Christmas is about being with the people you love and indulging yourselves, be it in quality time, games, gifts, or in my case, with a fantastic Christmas feast! It really doesn’t have to be as hard as it’s made out to be, and with a little planning and pre-work ahead of the big day, the Christmas Day cook can actually be an enjoyable one.
Turkey, Goose, Duck, or a Tur-Duck-en, the principles are the same – remove the bird from the fridge a good 2 hours ahead of cooking time and allow it to come up to room temperature. Not only will this give a beautifully even cook, but it will also slightly shorten the cook time if the core temp is already in the 18-19c range.
For Turkey I like to add moisture with layers of flavoursome streaky bacon across the crown of the bird for the first part of cooking. Once the core temp reaches 55-58c the bacon is removed and the exterior of the bird is left uncovered to turn a wonderful golden brown; just like Grandma would have done! Remove from the BBQ at 68c to rest. Wrap well in tinfoil, cover with a couple of thick clean t-towels, place in a warm corner of the kitchen preferably on a wooden chopping board, and leave for at least an hour while you pull everything else together.
If you’re chosen Christmas meat is Goose or Duck then you need to extract the layer of fat just under the skin. The simplest way to do this is to pierce the skin with a cocktail stick, or I like to use the tip of a good paring knife, but be careful not to go too deep as you don’t want to go into the breast meat, which will allow the juices to escape. I like to leave geese and ducks uncovered for the first part of the cooking time, this allows the heat to get into the birds quicker and render that layer of fat just beneath the skin. It also allows the skin time to develop a lovely golden brown colouration, which in-turn means the skin will be amazingly crisp when sliced later on. For goose or duck served pink remove from the BBQ at 60c core temperature and rest just the same as the turkey; well wrapped and for at least an hour. If you like it the meat slightly more well done cook to 68c before removing to rest.
Click here to check out a video where I show you how to cook a whole turkey on your BBQ.
Potatoes take up valuable oven space, and could be described as inconsiderate because they demand a high cooking temperature, and also make the kitchen smell of hot fat! For large events where I have lots of elements to bring together I like to cook my roast potatoes in 2 stages. I can par-roast them when I have more time and space, cool, and then finish off on the day of the dinner.
Stage 1 – Peel and chop the potatoes into large pieces. Put in a large pan, cover with cold water and season well with salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain but DON’T tumble in the pan. Instead, lay the potatoes out on a large baking sheet and allow to steam for 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oil in a tray on the BBQ over a 230c direct heat. I like to be generous with the oil as it just makes the whole process less time-consuming. With the oil smoking hot carefully place the steam dried potatoes into the oil; they should sizzle immediately! Space out, baste with some of the hot oil, and move the tray to an area of indirect heat and close the lid. Roast for 20 minutes and remove from the grill. Take the potatoes from the hot oil and place on a wire cooling rack that’s sitting over an oven tray to catch the drips. Cool the oil and store for later. Once the potatoes are at room temperature, store in a container in the fridge until Christmas morning.
Stage 2 – Reheat the oil in the roasting tray over the direct 230c. Once the oil is smoking hot, pop the par-roasted potatoes back in the tray and move to the area of indirect heat. Baste with the hot oil to coat the top of the potatoes, close the lid and continue roasting for 30-45 minutes, coming back half way through to turn them in the oil. Once golden brown carefully remove the potatoes from the hot oil and season with sea salt flakes.
Click here to check out a video where I show you how to cook roast potatoes on your BBQ.
Flavoured Sausage Meats
Stuffing has to be one of my favourite things at Christmas, and not just to go with the turkey sandwiches on Box Day I hasten to add! I like to get a quality plain pork sausage meat from my butchers and pimp it with some of my own seasonings. In the photo above you can see the sausage meat before it’s all combined. What I’ve got here is the sausage meat, a dried fruit, a herb, a citrus and a nut. This one in particular has dried cranberries, thyme, orange zest and chopped cooked chestnuts. A festive substitute for chestnuts is always pistachios with their jewelled green exteriors. Cranberries can be switched out for sultanas, but you could also try substituting with grated apple or parsnip for something different. The combinations are only limited by your imagination so let your creative juices flow and give this a go!
