When it comes to cooking Christmas Dinner, you can never be too prepared! There are loads of simple things you can do in advance to take the stresses out of being chief cook on Christmas Day. Believe me, I’ve got it down to a fine art having cooked many a Christmas Dinner over the years.
I think the cook should be able to enjoy the day too, so I try to work out a schedule that will give me gaps so I can sit with the kids and open presents with a glass of fizz.
I’m working with Mumsnet and Aunt Bessie’s to show you how to get prepared for Christmas Dinner.
Tips for Planning Christmas Dinner
What you can do now…
- Start eating down your freezer to make room for the Christmas food, then you can start buying bits and pieces as they start appearing at the supermarket. This both spreads the cost and the time involved. I’ve already bought a special stuffed Turkey Crown and a Sausage Plait and squirrelled them away in my freezer.
- Home-made prep: I like to make my own cranberry sauce and braised red cabbage – both of which are super easy to make and freeze really well.
- Shop-bought staples: Of course you can make your own everything, but I like to cut corners on some of the elements of the meal so I’m not a total kitchen slave. I’ll often buy pigs-in-blankets, Aunt Bessie’s Roast Potatoes, ready-made stuffing and bread sauce – these can all live in the freezer too. I’ll also be keeping my eye out for a ready-made Vegetarian main course.
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 Get rid of out of date jars and make soup with any vegetables past their best.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!
- 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.
- 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.
Write a plan for the big day
Check out my Essential Christmas Dinner Planner where you’ll find my print-out-and-keep hour-by-hour schedule for cooking Christmas Dinner. Stick it on your fridge and it’ll keep you on track amidst all the festive mayhem and glasses of fizz!
Kitchen survival tips
- Have a properly energising breakfast – you’ll need plenty of energy to get through the day
- Assign someone the task of keeping your glass topped up with your favourite festive tipple – that should keep you smiling
- Have a banging Christmas tune playlist plugged in – there’s nothing like dancing around the kitchen
- Run the dishwasher BEFORE dinner and enlist someone to be your washer-upper of big pans, that way clearing up won’t be too hideous (that’s not the cook’s job anyway!)
What are your survival tactics for cooking on Christmas Day? I’d love to hear how you cope! Let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: I have been commissioned by Aunt Bessie’s to create and share this content with you, and was compensated for this blog post. All views are my own and I only endorse products I genuinely use myself.