Christmas is an incredibly exciting time of year but, if you're tasked with cooking your family's festive dinner, the day itself can be quite stressful. Your kitchen will get incredibly busy and you’ll have to juggle a whole host of tasks to ensure everything is served hot.
If you're not used to cooking for big groups of people, this can all be a bit of a shock to the system. So, to help ensure that your Christmas Day goes as smoothly as possible, we're going to give you all of the tips you need to efficiently cook your festive meal in a busy kitchen.
Prepare as much as you can in advance
In the week before Christmas Day, harness the power of your fridge and freezer by making as much food as you can in advance. You might be surprised by how many elements you can do this with. Here's what needs to be on your pre-Christmas to-do list:
- One week before Christmas Day: Prep your potatoes and then put them in the freezer until the special day. The Guardian has a great guide to preparing and freezing different types of potatoes, which can help you with this.
You can also make your gravy as far as a week in advance. Simply freeze it in a container and wait until you’re ready to defrost it.
- Two days before Christmas Day: To lighten the load on the big day, try to do as much as you can a couple of days before. You can make up your pigs in blankets, lie them on a baking tray, and put them in your fridge. The flavour of braised red cabbage can actually improve over time, so you can make this a couple of days in advance. The likes of your bread sauce and even your Yorkshire puddings can be made ahead of time and frozen, too.
- Christmas Eve: One of the simplest ways to save time on Christmas Day is by washing, peeling, and chopping all of your vegetables the day before. Cover everything with cold water as you go, and everything will be ready to cook in the morning.
Don't be afraid to use some ready-made dishes
If we lived in an ideal world, we would all have more than enough time to cook every element of our Christmas dinners from scratch. But, there's so much else to contend with on Christmas Day: you'll want to watch your little ones open their presents, there'll be family members you'll want to catch-up with, and simply enjoying the day should be a huge priority. So, don't be ashamed if you don't have time to make everything yourself: store-bought versions of sauces, desserts, and trimmings can be just as good.
It's also worth planning your menu in a way that means you can serve some things cold. For example, having a smoked salmon starter and an ice cream dessert can alleviate some of the pressure. And, nobody will realise you've made some tactical decisions.
Know how to use your cooker in the most efficient way
You'll rely on your cooker a lot throughout the festive season, so it's important that you know how to use it in the most efficient way possible. This will help you to save time, as well as take a lot of the stress out of the big day.
We asked Jane Rylands, from the kitchen appliance manufacturer Belling, for her top tips. She told us: "Work our whether you have a fan or conventional oven, so you can play to its strengths. Conventional models are ideal for traditional roasting, because they tend to be hotter at the top than the bottom. This means you can put your meat in the middle, your roast potatoes at the top, and your dessert at the bottom. Yorkshire puddings will also cook very well on the top shelf. If you have a fanned oven, you’ll find it much easier to cook lots of different foods at once, without transferring flavours.
"It's also important that you resist the temptation to open your oven as much as possible. Letting the heat escape can mean that everything will take much longer to cook, and your Yorkshire puddings might even look deflated when you take them out. It's just not worth the risk! Only open your oven when you're ready to take everything out."
Christmas Day can be hectic if you're in charge of cooking everyone's favourite meal of the year. Try these tips and have a fantastic festive season.