Expert reveals common Christmas cooking mistakes with turkeys and pigs in blankets

Cooking Christmas dinner is a huge task. There are many elements to consider and timing is very important. Not everyone is lucky enough to put everything on the table while it’s still hot. But Jeff Becker, Executive Chef Development at Farmison & Co, has seven foolproof tips on how best to perfect Christmas dinner—and also highlights some of the big mistakes people make.

Turkey

If anyone is planning to stuff the bird, Jeff “recommends doing this on roasting day.”

“Try not to pack the filling in the neck cavity too tightly, as this will prevent it from cooking evenly,” he said.

“Just add the weight of the stuffing to the weight of the bird to make sure you calculate the correct cooking time.”

Jeff also explained a “simple and delicious” method for ensuring the bird’s moisture and “improving flavour.”

He said, “Gently push a generous amount of soft butter under the skin. The butter will add flavor to the meat and cook it at the same time.”

As for roasting the large bird, Jeff “recommends using a meat thermometer to make sure the bird is fully cooked.”

He added: “Be sure to cut through the thickest part of the turkey and hold the thermometer for 10 seconds to get a true temperature reading – 68 degrees Celsius should be the core temperature.”

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Grilled potatoes

Roasted potatoes are many people’s favorite ingredient for a roast dinner, but choosing the right potatoes is key.

“I always recommend the King Edwards or Maris Piper potatoes; they’re the best potatoes for the job and, when cooked properly, leave you with gorgeous, crunchy edges with a fluffy middle,” Jeff said.

He explained how cooking crunchy roasted potatoes can be “really messy”.

“If you drown them in too much oil, they will burn on the outside and cook well on the inside. In order to avoid such a disaster it is important to flip the potatoes before roasting—my favorite method is steam cooking.”

For anyone who’s a little unsure how long to cook potatoes, Jeff suggests “at least 30 minutes at 200 degrees” and it’s a good idea to check them every now and then.

“To increase the crunch,” Jeff tells them to shake.

The expert adds: “If you’re still not sure after 40 minutes, take a potato and try it. Not only can you check if it’s ready, but you can also get starters of crunchy roasts.”

pigs in blankets

An iocnic Christmas dinner item, it might be a pig in a blanket.

Jeff revealed an important tip: “[Try] Don’t Burn Bacon – Nobody wants a charred blanket.

“Start by gently heating a heavy, non-stick skillet and begin the cooking process by turning in some of the essential fat – giving a light caramelization process.

“Try not to overcook the base of the pan because the sausage should stay perfectly flat, with enough room to turn over.

“If you flip it regularly and cook it evenly over medium heat for three to four minutes, your sausage should be a light golden color. You can then roast it for another six to eight minutes.”

One way to make sure the sausage isn’t overcooked is to “press it gently with your thumb to check how it comes back – the more buoyancy you get, the more well-cooked the sausage will be”.

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broth

Piping hot broth is a great way to ensure other items on the plate stay warm.

But in Jeff’s opinion, “the traditional fish soup broth is unbeatable.”

When removing the giblets from turkey, “make sure you don’t throw it away” because it can create “a delicious, thick gravy.”

Jeff added, “It also means you don’t waste any of the birds either.

Once you add some broth to the browned giblets, the broth can be thickened with a little cornmeal mixed with some cold water.

“To make the broth more meaty, you can simply remove the roasting plate you used to cook the turkey and scrape out any of the remaining sediment juices for a rich, satisfying flavor.”

root vegetables

Jeff has a root vegetable recipe with a Christmas twist: “Like chard using anise-scented butter emulsion.

“Once the vegetables are tender, remove them from the liquid and boil them until they turn into a syrup.

Add the vegetables back to the syrup, and gently shake the pan until they turn golden caramel.

“Then season with sea salt and black pepper. The sweet and savory flavors will work wonders.”

buds

You either love them or hate them, but Jeff suggests “drop the sprouts into boiling salted water for five to six minutes, then drain and cut in half.”

To make the walnut crumb, put the breadcrumbs, lemon peel and chopped walnuts in a blender and blend. Then gently roast them until golden brown.

“Once you saute the sprouts in salted butter and spoon them into a serving dish, sprinkle walnut crumbs over the sprouts and finish with a few fresh pomegranate seeds.”

cranberry sauce

Jeff recommends: “You can really up your cranberry sauce and give it an extra edge simply by adding the exotic ingredient—like a rich port sprinkle, a bit of spiced ginger, chili flakes, or even some candied orange zest.

“Although you can use frozen cranberries, I suggest using fresh cranberries for maximum flavor – this should take about 8-10 minutes to simmer until soft.

“Cranberry sauce naturally thickens as it cools, so be sure to leave the sauce in the refrigerator for about a week before serving.

“On Christmas Day, take it in the morning to come to room temperature before serving.”

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