Top chefs reveal their tips for making the perfect Christmas dinner

Add soy sauce to gravy, put PINEAPPLE JUICE in the turkey brine and par-boil your roasties on 24th: Top chefs reveal their tips for making the perfect Christmas dinner

  • Whether it’s cooking for fussy in laws, catering for a bigger crowd than normal or just working with perpetually dry turkey, nailing the perfect dinner can be tricky
  • Top chefs told FEMAIL the easy ways to help holiday cooking stress melt away 
  • Yasuda Akinori of Japanese restaurant SUMI said that adding soy sauce to gravy gives it a meat umami flavour

Even the best of home cooks can get flustered on Christmas day.

Whether it’s cooking for fussy in laws, catering for a bigger crowd than normal or just working with perpetually dry turkey, nailing the perfect dinner can be tricky.

Speaking to FEMAIL, top chefs from across the UK have revealed their top Christmas cooking tips, from covering the turkey in pineapple juice to cooking it in a 10 per cent salt brine.

Meanwhile, Yasuda Akinori of Japanese restaurant SUMI said that adding soy sauce to gravy gives it a meat umami flavour, while Daniel Mertl, Head Chef at Ganymede, recommended turning your roasties every 20 minutes to ensure perfect crispness. 

Speaking to FEMAIL, top chefs from across the UK have revealed their top Christmas cooking tips, from covering the turkey in pineapple juice to cooking i t in a 10 per cent salt brine (st 

Add a teaspoon of pineapple juice to turkey brine: Sameer Taneja, Executive Chef at Michelin-starred Benares

‘To nail a perfect juicy roast this Christmas, try adding a tablespoon full of pineapple juice while marinating the turkey as this not only imparts sweetness, but acts as a tenderiser and softens the meat as well as retaining good moisture in the turkey.’

Add soy sauce to your gravy: Yasuda Akinori, Head Chef of SUMI

‘Take your gravy to the next level this Christmas by adding a couple of splashes of soy sauce in as you’re simmering it. 

‘Soy sauce has a brilliant rich, umami taste, and it adds a real depth of flavour. 

‘It’s also quite meaty in taste so it’s perfect for those looking to enhance a vegetarian gravy.’

Use 10% salt to water brine ratio: Oliver Marlowe, Owner Chef Director, The Hunter’s Moon

‘To make sure you don’t end up with a dry turkey on the big day, I’d recommend brining your bird in a 10 per cent salt to water liquid mix overnight prior to cooking. 

The salt dissolves some of the muscle proteins, meaning the meat contracts less while in the oven so therefore it loses less moisture. 

It gives a game-changing depth of flavour, making it very difficult to overcook so there’s one less thing to worry about on the big day!’

Par-boil your roasties on Christmas Eve: Jonas Karlsson, Head Chef at Aquavit London

‘It’s no secret that there are supply chain issues, and this could result in a shortage of turkeys. 

‘Whilst fresh is always of course best, to take some of the pressure off buy your turkey now and freeze it, and simply remove from the freezer 2-3 days before Christmas to slowly defrost in the fridge. 

Love your leftovers! Use your day out roasties to make an epic potato croquette

Ioannis Grammenos, Executive Chef at Heliot Steak House

‘The leftovers from the Christmas day can be used up to two days after the event and there’s so many options! You can make pies, sandwiches, curries, casseroles, and vegetable purée side dishes. One of my favourites is to use the roasties to make epic potato croquettes, delicious dipped in yoghurt with olive oil and garlic.’

Vivek Singh, Executive Chef and CEO of The Cinnamon Collection

‘One of my favourite ways to use up leftover turkey is to make a big batch of butter chicken sauce, with either fresh or tinned tomatoes, and fold through leftover pieces of turkey to make a delicious and hearty curry.’

‘You can also par-boil and half roast your potatoes on Christmas Eve. 

‘Not only will it be one less thing to worry about, but you’ll also have extra crisp, double-roasted potatoes to boast about!’

Make your Yorkshire pudding batter 24 hours in advance: Callum Graham, Head Chef of Bohemia at The Club Hotel & Spa

‘Preparation is really key for Christmas and anything you can prepare ahead of time you should do. 

‘Alongside peeling and cutting your vegetables on Christmas Eve, you could also make your cauliflower cheese so that it’s ready to just pop into the oven the next day. 

‘My top tip would be to make your Yorkshire pudding batter 24 hours before its needed, as that gives it ample time to rest and helps ensure you’ll get a good rise.’ 

Turn roasties every 20 minutes: Daniel Mertl, Head Chef at Ganymede

‘For the best roast potatoes use a floury potato like Maris Piper. Peel and cut into large chunks, and boil in salty water until the edges start to look fluffy, then drain and let them steam for a few minutes. 

‘Now, using either goose or duck fat, cook the potatoes on a high temperature (around 190 degrees), turning them every 20 minutes or so. 

‘For extra flavour, add half a bulb of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme halfway through, cook until golden brown and crispy.’

