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8 best turkeys for Christmas 2020: Crown, stuffed and whole options for a festive feast

Top off your table with one of these tried-and-tested birds

Stacey Smith
Friday 04 December 2020 12:16
<p>To ensure your day gets off without a hitch, we’ve only included birds that come with easy-to-follow, straightforward instructions</p>

To ensure your day gets off without a hitch, we’ve only included birds that come with easy-to-follow, straightforward instructions

To ensure Christmas 2020 is as convenient as can be, we’ve rounded up the tastiest selection of turkeys which can be perused from the comfort of your own home and delivered directly to your door.

Whether you’re after an easy-carving crown for two or a whole turkey to feed the family, there’s no need to even step foot in a supermarket this year, unless you want to. Just add a veg box, check out our selection of the tastiest smoked salmon, and add on dessert while you’re there.

Though government guidelines outline that each household will be able to “bubble” with two other between 23 to 27 December, many have resigned themselves to the fact gatherings are going to be more intimate than normal.

As such, there has been a fear among some turkey farmers, that their biggest birds will end up going to waste. However, we’re keen to emphasise that turkey meat is fantastic for cooking and then freezing, so if you do decide to size up, you’ll certainly enjoy the leftovers. We love making a big batch of turkey curry to see us into the New Year.

Andy Cavanna, commercial director at Farmison & Co, says: “Last year, big birds were in high demand; this year, because of the new rules, we’ve been scaling back where possible. The smaller birds in our exclusive heritage breed free range Bourbon Red turkeys are (forgive the expression) flying out of the door – the 5kg in particular, which serves six.” 

Although he goes on to say, “I’m not worried about moving the bigger ones. There are all sorts that people can do with ‘leftover’ turkey meat, which will get them through the Christmas period… pies, cold cuts, traybakes, pasta dishes etc.

“And, we’re in the fortunate position that if all the large birds haven’t been ordered nearer to Christmas, we can butcher them down into crowns, breasts, legs and chef-prepared dishes, although I’m doubtful that this will be necessary.”

So what size turkey should you buy? For generous portions and plenty of leftovers, a 2-2.5kg turkey crown will feed six people, while a 3-4.5kg whole bird should feed six to eight when served with all the trimmings. Adding pigs in blankets to your roasting tray is an inexpensive way to up the portion size while keeping costs down.

To ensure your day gets off without a hitch, we’ve only included birds that come with easy-to-follow, straightforward instructions that produce tender, succulent meat.

The other thing to consider before purchasing is if you’d like a mixture of dark and white meat or purely breast. Turkey crowns are an easy-carving option, but you’ll miss out on the tasty thigh meat.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Waitrose best of both free range bronze turkey crown with thighs 2.9kg (serves 12)

Insanely delicious, this was some of the most succulent and tender meat we tried. The maple streaky bacon-covered turkey is cooked in the bag which helps retain the juices – we followed the instructions to the letter and it came out perfectly. The only slightly tricky bit was removing the hot bird from the bag for the last 15 minutes of cooking time, but it’s well worth it for the crisp, golden results.

Complete with classic pork, sage and onion stuffing, it comes with two slow-cooked boneless thighs. These cook separately (while the rest of the bird is resting) and were simply fantastic, falling apart under the knife – we anticipate arguments over who gets those! The juices from that tray go into the gravy, and everything came together just as it was supposed to. Carving was easy, however, the stuffing isn’t evenly dispersed throughout, so some slices will end up with more than others. Effortless but extremely tasty, if you love thigh meat – this is the one to serve this Christmas.

M&S collection the perfect turkey crown (serves 6-8)

Wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon and stuffed with soft, well-seasoned pork, chestnut and thyme stuffing, the team at M&S went for the low and slow approach for cooking this crown and, hats off to them, it was the moistest bird we tested. Having said that, we would have loved the bacon to be a little crispier. It was a doddle to cook, arriving in a silver foil tray, ready to bung in the oven. 

