Over-night Christmas Turkey

Roasting a turkey should no longer be the unbearable stress of Christmas morning. That’s what my mother told me many years ago. Neither should it be the obstacle of an extra cocktail or a few more moves on the dance floor on Christams eve. Rejoice! The fool-proof, over-night Christmas Turkey recipe is here.

23 December, early evening: To brine or not to brine? Brine, brine, brine! To me, that’s the secret for the juiciest bird you will roast this Christmas. All you need is a large cooler. The turkey will marinate on the veranda overnight (unless you live in Australia in which case you need to keep it in the fridge). Just make sure you put something heavy on the lid to prevent the cats from midnight snacking. Prepare the stuffing (recipe here).

24 December, early evening: Remove Turkey from the brine and prepare for roasting. Wrap tightly in greaseproof paper and foil. Go out, eat, drink, dance and be merry. 12 midnight or later, just like cinderella your turkey will turn into a pumpkin (kidding!). You can actually roast any time between 10 pm and 2 am. What I do, is slow roast the turkey for 8 hours.

Christmas morning: Wake up, open presents, have breakfast. Uncover turkey and roast for 30 minutes basting with the juices. Gordon Ramsay said that you should let the turkey rest for 3 hours before carving and serving. Once the turkey is done, I remove from the oven, cover with foil and let it rest until serving time. Trust me when I say that the turkey will still be warm by then. And you will have all the time you need to roast potatoes, chop the salad, make another 4 or 5 sides (like a true Cypriot!), and have the happiest, merriest, stress-free Christmas.

Brine ingredients:

  • 1 x 5-6 kg Turkey
  • 1 x 750 ml bottle Rose wine (or water)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 Tbs black peppercorns
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 x 5 cm piece root ginger, sliced
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves

For the Turkey:

  • 200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or dried)
  • 1 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5-6 slices bacon
  • 5 large onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 quantity Turkey stuffing (recipe here)


Two days before roasting, early in the evening, brine the turkey. Mix all ingredients for the brine in a large cooler. Submerge the turkey in the cooler and add enough water to cover the turkey completely in the liquids. Cover and leave at a cool place (I leave it on my kitchen veranda). Leave it in the cooler for 24 hours.

The next day, early in the evening, take the turkey out of the cooler, and rinse it under cold water. Drain and set on a tray lined with paper towels, breast side up. Discard brine. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Use as many as needed to ensure that the skin of the turkey is as dry as possible. Season the cavity of the turkey only, with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix butter (must be soft), lemon zest, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Using your fingers separate a little of the skin from the breast so as to create a small pocket. Be careful not to tear the skin. Using your fingers again stuff some of the butter under the skin and press to distribute as much as possible. Stuff as much butter as you can under the skin. Pat the skin dry again and spread the remaining butter all over the skin of the turkey (breast, wings, legs).

Put onion slices and carrots in your baking pan. Spread them to cover the base. Place the turkey in the pan over the onions and carrots. Using a spoon, stuff the cavity of the turkey with as much stuffing (recipe here) you can fit. Don’t overdo it. Place half an onion to seal the cavity as much as possible. You can use a small metal or wooden skewer to seal it by piercing the skin. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs together in a cross.

Place bacon slices on turkey breast. Pour rum all over turkey. Cover turkey with a large piece of greaseproof paper and three layers of aluminum foil. Let no air escape! You will now slow-roast this turkey for 8 hours at 130 C, fan. Roasting time will depend on your plans. I usually put turkey package in the oven at midnight or 1 am and uncover at 8 or 9 am on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning: Uncover the turkey and increase oven temperature to 200 C, fan. Baste turkey with gorgeous pan juices. Roast for 30 minutes more, basting with the pan juices 4-5 times, until turkey is golden.

Cover turkey with foil and let it stand for 2-3 hours or until serving time. Slice Turkey and transfer on a serving platter. Sieve the pan juices (use a spoon to press all the juices out of the onions and carrots) and discard the veggies. You can serve the pan juices over the turkey as it is (delicious!) or thicken slightly.

To thicken the sauce, place in a saucepan or small pot and bring to a simmer. In a small frying pan melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir over medium heat to create a roux and cook the flour slightly. Add this roux to your sauce to thicken to your liking. If sauce becomes too thick, loosen with some water or rum.

Have a joyful, merry Christmas.

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