How to Cook Christmas Dinner by Being Prepared
Preparation, preparation, preparation. I could go on, but I think you get the general idea of how important it is to prep ahead of a party, dinner event, and special occasion. Today I will be talking about how to be as prepared as possible for Christmas dinner.
If this is your first time cooking Christmas dinner then you more than likely are scrambling around trying to figure out how long you should be cooking pigs in blankets or what to do with a turkey.
Fear not, I will hopefully be able to knock those worries out of your head, so when Christmas day rolls around you’ll be prepared and ready for whatever happens with your Christmas dinner.
Making dinner for the first time will be a daunting experience for anyone, but when it’s Christmas, then all you are thinking of is “does anyone actually eat cranberry sauce or bread sauce?” They may not, but you’ll be a fool to not have them in your cupboards, just in case!
Who Are You Inviting?
Start by writing a list of all the people who will be coming to your Christmas dinner and write what they like/don’t like to eat. You can ask them beforehand and write it down. For instance, if a few people do not like turkey, you may want to go for other meat that would suit them better, e.g. chicken, beef, fish, and so on.
If they have any allergies or intolerances, then you will need to plan for that to ensure that any food you make is not cross-contaminating with others which could cause an issue down the line. I don’t think seeing someone swell up whilst eating their Christmas pudding because you forgot they are allergic to nuts is going to make your Christmas merry and bright.
Consider the Space You Have
If you are cooking for a large group of people, are you able to get everything done on the day or will you need to prepare some of it on Christmas Eve and then reheat it on Christmas Day. Check and see if you have enough pots and pans as well as a good-sized baking tray to put your vegetables on.
Measure your turkey and see if it will fit into your oven, you should ideally be doing this beforehand to find a turkey that fits into your oven, but if you have accidentally skipped this, then now is the time to wing it (pardon the pun).
You may want to ask to borrow a family member’s or a friend’s oven for the day and give them specific instructions, e.g. when to baste, what temperature it needs to be at, and how to make sure it is piping hot.
Do Not Just Use the Oven
As much as you want to throw everything into the oven, you may not be able to due to space issues. Now is the time to utilize your other electrical items like your stovetop, microwave, and air fryer (if you have one).
Cooking in the Microwave
Potatoes can take a while in the oven, so you may want to throw them into the microwave until they are soft, then you can throw them into the final stages of the turkey cooking, or just after you take it out (keep it warm with foil wrapped around it). You can then turn up the temperature to make sure they get all crispy without wasting time. Voilà, you have your roast potatoes.
Cooking on the Stovetop
Your veg like carrots, sprouts, and parsnips can be done using the stovetop. Make sure you have a big pan, wash and cut your vegetables, add the oil of your choice to your pan on medium to high heat, put in the veg when the pan is showing some smoke and turn it down to medium. Do not push them around but keep an eye on them. Once they have caramelized, then you can remove them and put them into a bowl.
Cooking with the Air Fryer
An air fryer has multiple uses which are perfect for people who need that extra space for Christmas dinner. A traditional Christmas lunch does not mean completely oven based, so experiment with different ways you can cook dinner.
Did you know you can make mince pies in an air fryer? Beef Wellington? Now you do know and it is brilliant for an alternative Christmas dinner if you want to explore other options about what you want to cook.
Why it is Important to Change it Up
Whether you are using an air fryer, microwave, or stove top, you’ll be able to spread your cooking time plan around without focusing on one appliance. You’ll be able to make one dish meals, as well as create some new recipes with them.
A slow cooker may also be a great addition to your Christmas dinner, as you can put all the ingredients into it and let it slowly cook over the day.
Whether you decide to boil your veg or you plan on roasting everything you can get your hands on, you cannot go wrong with utilizing some other electrical items that can make the day a lot easier and help you save time throughout the day.
You may want to pre-cook/pre-make some of your foods in advance, maybe a few days to a week, and then freeze them so you can have a stress free Christmas day without worrying about where you put the goose fat or if you have all the right ingredients to make stuffing from scratch.
Cut Some Corners
It is okay to cut a few corners when preparing your Christmas dinner. You can make gravy from granules and boiling water on the day, as well as buy store-bought cream for desserts instead of making it from scratch (now that would be extreme).
You do not need to make pigs in blankets from scratch either, as nice as it would be to pick up butcher sausages and streaky bacon to create your own, it is going to take up a lot of your time. Getting them from the supermarket is not going to have your guests storm out.
Before you get all your ingredients, you need to make sure you have a free fridge for you to put everything in. I’m sure absolutely everything you are cooking and preparing is able to be refrigerated, so make that space. Just don’t forget to make some room for your butter and milk. Not being able to have a cup of tea and some toast first thing in the morning may make you a tad grumpy.
If you have people helping you out (yay) then get them to help you out with the cooking and decorating. Get them to check on the roast potatoes and roast parsnips to ensure they are golden brown. Have them check the turkey to see if it is cooked through. Any of these things will be helpful and stop you from flying around the kitchen.
If they are just standing around, they can set the table by dressing it with the tablecloth and plates as well as some Christmas crackers and candles. The least they can do is put out the salt and pepper.
You Deserve the Help
The festive season is all about celebrating with family, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to be lazy. You have done a lot to prepare this food, following recipes that are completely new to you, and making carrots, sprouts, and potatoes exactly as others want them, so tell them what they can assist with, even if it is running out of the house for some more baking parchment.
How to Cook…
Here are a few “how-to’s” for people who feel inundated with timings. A time plan will always help.
How to Cook Turkey
BBC Good Food has said that with a turkey, you ideally need to put it into a roasting tin with the breast side of the turkey facing up, and then roast it for 40 minutes per 1kg for the first 4kg, then 45 minutes for every 1kg over that weight. The internal temperature should be between 65-70c. This is just a guideline, as it will depend on the power of your appliances and the recipe you are following.
How to Roast Vegetables
If you are roasting the veg in the oven, then you will need to spread your carrots, sprouts, parsnips, and any others you have, on a large roasting tray (assuming you are having a big dinner), and roast for around 30 minutes at about 200c, you may need longer, so check-in at intervals and take out the tray to shake them so they don’t stick to the paper. Some vegetables are harder to cook than others, so check this out beforehand as you do not want to be waiting on them.
How to Bake Christmas Pudding
This recipe may need to be started 24 hours in advance as you will need to soak raisins in rum, you will need to make sure that they get stirred throughout the day. Some people can start this weeks in advance, but you do not need to go to those lengths.
There is a recipe linked for those who need to go through it step by step, but when you have all your ingredients together you will want to put it in a pre-heated 300c oven which could take up to 2 hours, but it will depend on the size of the pan you are using.
Hopefully, you have a bit more knowledge on how to prepare Christmas dinner for the first time and you do not feel so scared at tackling it head-on. Remember, it is your first Christmas dinner, you are going to get conflicting steps and tips, some of it is following your instincts and checking in every so often. It is a big day but you will do the best you can do.