Finding and roasting a turkey in Cairo for Christmas can seem like a daunting task, especially when many ingredients are not easily available. With some preparation, the proper tools and tips from Cairo 360, cooking this bird will be a breeze. If buying and cooking your own turkey still seems overwhelming, we’ve included some catering options for a stress-free Christmas dinner.
Where to Buy a Turkey:
Metro Market: Love them for their convenience or hate them for their overpriced products; Metro Market has a wide selection of food stuffs that are hard to find at the local grocer. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkeys are displayed predominately in the meat corner. Turkeys at Metro can be purchased frozen or thawed and wrapped in plastic to preserve moisture. If you’re cooking for a large party, you can order fresh turkeys weighing between seven to nine kilos for 29.50LE per kilo.
Local Butcher: For the freshest meat in Cairo, your local butcher is the only place to shop. Although it’s normally beef and not turkey that we see hanging from the butcher’s window, if you give him a few days notice, your butcher can probably order a fresh turkey to be slaughtered, gutted and cleaned for you. Expect to pay around 30LE per kilo of turkey, but be ready to bargain for that price.
Gourmet Egypt: Gourmet Egypt is not just your one-stop shop for fine imported cheeses, fish and fruits; but for meaty Christmas cheer too! Their frozen turkeys range in weight from six to eight kilos and cost 35LE per kilo; so an average turkey on the website goes for around 210LE.
How to Cook a Turkey:
Brining a turkey is a good way to start if you want to ensure that the meat is tender and moist. The salt water solution helps to break down proteins and tenderise the meat. Note that the meat will pick up the salty flavour; so you should not add salt to your dry rub later. Any other spice added to the brine will infuse the meat with flavour, so you can opt to add garlic, sage or citrus to your brine. After removing the turkey’s innards, place the bird in a large pot and cover it with a solution of two gallons of water and two cups of dissolved kosher salt (less if using table salt) and spices of your choosing. Let the turkey soak for eight to ten hours for the best results.
Roasting the turkey will be the same regardless of if you brine or not. Wash the turkey thoroughly under running water and pat dry with a paper towel inside and out. Place the turkey breast-side up in a roasting pan. Add a dry rub of pepper and herbs, omitting salt if brined. If you stuff your turkey, be sure not to pack the stuffing too tightly or it won’t cook through. Start at the neck, with just a few spoonfuls, then stuff the rest from the back. If you choose not to stuff, place onions cut in half into the bird’s cavity. Lastly, and probably most importantly, drizzle three tablespoons each of vegetable oil and melted butter all over the bird. Lightly tent the turkey in aluminium foil and place the roasting pan in the oven, heated to 163°C.
After two hours of cooking, remove the turkey and baste thoroughly before recovering the pan and returning it to the oven. Continue this every fifteen minutes until the last half hour of cooking. Baste one last time, remove the foil and cook uncovered. Remember to let your turkey rest for about ten minutes before you carve the meat. For every kilo of meat, expect to cook the turkey for about 40 to 45 minutes. The meat is ready if pierced with a fork and the juices run clear.
Where to Order a Ready-Made Turkey:
Bon Appetit: That’s right; this Cairo fast food chain known for roast beef sandwiches and chicken pané also caters turkey dinners. For 750LE, a roast turkey (averaging at 11 kilos) is stuffed with rice, served with potatoes and delivered to your doorstep. With branches around Cairo, this is one of the most accessible catering options.
Marriott Cairo Hotel: Whether you’re planning a small family dinner or inviting the whole neighbourhood over, the Marriott Cairo Hotel in Zamalek can accommodate your turkey needs. The hotel offers stuffed roast turkeys served with vegetables in three sizes. A small turkey of six to eight kilos costs 690LE, a medium of eight to ten kilos sells for 855LE and a large turkey up to twelve kilos will set you back 980LE, tax excluded.
La Bodega: If you are particular about how you take your turkey, try Zamalek’s La Bodega. You’ll have the option of having it stuffed with rice or stuffing and sides of potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes or mixed vegetables and cranberry sauce. A twelve-person turkey dinner costs 895LE, and with a twenty-person turkey costing 1495LE, La Bodega is the most expensive (and most decked-out) catered option of the three.