Photograph by Pat Mateo and Jar Concengco
Food & Drink Features

How to roast a turkey: a very informed guide from a very good chef

We put together a guide to whipping up a roast turkey and all its necessary side attractions. We know it's late, but hey, not for next year. 
Angeli De Rivera | Dec 24 2018

Norman Rockwell's painting "Freedom from Want," showing a family gathered around the dinner table, is an idealized image of celebration and thanksgiving—at least in America. A whole roast turkey being set down by the matriarch of the family is the focal point of the painting. Just as it is in the Philippines where no Christmas feast is complete without a signature dish in the middle of the buffet table. Tradition dictates sumptuous carvings like a prime rib roast for individual steaks, a whole turkey with all the sidings, and, as an alternate to the standard lechon, the small but definitely superb cochinillo del cielo.

Here, we chose to commission one of the city's best chefs for a do-it-yourself guide to roasting your meats, specifically, the turkey.


Chef Norbet Gandler

Graduates of ISCAHM are recognized internationally for their culinary and hospitality skills. It opened its third campus in Angeles City, Pampanga, which also offers catering services.

Turkey may be the main offering during Thanksgiving in the States, but it's also a good option for Christmas, even in the Philippines. It's a tradition Chef Norbert Gandler, executive director and co-founder of International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management knows all too well. During his tenure as head chef of the now-defunct Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Chef Norbert and his kitchen staff roasted hundreds of turkeys to order for guests who would pick it up just in time for their festivities. A matter of caution, though, Chef Norbert advises those planning to roast a whole turkey by themselves to mind the different cooking times required for each part of the bird. He suggests cutting up the turkey and cooking each part separately to guarantee a juicier and more flavorful meat.

Preparing the turkey | Click on the image below for slideshow

The set of ingredients. 

Scraping the herbs off the turkey for an even roast. 

Stuffing fresh herbs in the turkey cavity for more flavor. 

Basting turkey with with olive oil in between roasting. 

Oven-roasted turkey

1. Prepare the turkey (6 to 8 kgs) a day before cooking. Rinse, trim, and set aside the giblets and neck bone for the gravy. Rub the turkey with salt, pepper, garlic powder, fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage), lemon juice, and olive oil and allow to marinate overnight.

2. Heat oven to 200°C. Scrape off the excess marinade.

3. Stuff cavity with Christmas turkey stuffing or cook the stuffing separately (recipe below).

4. Pop turkey and the neck bone into the oven and sear for about 15 minutes at 200°C.

5. Reduce heat to 165°C. Cook until done, basting frequently with olive oil. Fifteen minutes before it is done, add the matignon (flavoring vegetables) and continue to roast.

6. Poke your kitchen thermometer into the bird. If the internal temperature reads 75°C, take the turkey out of the oven. Let it rest in a warm, dry place for 20 minutes. A six-kilogram turkey will cook for two hours and 15 minutes.

Preparing the stuffing | Click on the image below for slideshow

Mixing the bread stuffing ingredients.

Spreading the bread stuffing evenly on the plastic cling wrap.

An aluminum foil coming in handy for an even cooking.

Cooking the stuffing in boiling water. 

Christmas turkey stuffing

Chef Norbert suggests cooking the turkey stuffing separately to ensure it's cooked evenly and allow the host to control the serving size.

Option 1:

1. Stuff and roast the turkey (refer to oven-roasted turkey recipe).

Option 2:

1. Place plastic cling wrap on a table and arrange the stuffing mixture as you would a spring roll.

2. Use the plastic wrap to roll the stuffing into a cylinder. Wrap with aluminum foil and tie both ends.

3. In a casserole, bring water to a boil. Slide the foil-wrapped stuffing into the water and simmer for 40 minutes.

4. When serving, unwrap and slice into thick wheels.

(L-R) Filtering excess oil and fat and Adding chicken stock for more flavor to the sauce.

Giblet sauce

1. When the turkey is done, continue to roast the drippings until it turns dark brown. Remove excess fat.

2. Deglaze with white wine, scraping the drippings to dissolve them. Reduce the sauce until it achieves a syrupy consistency.

3. Add flour to thicken sauce. Add chicken stock and continue to cook for 20 more minutes. Strain sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Sauté the giblets until cooked and slice into 3 mm cubes. Add chopped giblets to the sauce.


(L-R) Lemon zest adds tang to the sauce and Sauce being thickened with cornstarch.

Cranberry sauce

1. Combine cranberries or cranberry jelly, red wine, ginger, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, and orange zest in a casserole. Bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

2. Thicken with cornstarch if sauce is not thick enough.


Sidings Honey-glazed sweet potato wedges

1. Peel and cut into wedges 1.2 kg of sweet potatoes.

2. Heat butter in frying pan. Add 1/2 cup honey and 1 1/2 cup orange juice, then bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add sweet potato wedges. Cover and simmer until tender.

4. If needed, remove potatoes and reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency. Toss in sweet potatoes and adjust seasoning.

(L-R) Sauteeing brussels sprouts with the bacon and onion for one siding and Simmering pear rings in white wine for another siding.

Brussels sprouts with sautéed bacon and onions

1. Heat butter in a frying pan and sauté diced bacon and onions until light brown.

2. Add blanched brussels sprouts and continue to sauté until thoroughly heated.

3. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.


White wine-poached apple rings

1. Combine white wine, sugar, water, lemon juice, star anise, and cinnamon stick in a casserole. Bring to a simmer.

2. Add the apple rings (cored and sliced crosswise) and poach for 10 to 25 minutes until soft.

3. Pan fry the poached apple rings in butter until slightly brown.

4. Fill the apples with cranberry sauce before serving.


Photographs by Pat Mateo and Jar Concengco

This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 18 2014.