Leftover turkey - what to do with the Christmas scraps

Saving the scraps: what to do with leftover turkey

by Great British Chefs 01 December 2015

We talk to Steve Smith, the head chef at Jersey’s Michelin-starred Bohemia restaurant, to get some tips on how to make the most of Christmas leftovers.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

We’re often in such a mad rush around Christmas time that we don’t even spare a thought on what we’re going to be eating between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. But after we’ve tackled the turkey and – of course – realised there’s an awful lot left over, we’re hardly in the right frame of mind to suddenly start thinking of ingenious ways to make the most of it. However, with a little forward planning, you can stop the turkey from being forgotten about, drying out and eventually being thrown away.

‘When Christmas lunch is over, you’re often left with a mountain of leftover turkey meat – not to mention the carcass, staring you in the face,’ says Steve Smith, head chef at Bohemia in Jersey. ‘You might be in a post-dinner food coma, but try not to just shove some cling film over the whole thing and heave it into the back of your fridge. Here are my top five tips for turning that meat into something worth fighting over.’

Have a game plan

Decide what you’re going to do with your turkey before you hit the ‘food coma’ stage. Do you want to just pick off the meat for sandwiches? Do you want to make soup or stock with the bones? Do you want to save some of the meat for a future recipe? Think this through, as your plans for the leftover turkey will dictate how you take it apart.

Don't wait

You probably already have a chopping board and carving knife out that you’ve used to cut the turkey, so if you take the bird apart now you only have to wash everything once. Doing this straight after your meal also means it will take up less space in your fridge. Put the meat into two separate piles: white meat for sandwiches and dark meat for cooking.

Make a stock

All that flavour is too good to waste, but no one wants big old turkey bones clogging up their fridge or freezer. Bundle the carcass into a pot and just let it simmer away with whatever vegetables and herbs you have left over. Simply pour over cold water to cover the bones by an inch and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook very gently for three hours, skimming the fat occasionally, then strain and remove the bones. The stock can then be refrigerated in an airtight container for two or three days, or frozen for up to three months.

DIY stock cubes

You can reduce your stock until you end up with a syrupy, strong, gelatinous stock which is much easier to store. For example, they’re great in ice cube trays, and can be dropped into casseroles or soup as needed.

Cook something light

Christmas dinner with all the trimmings might be heavy and full of fat, but turkey meat in itself is really good for you – high in protein and incredibly low in saturated fat. So why not give some lighter dishes a try instead of the usual heavy curry or pie? Turkey has a tendency to be dry, so always make sure you pair it with something to give it moisture. A fresh turkey salad with juicy pomegranate seeds, or an Asian salad with fresh clementine slices and a honey and soy dressing would be the perfect antidote to all that gravy and stodge. Try pairing the meat with some Moroccan flavours like aubergine and spicy harissa for some winter warming flavour.