My Gran’s turkey with bread stuffing and how to cook the perfect turkey

My gran’s turkey with herby bread stuffing is an easy recipe that makes for an excellent centerpiece on your holiday dinner table.

My gran's turkey

Christmas morning was always a mixture of being tired and being excited. Tired because we always had a big Christmas Eve party where we would exchange gifts with the family (a few gifts were kept for Christmas Day) and were allowed to stay up late. The excitement I felt was, of course due to the extra gifts but mostly I was excited because Christmas Day meant even more family (seriously my favourite thing in the world), swimming and my Gran’s turkey with bread stuffing.

Because it’s always so hot in SA during Christmas, my gran would serve her turkey at room temperature but the stuffing was always hot. She used to remove the stuffing when she carved the turkey and keep it warm in the oven. It was never strange for us to have turkey on Christmas day because that was just the way it was. I know for some it’s weird but I’ve known it all my life and so, I continue this tradition now that my gran isn’t around to cook us a turkey every year.

My gran's turkey

My gran’s turkey was always incredibly moist and so flavourful and the stuffing was moist and rich. This was because she actually stuffed the turkey with it but I prefer to bake it separately in a loaf tin. I do this because the turkey cooks a lot quicker when it doesn’t have stuffing in the cavity. Instead, I place half an onion and lots of fresh herbs in the cavity to flavour the turkey from the inside. I also roast the turkey surrounded by onion, garlic, celery and carrots. This not only flavours the turkey but also ensures a fabulous base for your gravy.

I’ve found that the key to the perfect roast turkey is to remove that little red thing that pops up when the turkey is supposedly ready. That little thing is a liar! It’s ‘programmed’ to pop up at 180°c and by that time your turkey will be a dry, sad little thing. I remove my turkey from the oven when the white meat has reached 160-165°c on my meat thermometer (sometimes even around 157°c) because the turkey will continue cooking as it rests. When you cut into the bird, the juices should run mostly clear with a tinge of pink before you allow it to rest. I rest my turkey for 30-45 minutes under foil and a tea towel before I carve and serve it.

By this time the juices would have re-distributed into the meat and there will be some juices in the roasting pan which I tip into my gravy when I re-heat it before serving. While the turkey is resting, I bake the stuffing so that it’s nice and hot by the time lunch is served. This year, we’re doing more of a hot lunch so I’ll be serving the turkey and stuffing with cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes and green bean & feta salad followed by a plethora of puddings. It’s guaranteed to be a very merry Christmas!

My gran's turkey
My gran's turkey

My Gran’s turkey with bread stuffing and how to cook the perfect turkey

My gran’s turkey with herby bread stuffing is an easy recipe that makes for an excellent centerpiece on your holiday dinner table.
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Course: Christmas, Roast, Stuffing, Turkey
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
0 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Calories: 441kcal
Author: Alida Ryder
Servings: 12


for the turkey

  • 1 x 4.5 turkey innards removed and completely thawed
  • 6 onions quartered
  • 2 garlic bulbs halved
  • handful each fresh sage and thyme
  • 4 large carrots roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

for the stuffing

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 8 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 50 g Parmesan cheese finely grated
  • 1-2 cups full cream milk
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Pre-heat the oven to 220°c.
  • Drizzle the turkey with a little olive oil and season liberally with the salt and pepper (including the cavity) and place in a large roasting tray.
  • Place half an onion and the fresh herbs in the cavity.
  • Place the remaining onions, garlic, carrots and celery around the turkey and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Place in the oven.
  • Allow the turkey to roast for 30 minutes then cover with foil and turn the heat down to 160°c.
  • Allow the turkey to roast for another hour – 1 hour 30 minutes or until the breast meat has reached 140°c on a meat thermometer.
  • Remove the foil and allow the turkey to roast and brown for another 30-45 minutes or until the white/breast meat has reached 160-165°c on a meat thermometer.
  • Meanwhile, fry the onions and garlic in the butter until soft and translucent.
  • Combine the breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl and add the onions and garlic with all the butter.
  • Stir in the milk until the stuffing is well moistened but not too wet.
  • Season to taste and transfer to a greased loaf tin.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven when it is well browned (or reached 160-165°c) and allow to rest for 30-45 mins under foil and a tea towel.
  • Place the stuffing in the oven and allow to bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and slicing and serving with the carved turkey.


Calories: 441kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 61g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 195mg | Sodium: 371mg | Potassium: 825mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3617IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 3mg

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