Tips for making the cooking of Christmas dinner easier and less stressful

Saturday, 19th December 2020, 8:57 am
Updated Saturday, 19th December 2020, 9:00 am

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Five winners of our 12 Days of Christmas winter word search will receive an engraved, hand-crafted Bailey bracelet worth £230 and a Cockburn’s Port ‘big night in’ hamper.

All you have to do is find the letter included in the special 12 Days of Christmas content running each day in the Christmas sections of our top JPIMedia websites from December 13-24 and put them together to find a suitable word for this special time of year.

Although we know the 12 Days don’t begin until December 25 we were so excited that we thought we would start the celebrations early.

While Christmas Day is meant to be full of joy and laughter, many of us can find happy memories overshadowed by the stress of putting together Christmas dinner.

Here are some tips and tricks to take the stress out of cooking for the big day.

Make a plan - and stick to it

The easiest way to reduce Christmas cooking stress is to be organised.

In the run up to Christmas Day, make sure you’ve done all your food and drink shopping in order to avoid the Christmas Eve mad dash to the supermarket, only to find empty shelves.

Once you know what’s on the menu, calculate how long it will take for each component of the meal to cook, and figure out your timings. Write everything down so you don’t have to remember it off the top of your head. Stick to this schedule on the day, and you won’t be stuck in the kitchen trying to figure it out on the fly.

Clear out the fridge

Before you embark on the big Christmas food shop, direct your focus to your fridge.

Get rid of any nearly empty condiments, leftovers that have been in there for too long and anything else taking up unnecessary space.

You’re going to need plenty of space in your fridge to accommodate all your Christmas goodies, and you don’t want to find yourself trying to play tetris with pigs in blankets and parsnips.

Get as much done in advance as possible

Save yourself time on the big day by having as much as possible already prepared and ready to go.

You can have things like vegetables already pre-peeled and chopped. Store your prepped veg in water in the fridge to keep it fresh longer. Other Christmas day favourites will freeze and reheat excellently, such as mashed potatoes and Christmas biscuits.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

The task of cooking Christmas dinner for the whole family shouldn’t land on the shoulders of just one person.

If you don’t feel like you can give up the reins to some of the bigger components of the meal, like the meat, you can always assign smaller tasks to others, like peeling and chopping vegetables, making sauces and gravies and setting the table.

Cut corners

Christmas is meant to be an enjoyable time for everyone - you should remember being happy with your family, not tearing your hair out because you’re so stressed.

Not everything that makes it to the dinner table needs to be homemade from scratch. Where possible, give yourself permission to cut corners and use premade and store bought items.

Opting for supermarket desserts, premade gravies and frozen vegetables can ease the workload.

Keep it simple

Christmas is not the time to try out that elaborate recipe you’ve been dying to give a go. Stick to recipes you know how to make and that taste good.

Limit yourself to a reasonable number of menu items, like a main, a few sides and dessert. You don’t need to stretch yourself thin trying to trot out a 12 course tasting menu.

Make sure you have all the equipment you need

There’s nothing worse than when the big day comes around and you find out that you can’t fit the Christmas turkey and all the vegetables in the oven at the same time because there’s not enough space. Or, if you’ve got three pans on the go with mashed potatoes, bread sauce and gravy - but you don’t have a fourth pan for the brussels sprouts.

Make sure that you have everything you need in advance and plan accordingly, whether that means investing in some more pots and baking trays, or reworking your cooking schedule, figure out what works for you.

Clean as you go

Don’t let dishes pile up. There’s nothing you want to deal with less after a big meal than having to tackle a mountain of dishes.

If you have a dishwasher, load it up as you cook. Keep your counters clear and have hot soapy water for anything needing hand washed.

This could also be a job that you could assign to someone else, because the chef makes the rules.