The Perfect Way to Cook A Christmas Turkey: Tips from Dakota Leeds’ Head Chef

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and many of us are getting ready to tackle the biggest challenge of the season: cooking the Christmas turkey. 

Infamous as one of the most time-consuming and troublesome elements of a festive feast, Head Chef at Dakota Leeds, Chris Nuttall, shares his foolproof plan for a brilliant bird – guaranteed at every holiday!

“Preparation is key,” Chef Nuttall advises. “Before placing your turkey in the oven, I make sure to clean the bird and trim away any parts that look unsightly. I recommend weighing your turkey too, as this helps to calculate cooking times: typically, I’ll roast for 20 minutes per kilogram – plus an extra 90 minutes at the end.”

Once prepped, Chef Nuttall likes to brine his bird in a saltwater bath before roasting. “A top tip is to do this overnight, for up to 24 hours: this keeps the meat moist whilst in the oven. Don’t forget to wash the turkey after removing from the brine, to avoid an overly salted taste!”

After stuffing the turkey with the mixture of your choice, place the turkey onto an oven tray. Chef Nuttall advises liberally coating the bird in butter or oil, plus seasonings, before wrapping the turkey in a tin foil parcel.

“Another hack is to remove some of the excess fat 90 minutes before removing from the oven,” Chef notes. “Leave the tin-foil parcel open for the last portion of the roasting – this ensures the skin crisps up nicely, without drying out the meat.”

With half an hour to go, Chef Nuttall has a time-saving tip: “I like to add my pigs in blankets to the roasting tray around the turkey here; it gives them a lovely flavour – and saves on the washing up!”

To test if the turkey is cooked, push a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh: Chef advises if the juices look pink, to leave for an extra 15 minutes. “Clear juices mean the bird is ready.”

But don’t rush – in order to keep your turkey moist, the bird should be rested for thirty minutes before carving. “This helps the juices to settle back into the meat, keeping it succulent. You can cover with tin foil or a towel whilst it cools down – this ensures it won’t dry out.”

Dakota Leeds was awarded a Michelin Plate in 2021, and it’s easy to see why: the kitchen team strive for excellence with every dish – including the Christmas turkey!


Clean the turkey, trimming any parts that look untidy.

Weigh your bird and calculate roasting time: 20 minutes per kg, plus 90 minutes.

Brine for 24 hours in a salt-water bath. Rinse the turkey once removed.

Stuff your bird with the filling of your choice.

Cover skin in butter or oil, and liberally season. Wrap the turkey in tin foil within an oven tray.

With 90 minutes of cooking time left, open the foil parcel and remove excess fat; return to oven.

With 30 minutes of cooking time left, add your pigs in blankets around the bird.

Check if the turkey is cooked with a skewer: juices should be clear.

Leave to rest on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, covered with foil or a towel.

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