5 chef secrets to preparing the perfect Thanksgiving turkey
October 03, 2018

By Chef Philip Leach, co-ordinator, culinary programs

Chef Leach working with students in the Georgian kitchen1. Buy about one pound of raw turkey per person
People tend to buy either too much or too little turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. To get it just right, you want to buy about one pound of raw product per guest.

2. Measure the temperature of the whole bird – including the stuffing
Some turkeys come with a pop-up turkey timer – a little plastic gadget that you insert into the flesh, that’s supposed to pop up when the bird is cooked. These timers aren’t reliable.

Most people stuff their turkeys. Stuffing is delicious! But stuffing changes the dynamic of how pop-up timers work. The best way to see if your turkey is fully cooked is to insert a thermometer all the way into the center, so that it reaches the stuffing and the juices inside.

3. Remove your turkey from the oven a bit earlier than you think
A turkey is fully cooked when it reaches 165 degrees, but I take mine out at 160 degrees because turkey has a 5- to 10-degree carryover after it is removed from the oven.

4. Allow for a 30-40 minute resting period
Don’t slice and serve your turkey as soon as it’s out of the oven. If you start slicing it right away, the juices will run out of it and it’ll taste dry. I recommend a 30-40 minute resting period, uncovered and out of the oven, before serving. If your bird is going to rest for an hour or more, cover it with a lid or foil to keep it warm.

5. Don’t buy pre-made stuffing
Stuffing can really make your dish, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to prepare. A little fresh sage and some eggs can go a long way. Here’s my stuffing recipe, to get you started.

Chef Leach, working in one of Georgian's kitchensChef Leach has been a Georgian faculty member since 2007. His varied background includes working as a chef in exclusive restaurants and hotels in England, as well as numerous high-end private golf clubs in Canada. He specializes in bread, cheese and wine making. In 2009, he was named Chef of the Year by the Muskoka and District Chef’s Association, of which is he is an active member.

Chef’s sage and onion stuffing

Yield: to fill 1 large bird

  • 1/2 loaf of white bread, cut into cubes
  • 200 g of spanish onions, finely diced and lightly sautéed
  • 16 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 9 g of fresh curly parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 120 ml of melted butter, unsalted
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and fold together.
  2. Fill the turkey cavity with mixture (front and back).
  3. Roast the turkey in the oven – after the first hour, baste every 20 mins. I like to start at 375 degrees for 30 mins, then turn down to 300 degrees until turkey reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  4. Allow the turkey to rest for 30 to 40 mins after removal from oven.
  5. Remove the stuffing and place into a serving dish.
  6. Slice turkey thinly, to serve.

NOTE: Dressing may also be placed in an oiled baking dish and baked in one batch.