There’s even a flavour stockpot included which you add to a pan, along with the juices from the turkey, to create your gravy. It was a little thin, although we could have reduced it down further with a bit more cooking and a touch of cornflour. Easy to carve, there was just the single bone to contend with, running down the centre, and our meat was just as moist the following day in sandwiches. It’s out of stock online, but will be available in store from 18 December. 

Farmison & Co bourbon red turkey crown (serves 6)

The Bourbon Red breed gets its name for its beautiful red plumage. Online butcher Farmison & Co lets its flock roam freely around the farm, foraging to their heart's content. They’re hung for between seven to 14 days to allow the meat’s flavour to develop, and are sold complete with giblets in the traditional way (a must for delicious gravy). Quick to cook and easy to carve, if you’re after pure breast meat to put your own stamp on, this is it. There’s a larger size available that serves eight people, too.

Cook stuffed crown of turkey 470g (serves 2)

If it’s just going to be the two of you, and you’d rather not live off turkey meat for the entirety of the holidays, Cook offers a conveniently stuffed turkey crown for two which can be kept in the freezer until you’re ready for it (although don’t forget to defrost it first!). Sourced from small farms in East Anglia, these happy birds are free to roam around the clock and have been awarded a Good Turkey Award by Compassion In World Farming.

The orange-soaked apricot, sausage meat and ginger stuffing feels particularly festive and made our kitchen smell wonderful. There’s also an eight-person version if there’s going to be more of you and the “serves 12” option contains duck breasts within the turkey crown, along with stuffing for a truly indulgent, all-out Christmas lunch.

Morton’s family farm free range Norfolk black turkey, 3kg (serves 1-4)

Picking up three coveted stars in the Great Taste Awards 2020, Morton’s Norfolk Black free range turkeys were described by judges as “a first-class piece of poultry with a generous amount of fat under the skin on the breasts, indicating a happy, healthy life”. This is a slow-maturing bird and has a wonderful gamey flavour, ideal if you like a mix of white and darker meat.

Gorgeously golden with a tasty, crispy skin, we felt it could have done with a bit of basting, which wasn’t mentioned in the cooking instructions. The turkey is available in three sizes; 3.5kg (serves 1-4); 4kg (serves 6-8) and 6kg (serves 10-12). Though currently unavailable, you can join a waiting list to be notified when it is.

Piper’s farm free range sage and onion simplest turkey, 4 portions

Sold as portions rather than weight, we loved this bundle from Piper’s Farm. It contains white turkey breast and leg meat, rolled and stuffed separately, and is designed to be cooked in one pan within the hour. It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. Each pack also contains deliciously salty pigs in blankets and a pouch of turkey stock to make a rich, delicious gravy.

We loved the herb sage and onion sausage meat stuffing and found slicing and plating oh-so-simple, as there are no bones whatsoever. Piper’s also sells whole turkeys, crowns and breast meat, all of which are the same stunning quality from free range bronze turkeys, reared outdoors in Devon. This is available in five different portion sizes, with the largest being 12.

Copas Turkeys whole bronze free range turkey 6kg (serves 10)

Copas offers a choice of free range or organic turkeys. You can read more about the differences here, but both are raised to very high standards, arriving with a traceability label on the wing. To ensure your bird is cooked to perfection, they include a pop-out timer, and there’s also the option of adding on a Robert Welch carving knife. Beautifully presented in a smart box, it feels like an early Christmas present. We’re also a little bit in love with the live turkey cam which looks out over the fields so you can see what your bird is getting up to. This turkey is available in four sizes from 4kg to 7kg.

Riverford organic turkey small (serves 8-10)

Catering for every eventuality this Christmas, Riverford offers its organic, free range, full-flavoured bronze breeds in every format – from a breast joint for two, through to an XL turkey to feed 15. Whichever option you plump for, the brand recommends basting with butter for an extra golden skin and succulent meat. Add a veg box on and you won’t even need to step foot in a supermarket.

The verdict: Christmas turkeys

The verdict: Christmas turkeys

With such a wide variety of sizes and formats on offer, this was a hard one to call. However, our best buy goes to Waitrose, who has combined tender thigh meat, with the ease of a tasty crown. Not only is it a doddle to cook, but it offers something for everyone.

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