You can never have too much bacon at Christmas but dressing turkey with a bacon lattice does a valuable job, too: it imparts flavour and helps prevent the breast drying out. When working out your timings for the day, give yourself about 30 minutes to prepare the turkey. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator 1–2 hours before it goes in the oven. This is important to ensure even cooking – if the centre of the bird is chilled, it may not cook through. Then, allow at least 30 minutes for the turkey to rest, along with an extra 30 minutes or so leeway on the cooking time in case it needs a bit longer. A meat thermometer is the best way to check whether a turkey is cooked through. Officially, the advice is that it should reach 74°C (165°F), but that can result in dry meat. As long as you are cooking a good-quality, high-welfare turkey – as ours, reared by the Botterill family in Leicestershire, are – and you rest the bird for at least half an hour (during which time it will carry on cooking), and as long as it reaches 68°C (155°F) for at least three minutes in the thickest parts of the meat (deep in the breast, at the thighbody joint and the leg-thigh joint), then any nasties should be dealt with.
At the Ginger Pig, we classify our turkeys by size as follows – choose the cooking time for your turkey’s weight, weighing the bird after you’ve added any stuffing.
Mini – 4–5kg (8lb 13oz–11lb), feeds 4–6
Small – 5–6kg (11lb–13lb 4oz), feeds 6–10
Medium – 6–7kg (13lb 4oz–15lb 7oz), feeds 10–14
Large – 7–8kg (15lb 7oz–17lb 10oz), feeds 14–18
Extra large – 8kg (17lb 10oz) or more, feeds 18+
Cooking time – depends on the size of the turkey
1. Make the bacon lattice 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook. Find a clean surface or board and lay down a large piece of clingfilm (this will make it easier to move the lattice when complete). Lay out 9 rashers of bacon vertically and snugly together on the clingfilm, with the fat on the right-hand side. You may need to gently pull and stretch the rashers to the same length to ensure that they lie closely together and there is enough coverage (especially if placing on a large turkey!).
2. Fold down the top ends of rashers 2, 4, 6 and 8, making enough room for a rasher of bacon to fit horizontally and form the top of the lattice square. Lay the first horizontal rasher across the top of those rashers remaining on the board. Return the folded-down ends of the rashers to their original positions, covering the first horizontal rasher and creating the first weave of the lattice.
3. Lift up the bottoms of rashers 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, which previously remained on the board, folding them upwards at the point where they meet the first horizontal rasher. Place a second horizontal rasher across the rashers that remain flat on the board, making sure to keep it snuggled up close to the first horizontal one. Replace the lifted rashers and repeat. Continue lifting alternate vertical rashers, placing each horizontal rasher close to the last before replacing the lifted rashers. Repeat until you’ve used up all the rashers and have a neat square of streaky bacon lattice.
4. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F), gas mark 7. Rub the turkey skin with plenty of butter and pepper. Gently lift the finished lattice onto the breast of the turkey. Using 2 very long sheets of foil – use more than you think you will need! – make a big tin foil cross inside a roasting tin large enough to take the turkey, place the turkey in the middle of the cross, and lift up and wrap the foil around to make a loose but closed parcel. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes.
5. Reduce the heat to 170°C (335°F), gas mark 3–4, and cook for a further 2½–2¾ hours for a mini turkey, 3–3½ hours for a small, 4 hours for a medium, 4½ hours for a large and 5 hours for an extra large. Baste the turkey every 45 minutes or so, working quickly so that the turkey doesn’t cool down, and keeping the oven door shut to retain heat.
6. Uncover for the last 30 minutes to crisp the bacon, or if you prefer, move the bacon to a tray so it can crisp up as well as the turkey’s skin. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, stick a long skewer in the fleshiest part to test for doneness: the juices should run clear. Rest the cooked bird for 30–40 minutes while you finish preparing the side dishes. (If you want crispy skin, avoid wrapping it in foil, as the steam will dampen the skin.)
• 18 rashers of streaky bacon
• 1 turkey
• salted butter
• freshly ground black pepper