Mike Tomkins’ 11 Christmas Dinner Tips for Turkey Perfection
Described by Jonn Tarode as a ‘meat maestro’, MasterChef 2021 runner-up Mike Tomkins is a pro at making the traditional turkey feast one to remember. Follow his top 11 Christmas dinner tips to make yours a succulent and stress-free experience.
1. Get prepping
Take the stress out of Christmas by prepping as much in advance the day before! Veg can be peeled and cut to size the day before and left in cold water overnight. You'd be amazed at how much time this saves! Wrap your pigs in blankets the day before, too. Doing them yourself is so much better than shop-bought.
2. Start your spuds early
I worked with a chef who taught me an amazing trick for spuds: peel and parboil them on Christmas Eve, rough them up and coat them in duck or goose fat before popping them in the fridge overnight. This guarantees your spuds have a good coating of fat and they come out crispy every time!
3. Go slow
What can you slow cook? Slow cooking is an amazing way of packing flavour into your Christmas dinner — slow-cooked red cabbage is always a winner in my house!
4. Brining is best
5. Temperature, not time
Always cook to temperature — I never rely on packet cooking times. To ensure my turkey is juicy and always cooked to perfection I take it out of the oven at 67 °C, then I allow the bird to rest until the temperature reaches 74 °C. This is an absolute must for avoiding an overcooked turkey!
6. Mix it up
Brussels sprouts don't have to be boiled to death and then served with bacon. I love to shred sprouts and stir fry them really quickly in a neutral oil, then serve with plenty of lemon juice and parmesan. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can finely slice some guanciale over the top! I guarantee these will be the best sprouts you've ever had.
7. Sides sides sides
I think it can be overwhelming trying to serve Christmas dinner because of the number of sides we make. Plan out when certain dishes need to be made, what can be prepped in advance, and what needs to be served as soon as it's done. And if you need to, don't be afraid to divide up the jobs!
8. It’s all about the gravy
If you've never made gravy from scratch before, you're missing out. This is a game changer and gives you so much more flavour than the instant stuff. Start practising before Christmas — I promise you it's easier than you think!
9. Don’t forget the leftovers
This one is more of a trick than a tip! I always make sure I put aside some leftovers for my Boxing Day sandwich. There's no way I am letting anyone come between me and my leftover sandwich.
10. Assemble the cleaning committee
Once dinner is over, washing up is easily the worst part of the day for me. Before everyone slumps over on the sofa with some Quality Street, get that dishwasher loaded and form a conveyor belt to get the washing and cleaning done! You've done all the cooking, there's no way you should be washing up, too.
11. Enjoy the day
It’s so cliche, but take time out to really enjoy the day. It's not often we all gather around the table together, and it's a really special time, so take a breath, soak it up and enjoy it.