Turkey tips and making the most of your freezer this Christmas

Published Friday, 16 December 2016

COOKING Christmas dinner ranks as one of the most stressful activities of the festive season, but the level of stress can be eased with these tips and advice from Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council.

Cooking for more people than normal can mean having to handle different defrosting and cooking times for food. So:

  • Cooking the turkey in advance minimises stress on the day and also helps save valuable fridge space for other foods. Once the turkey is cooked and cooled it can be sliced, batched into portions and stored in the freezer. Just remember that meat previously cooked and frozen should only be reheated once
  • If the turkey is frozen it is important to check the guidance well in advance to defrost it according to its size – a typical large turkey weighing 6 - 7kg could take three days to fully thaw in the fridge
  • Always defrost the frozen turkey fully before cooking – partially defrosted turkey may not cook evenly – which means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process. To avoid cross-contamination the turkey should always be put into a container large enough to catch the defrosted drips
  • Get the most out of the turkey by using any juices to make a stock and leftovers to make a soup
  • Once defrosted, turkey and other meat should be eaten within 24 hours.
  • All vegetables can be prepared in advance. Potatoes can be parboiled for five minutes, then drained and cooled before freezing. The same can be done with wedges of carrot and parsnip, or even brussels sprouts, which will need slightly less cooking time than usual 
  • Cranberry sauce, bread sauce and chestnut stuffing can also be frozen in advance - a splash of cream or milk will just have to be added to the bread sauce after reheating it

Kevin Morrell, Executive Member responsible for Environmental Services, said: “It’s important that people know about the safest way to defrost food to avoid poisoning their families and friends and also to reduce food waste."

In addition to the turkey advice, the following ‘Food Standards Agency Freezer Fairy' Christmas freezing tips may also be helpful this festive period:

  • It’s a good idea to date and label any foods that go into the freezer
  • Pre-packaged Christmas goodies can be frozen and safely used right up to the ‘use by’ date
  • If house guests are expected over the festive period, then it might be a good idea to prepare a bolognaise, stew or casserole in advance and freezing it so there is less cooking to do when the guests arrive
  • Why not make some quiches or sausage rolls in advance? once cooled they can be cut into portions then frozen for handy snacks Why not keep an extra loaf of bread and pint of milk in the freezer so there is no danger of running out over the festive period
  • Ensure there is always an ice cold ‘slice’ when serving drinks by slicing up leftover lemons and limes, layering them between non-stick paper and freezing them in a freezer bag

Leftovers and reducing food waste:

  • Make sure any warm dishes are cool before putting them in the freezer. It’s best to place leftover food in an air tight container or wrap it well in freezer bags, freezer wrap or cling film before freezing it, to stop the cold air from drying it out. Expel as much air as possible from freezer bags
  • Remember to divide food into portion sizes so it's only necessary to defrost what is needed and to write the date so you know when it was  put in the freezer If there is any leftover wine it can be poured into an ice cube tray and frozen for use at a later date in sauces, gravy or (if it’s white) even as an alcoholic ice cube
  • Don’t waste any fresh herbs that are leftover, they can be pureed and frozen in an ice cube tray to add to dishes as and when they are needed

For more information visit: freezerfairy (food.gov.uk)