The Odd Way Mary Berry Keeps Her Roast Turkey Hot

As a celebrated author of over 80 cookbooks, food journalist, former judge on "The Great British Bake Off", and Cordon Bleu graduate, it's fair to say that Dame Mary Berry knows her way around a kitchen. But there's one dish that even Berry struggles with from time to time: turkey.

"So many times, even I have overcooked it," she explained in a 2022 Dish podcast interview, hosted by Nick Grimshaw and Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett. Despite past mistakes, Berry told listeners that her daughter, Annabel, had delegated her to Christmas turkey duty — and revealed a few tricks she's picked up over time to keep the meat from drying out.

"This time I'm cooking it without foil, I shall cover it with foil once it's done, then I shall put some tea towels over the top," she said, reiterating standard advice. Berry's next tip was unexpected, though, and sent the podcast hosts into hysterics: "I've got an old sleeping bag that's got no zip and I put that over the top in the corner of the kitchen and then I shall take that in the back of the car to Annabel's." While sleeping bags aren't exactly a standard tool in most kitchens, Berry's advice seems solid. Many recipes stress the importance of resting your roast turkey in a warm place before carving it. 

Why is important to rest turkey?

"Once you take it out of the oven, it goes on cooking, and so ... you want to insulate that," Berry explained in the interview. Other celebrated chefs, including Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, agree that resting turkey in a warm place is key to juicy, flavorful meat. "As the meat relaxes, it reabsorbs its juices, making it succulent and tender," Ramsay explained to viewers in a video posted on his YouTube channel. Oliver agrees — in his own video on YouTube explaining his roast turkey technique, he stressed the importance of resting: "It's not optional, it's not a luxury, it's essential."

Exactly how long the meat needs to rest will depend on its size. At an absolute minimum, a turkey should rest for 20 minutes; a larger bird will need to rest for up to 40. While both Ramsay and Oliver recommend letting the meat rest for two hours or more, the United States Department of Agriculture disagrees. According to the USDA, you should never leave turkey out for more than two hours. So, whether you break out the camping gear or not, remember to tuck the bird in for a bit of rest next time you roast a turkey — but, as always, keep food safety in mind.