Cooking Christmas dinner for your entire family sounds like a nice idea. But, if it’s your first time, the reality looks more like a meltdown in a messy kitchen panicking that your food will be raw, burnt or not ready in time.
To help make your Christmas dinner endeavour a little less stressful, we’ve compiled some of our best planning tips and cooking hacks.
Choose your menu and recipes early on
Whether you’re following an old family recipe or a Jamie Oliver special, know exactly what you’re going to cook and which ingredients you’ll need early on. Not only will this dictate your shopping list but as everyone’s Christmas dinner recipe is a little different, it will also dictate the timing of your day.
If you’ve never cooked Christmas dinner before, or if you’re trying something a little unusual this year, you might even want to run a dress rehearsal and test it out on your family a few weeks in advance.
Buy what you can online
A last minute dash to the supermarket for Christmas dinner ingredients is guaranteed to end in disaster. Not only will it be chaos in the store, but you’re likely to find that all the key foods like turkey, Brussels sprouts and potatoes are long gone from the shelves.
Many butchers, grocers, artisan and speciality stores will stock Christmas dinner hampers packed full of all the main ingredients you need. And many of those will even deliver straight to your door, saving you all the hassle of the food shop. Do your research online or contact your local suppliers to get prices and last dates for orders.
Ask guests to chip in
If you’re inviting a few relatives over for Christmas dinner, it’s likely that some of them will offer to bring a dessert, a side dish or a starter. If that’s the case, don’t politely decline – take them up on their kind offer. Not only will it add a little something extra to your Christmas dinner table, but it will make them feel as if they’ve contributed and, of course, it will save you a bit of stress.
If you’re cooking side dishes or starters which can be frozen or refrigerated and then reheated, start cooking them a couple of days in advance. Soup is a great example of this. Prepare it the day before Christmas Eve, let it cool, stick it in the freezer and then take a few minutes to reheat it before it’s served on Christmas day.
Many people believe that gravy has to be cooked on the day, but if you want to be prepared, this is also something which can be made and frozen ahead of Christmas Day.
Buy good equipment
A good chef is transformed into a great one with the right tools. Having sharp knives and quality pots, pans and dishes make all the difference to your Christmas dinner food prep. The right catering equipment makes you more efficient and if you have enough bowls, plates and saucepans, you won’t waste time washing and reusing dishes. Browse Hugh Jordan’s range of catering equipment to make sure you have everything you need.
Have a time plan ready
No one wants to spend the entire Christmas morning slaving away in the kitchen. So, on Christmas Eve, take a minute to sit down, write out everything that needs done and create a timeplan for every task. Stick it somewhere visible in the kitchen, like on the fridge, to minimise the risk of forgetting something vital.
Christmas pudding, trifle and chocolate logs are among the most popular Christmas desserts. If these are going on your menu, make them the day before and refrigerate them overnight. Trying to cook starters, dinner and dessert on Christmas Day is virtually impossible – even for the most seasoned Christmas cook. Always do what you can in advance.
Prepare your veg 24 hours in advance
Around 24 hours before you’ll be sitting down to your Christmas dinner, start preparing your veg. Peeling carrots, potatoes and parsnips can be one of the most time consuming tasks, so if you have this done in beforehand, you’ll save yourself a considerable amount of stress on the day.
Trim your Brussels sprouts, dry them and put them in food bags. With potatoes, parsnips and carrots, peel them and put them in a bowl of water to stop them from browning. You can even cook them, cover them and refrigerate them overnight if you’re feeling extremely prepared.
Set your table
Have your table set and ready well before dinner time, so there’s not a mad rush on Christmas day and it looks polished and professional for all the Facebook photos. Get your table runner on, make sure there enough wine glasses to go around and a cracker for every guest.
10. Chill your drinks
And the most important part is, of course, to make sure the drinks are chilled and ready for guests when they arrive. A great tip is to freeze mixers like tonic in ice cube trays. They still taste great when they melt and it will prevent your gin and tonic from becoming diluted with ice water.