Hosting Christmas dinner is a chance to show off your skills in the kitchen. However, now that we are counting down the days until the big day, the idea of preparing Christmas dinner for the whole family is probably filling you with dread.
It’s funny really. The majority of us cook a weekly Sunday roast, and that’s just a smaller version of a Christmas dinner. We should have a good idea of exactly what is involved, the timings and the running order for the various components that make up a Christmas dinner so we can plan what goes into the oven and when. In reality, there are elements of this special meal that can make anyone panic. Of course you really only get the one chance when it comes to preparing Christmas dinner each year, so the pressure to get it right is quite high.
But it doesn’t have to mean you lose your mind. Before you begin to panic completely about preparing Christmas dinner, here are our tips to help you make as stress-free a meal as possible.
Write a menu
Every great event starts with a thorough plan so sit down and write some lists. Begin by creating a menu of everything that you plan to serve, starters, main course, sides, and pudding. This will form the basis of a number of other different lists that you can write that will make the planning and the preparation much easier.
Write a shopping list
There is nothing worse than realising at the last minute that you forgot to buy something important for preparing Christmas dinner with so use the menu you have created to write a complete shopping list of everything you will need. This should include making sure you have sufficient store cupboard ingredients you will need. If you have not cooked a turkey before, remember to check that you have a roasting dish that is large enough – you will also want to make sure that you do not get a turkey that is too big for your oven!
This list is likely to be long but don’t worry, there will be things you have written down that you can purchase a couple of weeks in advance to help spread the cost.
Write a plan of action
The final list that you will want to make is a list of all the jobs that you will need to do to get everything prepared. You may find it helpful to include all the timings that you will need on the big day so that you know exactly when to start cooking each component of your menu, so everything is ready at the right time.
Write this list on a computer if you can. This will allow you to move tasks around and change timings easily if you need to. Our next few tips will help you with preparing your plan of action.
Jobs you can do in advance
There are actually a number of jobs that you can do on Christmas eve that will make your workload much easier on Christmas day.
Preparing Christmas Dinner Food
- Pots and Pans – Make sure you have the right size and types of non-stick pans and pots. From the roaster to your saucepans, get them out, line them up and work out what’s going in which pot.
- Turkey. If you have a frozen turkey, check well in advance just how long you will need to defrost it for. Follow the defrosting instructions on the packaging fully.
- Main course alternatives. If you have any vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian guests, look for recipes and prepare them the day before. If these are recipes you have not cooked before, consider a trial run to keep stress to a minimum.
- Carrots, potatoes, and parsnips. Peel and cut to the right size. Why not use a Nicer Dicer Quick to make life easier? These can be stored in cold water overnight. If you have lots of fridge space, you could even cook them in advance and just heat them up on Christmas day.
- Other veg – Sprouts, cabbage both of these can be prepared the evening before and popped into the fridge. If you are doing a braised red cabbage side dish you can make this and freeze it well in advance.
- Stuffing. If you are making your own stuffing from scratch prepare it the day before. Cover with foil and pop in the fridge, then all you need to do is place it in the oven at the right time. If you are using a packet stuffing, prepare according to the cooking instructions and then store in the fridge ready for cooking.
- Pigs in Blankets – prep the day before and keep in the fridge until ready to cook.
- Apple sauce and cranberry sauce. Both of these are easy to prepare and keep well in the fridge so make them on Christmas eve and then keep in the fridge.
- Starters and puddings. Consider serving dishes that can be prepared the day before, served cold or just need heating up before you eat.
- Set the table. This can be done the evening before and will save any last-minute rushing around. Better still, ask someone else to help you do this.
- Wash up as you go. If you have a dishwasher use it, frequently if needed. Otherwise rope in someone else to help. Keeping on top of the washing up will make it much easier to find the utensils you need. This will make things much more stress free.
On the day
If you give yourself a comprehensive plan with timings, preparing Christmas dinner will not be nearly as stressful as you imagined. Tick things off your list as you go and if you do find yourself getting flustered, particularly if you have a number of things to do at the same time, remember to ask for help. There is always someone who will be willing to pop on an apron and help out.
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