Only some people are great in the kitchen, and cooking for Christmas can quickly become a nightmare with undercooked turkey, soggy sprouts, and roast potatoes that are crispier than they are.
Those who struggle are not alone; many families decide to buy everything ready-made from the store or outsource the entire occasion to a neighboring restaurant.
However, if you enjoy the authenticity of a home-cooked meal and the freedom to eat precisely what you want at the price you want, there’s a lot of pressure to make sure everything runs smoothly. However, after you’ve identified the major pitfalls, you can avoid them or rectify them if it’s too late.
Here are eight basic blunders to avoid if you want a more excellent Christmas dinner than the previous year.
Not defrosting the turkey properly
“One of the most important things to remember is not to take the meat out of the freezer and prepare it right away,” says Alliance Online, a culinary equipment specialist. Most of us know this, but you’d be surprised how often this simple guideline needs to be noticed.
If you do, the inside will remain raw while the outside cooks – and turkey is poultry, which requires an internal temperature of at least 70° to be safe to eat.
Instead, thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. Start two days ahead, and ensure the interior cavity isn’t frozen before putting it in the oven. If you don’t have time, purchase a turkey crown or joints, which defrost much faster. Take your time with this crucial step, or you’ll spend Boxing Day in the bathroom.
When cooking, a kitchen thermometer can be used to verify the temperature of the center of the meat before serving. If you burn it, you might be able to salvage some meat from the interior and underneath (or hope your guests are in favor of the charred taste).
Not cooking potatoes properly inside and out
While some may argue that you must use oil with a high burning point for roasties, there is no right or wrong answer as long as you cook them properly.
“This may not be the typical response, but I like to use olive oil,” explains Niki Webster of RebelRecipes.com, a UK plant-based chef and cookbook author. “Rapeseed works great, but I prefer the slightly fruity flavor of olive oil.”
She can still offer roast potatoes with the proper amount of crispiness and softness by sticking to her favorite for taste. “I like to boil potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes, and then crush them a little before coating them in olive oil, salt, and pepper for properly cooked potatoes that are fluffy on the inside and crispy on the exterior.”
It was boiling before roasting guarantees that the center does not remain undercooked, while crushing allows for more golden brown edges. But keep in mind that while its usual to overspend on seasoning during the holidays, the recommended daily intake of salt for adults is 6g (around one teaspoon). Webster says “Make sure there’s enough room between the potatoes, so the edges crisp up” You can also use sunflower or vegetable oil; some prefer duck or goose fat.
Cramming the oven too full
If you’re wondering why nothing is cooking on time, it could be because a towering collection of roasting tins, oven dishes, and tinfoil is blocking the oven heat from circulating. It also suggests you need to pay more attention to what temperature is best for which word and hope they’ll all be ready simultaneously. Unfortunately, they will not.
Instead, prepare as many veggies as possible, and reheat gently in the microwave while keeping sauces and gravies on the burner to free up oven space. Cook the vegetables ahead of time, then reheat and keep warm in foil while you cook the meats. Remember that a fan oven is 10-20° more efficient than a ‘normal’ oven temperature, so adjust it down.
The sprouts and carrots are soggy
Cooking beautiful vegetables is an art, so don’t leave the pan at the back of the fire to boil your prepared vegetables into disintegrating stuff.
Frozen sprouts cook quickly; stir-fry them on high heat after boiling or steaming to add texture. Fresh sprouts should be par-boiled before frying with pancetta cubes or roasting with the potatoes for a crispy exterior.
Carrots taste much better when they are not overcooked. Roasting takes about 40 minutes; stir in honey and thyme before tossing them in the oven with the parsnips for a more refined vegetable experience.
The food is under-seasoned
Unseasoned Christmas dinners are like a bare tree. Serving a turkey (meat, veggie, or vegan substitute) with trimmings seasoned with nothing but air may produce a rather bland flavor.
Before cooking, pay attention to each dish – veggies require salt in the water, whereas a good turkey demands traditional stuffing or some onion and roasted herbs. Then dip in butter and season with salt and pepper to crisp the skin. Finish with sage, thyme, and bay leaves. For the bread sauce, use nutmeg, orange zest, juice for the cranberry, and plenty of pepper for the gravy.
Yorkshire puddings have gone flat
Yorkshire puddings, according to some, are a disgrace on Christmas Day and should be avoided at all costs. Others, on the other hand, prefer them over everything else on the menu. However, they are famously complex, similar to the sensitive meringues of the roast dinner world.
The key to a crisp Yorkshire is heat, heat, and more heat. “It all comes down to getting the oil in the pan hot before adding the batter. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door and watch them raise nicely – no soggy bottoms here! “Webster explains.
Rustle these last because if they sit about, they will become flabby and cold, which is precisely what we intended to prevent in the first place.
Gravy is too thin – or lumpy
Cooking the gravy in stages will help avoid it from being too thin or lumpy, allowing you to correct it as you go. “I enjoy making excellent handmade gravy with red onions, garlic, stock, soy sauce, herbs, and cranberry sauce for sweetness,” Webster explains. “Adding flour to the onions thickens the gravy significantly. Simmer until the sauce is rich and thick. Then strain to get rid of any lumps!”
If it’s still not perfect, she suggests whisking or straining it again to de-lump it or adding a little corn flour mix to thicken it.
If it’s overly oily, some believe placing an ice cube into it can cause the fat to attach to it, making it easier to scoop off. Others, with more time, transfer to a jug and chill for a couple of hours, with the fat rising to the top and ready to be removed.
Pudding is dry
Making a Christmas pud for the family may be difficult in and of itself since guests either adore or despise it. So a dry one, possibly from leaving it exposed or over boiling it will not help.
“If you create your own Christmas pudding, make sure you have a high fruit ratio and that the fruits are nice and plump from soaking,” Webster advises. “Steaming also keeps the pudding moist and sticky.”
If that fails, or if you want to use up leftovers, there are ways to boost the potential of your pudding.
“Making Christmas pudding ice cream is the simplest way to use it. Break it up and stir it into a tub of your favorite one before freezing it – fantastic! “She suggests.
“You can also make ‘cake bombs’ by rolling it in chocolate and coating it or adding it to a brownie recipe.”
Other alternatives include:
- Chopping it into slices.
- Cooking it in butter.
- Serving with brandy cream.
- Using it in a Boxing Day trifle instead of a sponge.
That also applies to Christmas cake, so don’t worry. Nothing should go to waste!