Man skills: 10 tips to cook the perfect Christmas dinner

Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens gives us his essential advice on preparing a stress-free Christmas meal.

Peter Iantorno December 14, 2015

While cooking isn’t typically the most manly of pursuits, there are a few occasions when every man should be able to step up to the plate and deliver some awesome food.

Of course, every man should be handy with a barbecue, and cooking steak is a pretty useful skill to have, too. However, both of those are child’s play compared to the time-honoured yet tricky tradition of whipping up a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

While there’s always the potentially disastrous result of poisoning your guests for the festive period with an undercooked turkey to worry about, if you manage to pull off a perfect spread, you’ll, quite rightly, be treated like a hero come Boxing Day.

Now, we don’t profess to be anything special in the kitchen, but we sure know a man who is – the youngest British chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars and the man behind Dubai restaurant Pots, Pans & Boards, the one and only Tom Aikens.

Here, the celebrity chef gives us his top 10 tips to take the stress out of cooking Christmas dinner.

Get saucy
Instead of using jarred cranberry sauce, prepare your own. All you need to do is boil together sugar, water, cranberries and orange zest, and the best thing is, the flavour gets better over time, so you can prepare it a week in advance.

Fail to prepare…
It is best to peel and prepare all the vegetables a day in advance. This speeds up the cooking process on the day and means you won’t spend the whole day in the kitchen.

Make space
In the likely event that the turkey takes up most of the space in the oven, vegetables such as carrots and parsnips can be roasted in a sauté pan on the stovetop.

Feel the heat
Most of classic trimmings – stuffing, chipolatas, etc. – can be prepared in advance and then reheated on the day. A word of caution, though: make sure anything that’s been reheated is piping hot before serving otherwise food poisoning is a risk

Get cross
Ensure even cooking of sprouts by crossing them at the bottom once they are peeled, as the base can sometimes be a little thick. This is an oldie but a goodie.

Turkey time
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator at least three hours before cooking it. This allows it to cook evenly, as the whole bird will then be at the same temperature.

Make a wish
Make sure to remove the wishbone from the turkey. This will make the carving process much easier and allow you to cut nice even slices of breast meat.

Give it a rest
Make sure to rest your turkey for at least half an hour before carving. This lets the turkey relax and ensures that it remains lovely and moist.

Perfect potatoes
When roasting the potatoes, par boil them first for five to 10 minutes, then shake them vigorously in a colander to drain. This will bash the sides of the potatoes so they become crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Place them into a hot roasting tray in the oven with duck fat and oil, season well and roast until golden brown.

Good gravy
To extract maximum flavour in the gravy, make sure you roast all the vegetables and any turkey bones well. You can use any cooking juice in the gravy. When passing the gravy through a sieve, press the vegetables and bones really well to extract maximum flavour.

In case of emergency...
While Tom's tips should give you the best chance of pulling off a cracking Christmas dinner, it is always wise to have a backup plan in case the worst happens. We'll leave the details of these 50 great Christmas dinners in Dubai here just in case...

 Details: Tom Aikens' restaurant, Pots, Pans & Boards is at THE BEACH opposite JBR. For more info, visit