To help with cooking times I make little stuffing balls that will roast on your BBQ in about 20-30 mins depending how large you make them. Roast on a parchment lined tray over an indirect heat between 180 and 200c, and cook to a core temperature of 75c. Check-out the video in the link below and you’ll see I smoke mine lightly with a little wood chip, just to help them have an attractive golden colour when served. The smoke also gives them a reference to the fact they have been cooked on the BBQ!
Click here to check out a video where I show you how to cook flavour stuffing balls on your BBQ.
No Christmas table would be complete without a colourful selection of roasted vegetables. Really simple to create with very little effort. Don’t just stick to the usual roast parsnips, but extend your repertoire with butternut squash, red onions, baby carrots and even celery. These can be assembled on Christmas Eve, lightly oil and seasoned with some sea flakes and cracked black pepper, and left until it’s time to get cooking on the 25th!
Click here to check out a video where I show you how to cook roasted vegetables, and some other fruity additions for the Christmas table!
Pigs in Blankets
With the BBQ nicely heated it’s a no-brainer to cook these little beauties while the turkey rests. Pork chipolatas wrapped in streaky bacon and roasted off at 180-200c to a core temperature of 75c; it really couldn’t be simpler.
Click here to check out a video where I show you how to cook pigs in blankets on your BBQ.
Maple Roasted Chantenay Carrots
This dish was a delightful addition to a recent film shoot and along with how great they taste, part of the joy for me is just how simple they are to prepare and cook! Wash and drain your carrots, and place into a food bag if you’re making them a few days ahead. In a saucepan melt the butter and add some maple syrup and chinese five spice. With the ingredients incorporated, carefully pour the sweet spiced buttery liquid over the carrots and tumble to coat evenly. This can be all done on Christmas Day, but making them a few days in advance will allow the flavours to develop, give a greater depth of flavour, and also make your life so much easier!
Click here to check out a video where I show you how to cook maple spiced Chantenay carrots on your BBQ.
Christmas dinner is about timings, temperatures and being organised with what you can cook at the same time. I always approach a function by writing myself a list of what needs to be done, and from that I develop a timeplan that suits my style of cooking, and the equipment I will be using. Nothing gets forgotten, you have a list to reference back to when everything else is going on in the heat of the moment, and it’s also great for other people who offer to lend a hand because they can just follow your notes.
With a little preparation and thought in the days leading up to, cooking Christmas dinner can be about taking it easy, enjoying time with your loved ones, and just a case of finishing dishes off rather than starting everything from scratch while everyone’s in the other room opening gifts. The addition of your BBQ (aka Outdoor Oven!!) also makes things a doddle because you can double the amount of oven space you have at your disposal. Have the BBQ setup for those things that benefit from being cooked outdoors like the Christmas Turkey, Goose or Duck. They are far better for having the damp air that’s drawn into the barbecue circulating around them as they cook, and the roast potatoes that require a higher temperature will be a cinch on the grill and you get to keep all that smoke and heat out the kitchen; it really is a Win Win!
I say to anyone thinking of doing Christmas dinner on the BBQ for the first time to have a trial run in the weeks before. The stress of being responsible for the main part of the festive feast is significantly reduced if you’ve done it at least once or twice already. There are 2 weekends between now and Christmas day, so if you’ve been thinking about giving this a go, go out and buy a large chicken, duck or other roast of meat, and go through the process of setting up the BBQ, preparing the meat, putting it on to cook, monitoring the progress without lifting the lid too often, and using the temperature probe to remove it from the heat at the right point. Allow the rest to do the remainder of the cooking for you and taste the difference!
Check out my recent blog posts on Winter Barbecuing Tips and my Top 10 BBQ Tips for some additional pointers, and get stuck in! Just imagine how you’ll feel when everyone’s tucking into the Fabulous Festive Feast you created…their minds will be blown away that you’ve cooked it all on your BBQ!