21st July 2021
Cooked correctly, turkey crown can be a succulent, mouth-watering dish that will delight your guests on Christmas Day. But, unfortunately, it’s easy to get it wrong. Keep reading for top tips on how to get it right.
Cooking a turkey crown isn’t too different from cooking a whole turkey, but it means you’ll have fewer leftovers, so there’ll be less chance of turkey curry on Boxing Day.
As a turkey crown is only breast (white) meat, adding some fat to your cooking is key to getting a tasty turkey that doesn't go dry.
That’s because the white meat has a lower fat content than the dark meat, which is great if you’re on a diet, but not so great if you want the fat to keep the white meat of your turkey crown nice and moist.
This is why most recipes for a turkey include butter slathered under the turkey skin of the breast meat, or pancetta or bacon draped over the turkey skin of the breast meat.
One really important thing to double check before the big day is to make sure your turkey crown fits in your oven.
When we test built-in ovens and freestanding cookers, we measure how much actual useable space there is in the oven so you can be sure your new oven fits whatever you need to squeeze in.
Generally speaking, turkey crown should be cooked at around 180°C/190°C fan, 350F or gas mark 5, depending on your oven.
A lot of popular recipes suggest preheating the oven to a hot temperature to start with (for example, 200°C fan), and then turning it down immediately, or after a few minutes, once you’ve put the turkey in.
This is so that it gets the initial high heat to crisp up the skin. Some recipes also suggest turning the temperature up at the end again.
Once you know the weight of the turkey crown you’re getting, you can work out how long it will take to cook it.
The British Turkey Information Service quotes 20 minutes per kg, and then 70 minutes on top if it weighs less than 4kg, and 90 minutes if it weighs more than 4kg.
Cooking times are as follows when the oven is on 180°C fan/350F/gas mark 4:
Make sure you check the cooking times for the bird you buy on the packaging, or ask the butcher if you’re not buying from a supermarket.
But cooking times can vary depending on how well your cooker sticks to its temperature.
and stay very close to the set temperatures (we measure this), but the least accurate ovens can overheat by more than 30°C. This is enough to result in a dry, or even burnt turkey crown on Christmas Day.
Where in the oven you place the turkey will also make a difference. We found one Don’t Buy built-in oven that was set to 180°C, but was around 27°C higher on the top level and around 12°C less on the bottom level.
You’ll know the turkey is cooked by piercing it with a skewer in the thickest part of the breast: the juices should run clear.
Whatever size of turkey you plump for, all the best chefs agree that resting the turkey is an essential part of the cooking process. Resting essentially means leaving it out of the oven before serving.
Doing so will prevent the juices pouring out as soon as you cut it, as they will have had time to absorb back into the meat, ensuring it’s nice and moist.
Leave the meat for around 15 to 20 minutes, covered in foil so that it remains warm and to keep the moisture locked inside.
The weight of the turkey crown you choose will affect how long you need to cook it for. Rule of thumb is that you’ll need between 300g to 400g per person.
The list below will give you an idea of roughly what weight of turkey crown you will need to feed your entire guest list.
You can buy either a boned or boneless turkey crown, often called a boneless turkey breast. These often come already stuffed or adorned with trimmings, such as bacon.
The cooking times for these are pretty much the same for both, again dependent on weight.
But a lot of recipes suggest cooking on 170°C fan instead of 180°C. Again, check the packaging or ask your butcher.
Now you’ve got the basic recipe for cooking a turkey crown, you can add tasty extras to give your Christmas dinner centrepiece extra wow. You won’t find many top chefs’ recipes for turkey crowns, so if you’re looking for ‘how to cook a turkey crown’ Jamie Oliver-style, then you’re out of luck. But favourites Mary Berry, Delia Smith and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have all come up with their take on turkey crowns for Christmas.
She might be best known for Bake Off, but Mary Berry knows a thing or two about tasty turkey, too. Mary’s top tip for how to cook a turkey crown is to mix 2tsp of thyme leaves with 50g of softened butter and smear the mixture under the skin of the bird. Then top it off with orange slices placed in two neat rows under the skin, on top of the herb butter.
Read more on Marry Berrys website about how to cook a turkey crown with orange.
Delia Smith’s advice for a succulent turkey crown is to plaster softened butter all over the skin and then use pancetta slices across the top of the turkey. She recommends removing the pancetta after about 45 minutes of cooking (as by then it will be brown and crisp) and popping it back into the oven to reheat just a few minutes before serving.
Try Delia Smith’s turkey crown recipe, which also includes a cranberry and sage stuffing to accompany your turkey
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he of River Cottage fame, swears by a recipe that promises a turkey crown to ensure moist, tender meat with minimum faff. Hugh recommends using rashers of streaky bacon to keep your breast nice and moist.
Traditionally a turkey would have been basted – that is, you’d open the oven every now and then to spoon some of the fat released during cooking back over the breast meat to keep it moist. But, as Hugh points out, opening the oven door every 10 minutes means you’ll be cooling the oven down, whereas the addition of bacon will keep the breast basted without you having to touch the oven door.