Vac-pack your turkey and cook at 70C: Matthew Whitfield, Executive Chef at The Terrace at The Montagu Arms

‘For the best flavour and texture, always buy free-range – we buy from Owton Butchers in Southampton. 

‘For the most-moist meat, we take off the breast and butterfly it, and then stuff it with chestnut stuffing and roll into a log. 

‘We then vac pack it and cook it at 70 degrees Celsius for 3 hours. When it’s cooked, take it out and roast the skin so it’s crispy. 

‘The meat is really succulent and has the stuffing running through it. Delicious!’

Save the usual Christmas morning stress and put your bird on the night before, is a consensus among chegs

Brine turkey for 24 hours: Henry Brosi, Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane

‘My top tip is to brine the whole turkey in a good chicken stock 24 hours prior to roasting, as this will keep the turkey extremely moist. 

‘I’d also recommend buying a turkey crown with the legs removed (boned and rolled) as this will save you two hours on the cooking time of the turkey – you can always ask your local butcher to do this!’

Make curry cauliflower steak for vegans: Michael Carr, Head Chef of Fenchurch Restaurant, London’s Sky Garden

‘A great vegan alternative on Christmas Day is a cauliflower steak – it’s an absolute winner when done right! You cut the thick middle part of the cauliflower out, and then you add all the different herbs and spices (you can’t go wrong here because the cauliflower is so versatile).

‘I personally like getting a masala curry powder and rubbing that all over, before cooking the cauliflower like a steak in really hot oil and serving with creme fraiche and herby-basil tomatoes.’ 

Waitrose chefs reveal their top tips for cooking turkey

Martyn Lee, Executive Chef at Waitrose: Stick it on the barbecue 

 ‘I cook my turkey on the barbecue every Christmas. It never fails to impress and I predict many will join me in doing the same this year. It’s really easy, quicker than if you were to cook it in the oven and gives a beautifully succulent taste with a crispy skin. And it’s not just the turkey, you can cook the full Christmas feast on the barbecue – trimmings, desserts and all.’

‘I love to cook the whole bird on the barbecue as it gives everyone the option of white or dark meat, however I always remove the thighs and legs and cook them separately as the dark meat benefits from longer, slower cooking. Cooking both at the same time means the white breast meat will overcook before the thighs and legs – leading to the dreaded dry turkey! If you prefer to focus on the turkey crown – or are planning for a smaller gathering – then this will cook beautifully too. The Waitrose Medium Turkey Breast Crown with Prime Wing is perfect for this.’

‘Barbecuing a turkey calls for indirect heat – it’s very different to grilling a steak over hot coals. The best way to do this is to stack coals along one side of the barbecue and the meat on the other side. My tip would be to use foil to deflect the heat if necessary.’

Zoe Simons, Senior Development Chef at Waitrose: Brine the crown in smoked demerara sugar

‘I like to prepare my Christmas turkey ahead of time, which ends up saving me time on Christmas Day and means I get more time to spend with family. A few days before Christmas, I take off the turkey legs and confit them in duck fat and herbs. 

‘Then on Christmas Day, the turkey crown takes less time to cook and the leg meat is rich and full of flavour – the legs just need a quick reheat in the oven for about 25 minutes. I then use the fat from the confit turkey legs to roast my potatoes, this way you get all the flavour from confiting the turkey legs and you don’t waste anything!’

‘When it comes to brining my turkey crown, last year I used smoked demerara sugar in my brine which gave it a great flavour. It was so good and really popular with my guests so I’m definitely going to do it again this year.’ 

Paul Gamble, Senior Development Chef at Waitrose: Put thyme butter under the skin 

 ‘I like to go all out at Christmas and take a very ‘cheffy’ option with my turkey. I remove the legs, debone them, fill them with some of the Christmas stuffing and then tie them up and roast separately. For the crown, I brine it for 12 hours – submerging it in a solution of water, salt and sugar with plenty of herbs and garlic. I would always recommend brining a turkey as it helps to retain the moisture whilst cooking.

‘I then roast the turkey crown with thyme butter under the skin, basting every so often. The turkey legs and crown take a different length of time to cook, therefore separating them helps to avoid the breast meat over cooking and drying out. I would recommend investing in a temperature probe to know when the bird is ‘just’ cooked.’ 

Will Torrent, Consultant Pastry Chef at Waitrose: Cover it in bacon and maple syrup

 ‘While I’ve usually given up my Christmas Day to cook for approximately 40-50 guests at our church, this year we will be spending Christmas Day at home as we’re expecting a baby in January. 

‘I usually love to cook a turkey on Christmas, however this year we’re planning to go for an alternative centrepiece and opting for the Waitrose Easy Carve Duck with Pear, Chestnut and Rum.’

‘If I was to cook a turkey, I’d top it with some lovely smoked streaky bacon and pour over a good glug of maple syrup to add some sweetness. You can never go wrong with the ultimate bacon and maple syrup combo!’  

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