Seven Common Christmas Cooking Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

© Shutterstock / Dejan Dundjerski
© Shutterstock / Dejan Dundjerski
The heat, the booze, the in-laws; cooking at Christmas can be tricky. Here are the most common mistakes people make. Follow these tips, and remember, it’s just a roast dinner with a few extras.

1 Choosing the wrong turkey
There’s quite a lot of meat on a turkey, and most people order one that’s way too big, resulting in endless sandwiches, curries and pies for the next week. It’s enough to put you off turkey until next year. Make sure to get the right size.

2 Choosing the wrong sized turkey
A rule of thumb is to allow 1lb/500g of on-the-bone turkey per guest. Other portion suggestions per person are as follows:- roast potatoes 200-250g/1/2lb, vegetables 75g/2.6oz per type, stuffing 2-3 balls per person, ‘pigs in blankets’ 2-3 per person.

3 Not cooking the turkey correctly
Most modern supermarket turkeys have been bred to be lean, which can result in dry, over-cooked, cotton-wool-like texture. Choose a traditional, slow-growing breed such as Bronze or Norfolk black. These have a a good amount of natural fat under the skin to keep the meat juicy. Most people cook the turkey on its back, breast up, meaning that the fat that is there drains out from the bottom of the bird instead of staying in the meat. Start cooking your turkey breast down, and flip it over half way through cooking. Failing that, baste it regularly.

4 Over-stuffing the bird
These days, there’s little point in stuffing the cavity of a turkey. Such a mass of ingredients can actually slow down the cooking process, and what’s more, it doesn’t really contribute any flavour. It’s far better to cook your stuffing separately, while the bird is resting.

5 Not letting the meat rest for long enough
Turkey, chicken, and most cuts of beef or other meats can happily sit somewhere warm for up to 45 minutes. Resting meat allows the muscle tissues to relax, making it easier to carve. Rested meat lets you appreciate the texture and flavour better, compared to meat that is fresh out of the oven. You can always warm it back up again after carving, and make sure your gravy is piping hot too.

6 Buying a turkey crown
A total waste of money, producers can’t really sell the leg meat for a high price, so much of it is wasted. Consequently they charge you more for a crown than a whole bird to recoup costs.

7 Over-cooking the sprouts
Everyone hates sprouts because they’re often overcooked. Instead, shred them finely and stir fry with a little water and butter. Adding smoked pancetta or bacon makes them even better.