Top tips for cooking turkeys, feeding vegetarians, and holiday side dishes

Roast turkey and Christmas dinner tips and advice.

By CanadianLiving.com

Turkey alternatives, stuffing and 22lb turkeys
Q. Not to be a party pooper, but I'm not the biggest fan of the traditional turkey - although it does smell good while cooking and look pretty when done. Can you suggest some alternate, impressive, meat dishes that could serve as the centre piece of Christmas dinner?

A. I think a crown roast of pork makes a stunning center piece to a holiday meal and pork is very trendy these days. Here is a recipe for one and a menu that goes along with it: Crown roast of Pork with Mushroom Pilaf. This recipe is part of this menu: Holiday Mix n Match.

Or a baked ham is always stunning as well.

Q. I have been told that the stuffing should not be cooked inside the turkey. Why? I have always done this.

A. Stuffing should not be cooked in the turkey because it is difficult to get the interior temperature hot enough in the time it takes for the turkey to be cooked. The safest way is to cook the stuffing separately.

If I am cooking a smaller bird, I still stuff my turkey because I like the flavour of it and it is less dense so you can get the interior hotter. If you are going to stuff your turkey make sure your stuffing is cold going in and stuff the turkey right before you are going to roast it - do not stuff it ahead of time.

Q. I plan on serving dinner at 4 pm. What time should I put the turkey in? I ordered a 22lb fresh turkey.

A. Here is a guide for roasting and some helpful roasting tips. Your turkey is going to need 5 - 51/2 hours of cooking so you shuld be putting it in the oven around 10:00 am, remember it needs to rest after you take it out of the oven.

The best way to determine if it is cooked is to use a thermometer, pierce the bird in the fattest part of the thigh and it should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees (some guides are going to tell you 180 degrees, this the temperature government regulations tell you to cook poultry but the turkey will be over-cooked at this temperature, and the temperature will continue to rise after it comes out of the oven).

Here is a basic cooking chart from our Roast Turkey How-Tos article:

Roast turkey weight
10 – 12 lb (4.5 – 5.5 kg)
12 – 16 lb (5.5 – 7 kg)
16 – 22 lb (7 – 10 kg)
20 – 25 lb (10 – 12 kg)

Stuffed
3-1/2 – 3-3/4 hours
3-3/4 – 4 hours
4 – 4-1/2 hours
4-1/2 – 5-1/2 hours

Unstuffed

3 – 3-1/4 hours
3-1/4 – 3-1/2 hours
3-1/2 – 4 hours
4 – 5 hours

Q. What's a nice liqueur to serve after a traditional turkey dinner? We always have Bailey's but I'd like to try something more "adult" and cultured, if that makes sense.

A. By something more "adult" I'm thinking you mean more boozy and less sweet - cause there is nothing wrong with Bailey's!

My recommendation is Calvados - it is like brandy but made from apples, it would go great with a winter dinner and would be a nice digestif after a heavy meal. Cognac or brandy would be nice as well or if you want to stay with something sweet - Grand Marnier, and orange flavoured liqueur will be great for Christmas.

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