs, then the breast and finally the wings.
How to cut Turkey legs off?
Simply pull the leg down away from the carcass cutting the skin and flesh between the leg and breast that joins it.
You may hear pop whilst doing so which is the ball joint coming out of the socket, cut away any remaining flesh and skin and place aside, repeat with other leg.
How to remove cooked breast from small whole turkey carcass?
Use the breast bone as a guide for where to cut. Follow along the breast bone with a sharp knife.
Pulling with your other hand and cutting as you go remove the whole breast from the carcass. Finally, make a cut down the bottom near the wing to release the whole breast.
Now slice the breast into smaller slices.
How to cut Turkey wings from carcass?
Finally to remove the wings, hold on to what is left of the carcass and twist the wing away, cut around the joint to detach from body.
What to serve with Small Whole Roast Turkey?
We have many Roast dinner side dishes you can make to serve with your Whole Roast Turkey. Take a look at more side recipes below
Storing leftover Turkey?
When everyone has had enough turkey, make sure to cover with foil or in a lidded container and transfer to the fridge within 90 minutes of serving.
How long does cooked Turkey stay good for?
Cooked turkey will be safe stored in the fridge for upto 4 days after cooking.
How to reheat leftover Turkey?
Turkey must only be reheated once, so only reheat as much you need using one of the following methods.
Reheat turkey in oven?
Wrap desired amount in foil and add a few spoonful's of stock/ gravy and place in the oven at 180°C/350°F for about 30 minutes. Check it is heated through before serving.
If reheating large joint it may take up to 45minutes.
Reheat Turkey in microwave?
Place slices of turkey in a microwave-safe bowl, add stock or gravy to prevent it drying out. Cover and microwave until piping hot throughout, time will vary depending on how many slices you are reheating.
Small Whole Turkey- How to Prepare and Cook
- 3.6 kg Turkey If using frozen - make sure you leave enough time to defrost ahead of time.
- 100 grams Unsalted butter room temperature
- Thyme 2 sprigs
- Rosemary 2 sprigs
- Salt and Pepper season
Ingredients for inside Turkey Cavity
- 1 onion chopped into quarters
- 1 lemon chopped in quarters
- 1 handful Fresh Thyme & Rosemary
Turkey base for baking tray - can later be used for Turkey Gravy
- 2 onions cut in half
- 2 carrots cut into quarters
- 500 ml chicken stock or turkey / vegetable stock
Turkey Glaze - to put on for the final 40 minutes of cooking.
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 tbsp Maple syrup
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
- Salt and Pepper
- Remove the turkey and butter from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before prepping the bird to cook.
- With the softened butter, add rosemary and thyme leaves, salt and pepper and stir together
- Preheat the oven at 180°C Pat the turkey down inside and out with kitchen paper towel.Check inside the cavities and remove the giblets and neck joint.
- Remove the wishbone see blog post for instructions on how we did this.
- Place the quatered lemon, onions and fresh herbs inside the empty cavity
- Rub the butter under the turkey skin and all over the top of breast, legs and wings.
- Truss the turkey with cooking string, see blog post for instructions on how we did this.
- Place carrots and onions for the base of the turkey to sit on top of in the baking tray (or use a rack)
- Place the turkey on top of the cut vegetables, season with salt and pepper and pour the chicken stock around the bottom of the tray, not over the turkey.
- Lightly place tin foil over the top of the turkey and secure on long edge of roasting tin only. Leaving the small sides open. Place in the oven to cook covered, removing 40 minutes before the time given on the packet instructions to glaze as in next step.(for example, this 3.6kg turkey went in for 1 hr 40 mins covered and the final 40 minutes uncovered with glaze to brown) Check times on the packet for your size of the turkey and adjust accordingly
- Mix up the glaze ingredients
- 40 minutes before the end of cooking time, remove the tin foil and baste the whole turkey with the glaze.Leave the tin foil off and place back in the oven and cook for the final 40 minutes allowing it to brown.
- Once cooked, remove the turkey from the tray and place on to a chopping board. Cover loosely with tin foil allow to rest between 30 minutes to 1 hr 30 minutes before carving
- Keep the leftover cooking juices to make the turkey gravy - see blog post
- When its time to carve, see blog post for instructions and pictures on how we did this.
- Serve with all the usual trimmings and Enjoy!!
We would like to take this time to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope we helped you achieve the most perfect Turkey Christmas dinner after following along our recipe.
Feel free to send us a comment below, letting us know how you got on?