Two UK Masterchef finalists have shared their top tips to making the perfect Christmas dinner.
Billy Wright and Jack Layer, who met in 2016 when they were both runners-up on Masterchef, have since teamed up under the name ‘Billy and Jack’ to run an exclusive monthly supper club in Covent Garden, as well as appearing at food festivals around the country.
Speaking exclusively to Femail, the pair shared their top tips on making a festive feast, from stopping turkey from going dry to what to do with festive leftovers.
The duo suggest buying your turkey early, defrosting it three days in advance, and brining it straight away before turning it updside down halfway through cooking – along with preparing the vegetables, to ensure a stress-free Christmas Day.
Two people who do know their way around a festive feast is Billy Wright (left) and Jack Layer (right) who met in 2016 when they were both runners up on Masterchef. They told Femail their top tips on making a festive feast, from stopping Turkey from going dry to what to do with festive leftovers
BUY THE TURKEY EARLY
Suggesting you buy your bird up to a week in advance, Jack said: ‘If you’re buying a frozen one, pick it up a good week in advance, because it’s going to take two or three days to defrost.
‘If it’s unfrozen, I’d still say three days’.
BRINE YOUR TURKEY BEFORE COOKING
The pair added, to stop it going dry, you should start treating it as soon as you get home from the supermarket.
‘If you have the space, brine your turkey as soon as you get it’ Jack said.
‘Ideally, you’d put it in a huge salt water bowl, but of course a lot of people in small flats don’t have the space.
‘But if you can, get the temperature of the water to 15-16 degrees and let it soak.
LET THE TURKEY DEFROST SLOWLY
‘First things first, make sure the turkey is defrosted slowly – not on Christmas eve!’ Jack said.
‘It’s going to take two or three days to defrost, depending on the size’.
‘Make sure, turkey or any kind of meat is not fridge temperature when you’re cooking.
Jack said: ‘Turkeys going dry is a common cause as it’s quite a tricky bird to cook, and people only cook it once a year for sentimental reasons. So it’s easy to cook it for a bit too long, but that’s where you should use a gadget like Thermapen (a thermometer for cooking), is really useful because if you cook it for 10 minutes too long, it’s ruined’
‘And don’t be shy in adding loads of butter and oil, under the skin and through the breast in particular.
‘You need lots of fat, when we served turkey at the supper club, I added a kilogram of butter!
PREP AHEAD OF TIME
Billie said: ‘One of the things we’ve learned since MasterChef is to prep ahead of time!
‘Start two or three days ahead, do as much as you can when the house is quiet, leave as little to do on Christmas day as possible. Always prep veg and gravy ahead of time.
‘You don’t want to be doing everything when you have in-laws and kids running around.’
Billie (left) and Jack (right) said they learned on Masterchef that it’s really important to prep food ahead of time, and for a Chrsitmas dinner it’s best to cook as much as possible before Christmas morning
Jack added: ‘But make sure you do the turkey on the day – it will be dry if you cook ahead.
‘Another thing to do on the day is Yorkshire pudding – that’s the thing you want to make sure you nail’.
Billie continued: ‘A bird can take a good three hours, and cooking by weight isn’t always that accurate.
GET ALL HANDS ON DECK
‘Giving yourself too much to do is the most common mistake with Christmas cooking.
‘Prep everything ahead of time, and don’t second guess anything!’ Billie said.
Jack added: ‘Get people into to help, get loads of people in to help! Kitchens are made up of brigades not one person, get people on the peeler’.
USE A GADGET TO AVOID OVERCOOKING MEAT
Jack said: ‘Turkeys going dry is a common cause as it’s quite a tricky bird to cook, and people only cook it once a year for sentimental reasons.
‘So it’s easy to cook it for a bit too long, but that’s where you should use a gadget like Thermapen (a thermometer for cooking), is really useful because if you cook it for 10 minutes too long, it’s ruined.
Billie added: ‘Buy the best bird you can afford – but it’s 90 per cent down to how you cook it’.
Billie said it’s really important to let the bird rest before serving it as it continues to cook out of the oven
TURN THE TURKEY UPSIDE DOWN AND LET THE MEAT REST BEFORE SERVING
‘Half way through cooking, tip the turkey upside down to let juices flow through the meat’ Jack continued.
Billie added: ‘Let it rest it for at least 30 minutes once it’s out of the oven – the temperature will go up when you take it out of the oven.
Jack added: ‘It will be near enough 70 degrees, take it out now it’s rested, and it will go up three of four degrees.
‘People worry it will be cold, but it won’t be. It will keep cooking on the bone for an hour.
MAKE SURE THERE’S ENOUGH FOOD
‘The biggest no-no is absolutely not making enough food, my favourite bit of Christmas is the leftovers!’ Billie said.
Jack continued: ‘Leftovers are so great for Boxing Day. I love a curry, or putting the leftover meat into a stir fry. But make sure you bring the meat up to temperature first, which you can test with a thermapen.
Billie added: ‘I’m an absolute sandwich fiend, I can’t go a day without one, so on Boxing Day I love a coronation turkey sandwich, stuffing cranberry sauce, and a bit of chilli.
‘I would have that cold – but I also love a curry – because of all the rich food – reheating turkey slowly and gently slow cooking to reheat bring out the flavours.
Masterchef finalists Billy and Jack have partnered with the UK’s leading food thermometer brand Thermapen, who have recently launched their Campaign Against Dry Turkey. To find out more, please visit https://thermapen.co.uk/