Are you cooking Christmas Dinner this year? Well I can help you make sure it all goes smoothly with my super-handy Christmas Dinner Planner which arms you with an hour by hour guide of what to do and when, to make sure cooking the festive feast is a well-oiled operation. It means you’ll have time to unwrap pressies with the kids and enjoy a glass or two of prosecco without having to tie yourself to the kitchen all morning.
Here are some things you can do in advance that will save you time on the Big Day
A WEEK OR TWO BEFORE…
Make and freeze ahead:
- Cranberry sauce – definitely worth making yourself as it’s super easy and very tasty with some zested orange and a splash of cointreau.
- Bread sauce – delicious made from scratch
- Vegetarian option – make from scratch or buy it in early before the shops sell out
- Gravy – get some chicken wings from the butchers and roast as the basis for a really special gravy.
- Braised red cabbage – delicious side dish that freezes well.
- Pigs in blankets – get those sausages wrapped in streaky bacon, then freeze ready for roasting on the day
A DAY OR TWO BEFORE…
- Clear out the fridge to make way for the festive chilled food supplies. Get rid of out of date jars and make soup with any vegetables past their best. You could also put a cool box in the shed to take some of the extra load.
- Using frozen meat? Make sure you get it out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge so it can defrost in time for cooking. It always takes a lot longer than you think – approx 8-12 hours per kilo of frozen turkey!
- Make ahead and chill: Stuffing – try a special festive one like cranberry and chestnut
Brandy butter – home made is easy peasy and extra delicious
- Defrost: Take everything you’ve prepped ahead out of the freezer to defrost safely in the fridge.
- Starters: Opt for something cold you can make in advance and serve straight from the fridge. Little canapés are a great alternative to a formal starter and mean your guests can just have a light bite without ruining their appetite. It also frees you up to bring all those final elements of the meal together in that crucial last half hour.
- Desserts: If frozen make sure they’re in the fridge defrosting, or if you’re making from scratch, get them ready today. Again, something you can serve straight from the fridge makes your life much easier.
- Write a plan for the big day
There’s one below but you might want to customise it to factor in a different size bird, type of meat or extra trimmings.
Vegetarian option? Put it into your schedule so you don’t forget to put it in the oven!
- Assign family members with tasks – laying the table, washing up duty, making drinks, handing around canapés etc.
- How long will you need to cook your turkey? Here’s a basic guide:
For birds 4kg or less: 20 minutes per kilo, plus 70 minutes.
For Birds over 4kg: 20 minutes per kilo, plus 90 minutes.
- Prep your turkey according to the recipe you’re using – rubbing butter onto the breast under the skin, wrapping the bird with streaky bacon etc.
- Chill the drinks and free up fridge space by putting your white wine/prosecco/champagne overnight in a box or bucket outside or in a cold garage/shed. It’ll be lovely and chilly by the morning, especially after a frosty night!
- Prep the vegetables and pop into saucepans with water for boiling/steaming/roasting the next day – carrots, sprouts, potatoes, parsnips etc.
Eating at 2:30pm, 5kg turkey to feed 8 people with leftovers
Take the turkey out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature before you cook it.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and pop the turkey covered in foil in for 3 hours.
Once breakfast is cleared lay the table.
Take a couple of hours to chill out with the family for a bit of present opening and fun before the intense bit of cooking begins…
Basting time! Take the turkey out of the oven, remove the foil and baste with the juices then return to the oven uncovered
Take the meat out of the oven and check it’s cooked. Use a meat probe for a precise result – 72C thigh 66C breast. If you don’t have one simply insert a skewer and if the juices run clear it’s done, if they’re pinkish return to the oven for a bit longer and test again. Once you’re happy the meat is cooked, transfer to the carving board and cover the bird with foil leaving plenty of space between the foil and the bird and let it rest.
Pour the juices from the turkey into a jug and skim off the fat. Pour the remaining juices into your gravy to heat up later.
Parboil the potatoes and parsnips, drain and return to the pan over a low heat to dry out. Put on the lid and shake to rough up the edges.
Turn up the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and pre-heat your roasting dishes for the potatoes and parsnips with your choice of fat/oil then once smoking hot add the potatoes/parsnips and shake to coat and roast for an hour.
Put the pigs in blankets in the oven.
Put the pre-made stuffing in the oven to reheat and crisp up.
Pop your cranberry sauce into a dish.
Take the stuffing, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips out of the oven and transfer to warm serving dishes and cover with foil.
Steam/boil your chosen fresh vegetables (undercooking slightly to prevent them going mushy once they’re on the table) and transfer to warmed serving dishes with some cling film over the top.
Heat up bread sauce, braised red cabbage and pop into warmed serving dishes.
Heat up the gravy and put in a jug.
Put your turkey on a serving platter, and take everything to the table. Dinner is served! Have a very large glass of wine and enjoy your meal!
AFTER THE MEAL
- Carve up the rest of the bird, shred the meat and pop into resealable plastic storage bags and chill in the fridge, or pop in the freezer.
- Save the remaining veggies and trimmings in lidded plastic tubs and label.
- You can feast on the leftovers for the next 2-3 days from the fridge, or freeze until you can face the idea of turkey again!
- Ideas with leftovers: Make stock with the turkey bones and carcass, the meat and veggies can all go into soup, risotto, bubble and squeak or make yummy fillings for pasties and pies.