Tips for preparing Christmas dinner | Day Out With The Kids

Top Turkey: Tips for preparing Christmas dinner without spending all day in the kitchen

Rachel Brady

20 December 2017

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3 minutes
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So, you are hosting Christmas Dinner this year? Well, if you are a real Bon Vivant and cooking is your thing, then go ahead and make a 6-course triumph that your guests will rave about for years. But the reality for most of us parents is that we have enough on what with entertaining and parties in the run-up, buying and wrapping gifts, and decorating the house – and don't forget you're supposed to look glam too! Geez, I'm exhausted just typing about it!

A family gathers around the table for Christmas dinner

As an enthusiastic home cook, I do love to create a special meal on the big day itself, and we've hosted loads of times so it doesn't worry me. However after several years of quite hot and stressful Christmas Days in the kitchen, as my kids get older (and toys get more complicated requiring adult intervention) I now do things differently – but it's still a memorable meal with all the trimmings. After all, who wants to spend the whole of Christmas Day in the kitchen, whilst all the fun takes place elsewhere?

Here are my top tips for making your life easier in the kitchen on Christmas Day:

  1. Skip the starter – or make an easy canapé

    If everyone eats a starter they won't be able to eat the main course – and if you've slaved over 15 different components I guarantee you'll be less than happy about it! Instead consider serving some Irish soda bread (or rye bread) cut into small pieces, with a dollop of Crème Fraiche mixed with a little shop bought horseradish (make the night before) plus snippets of good quality smoked salmon on top. It keeps people from starving whilst they sip a drink but it won't fill them up.

    A plate of Christmas dinner at home

  1. Choose an easy main roast, i.e. no carcass, stuffing included

    Whether you want to do the prep yourself or you are happy to buy a pre-prepared joint (no judgement here, you'll be the one laughing smugly with a drink in hand come the day itself!) I say this year – choose an easy roast instead of a massive and expensive turkey that will be hanging around for days after. I am planning to stuff a turkey crown then wrap it with pancetta in advance – easier than it sounds and so impressive looking. The shops have infinite choices on this type of stuffed joint theme. And it needn't be turkey either; consider Porcetta which is a stuffed pork joint with crackling, or how about a 5 bird roast? There are plenty of veggie takes on this too - in the shops and recipes online. 
  1. Peel and prep veg night before

    Sprouts, roasties, parsnips, carrots – peel and chop them the night before and leave in water. They'll be fine.

    A traybake of roasted vegetables for Christmas dinner

  1. Traybake the veg all together

    Another new thing I have started doing. I used to have about 4 different side dishes for the veg – sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta, parmesan parsnips, glazed orange carrots, braised red cabbage with apples, goose fat roasties. Delicious! But also a lot of work. So I compromise now by losing one dish - the cabbage (or if you insist then this works if made in advance) – and the others I can roast together in a very large roasting tin. I do suggest roasting potatoes in a separate tin if there are more than 4 of you – or even (sshhhh!) buying frozen ones as they are so good. But the sprouts, parsnips, and carrots can go in a large roasting tin together with some oil and plenty of seasoning to roast.
  1. Make the cranberry and bread sauce in advance

    Cranberry sauce is the world's easiest thing to make – and some homemade touches like this really make the meal seem special. It's basically cranberries and sugar. Ages in advance, make a batch and freeze it. Bread sauce is also really easy to make a batch up of and freeze. Just remember to take them out the night before and heat the bread sauce thoroughly.

    Cranberry sauce for Christmas dinner

  1. Buy the pigs in blankets prepped

    This is my husband's non-negotiable in Christmas Dinner terms. I buy them pre-prepped from the butcher, then all you have to do is pop them in the oven for 30 mins to roast.
  1. Buy a Christmas pudding

    In my experience, often no one ends up eating Christmas Pudding – we always forget. So nowadays I buy a good quality one and if anyone wants some later when most of us are snoozing, after games and the overeating and drinking has kicked in – then they are welcome, and all I have to do is microwave and pour on some cream.

    Bread sauce for Christmas Day

  1. Everyone helps to tidy up

    Make a rule; if mum did the majority of the meal (or dad) then they get to sit down with a coffee or Bailey's and everyone else (many hands and all that) gets tidied up. That way, everyone can chill out or play games a lot sooner and one person won't end up overworked and stressed.

What are your top no stress Christmas cooking tips? Let us know in a comment below, or find even more Christmas ideas and inspiration on our blog!

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Rachel Brady

20 December 2017

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Rachel Brady lives a mostly peaceful but very muddy life in the Peak District with her husband, 2 young kids, 2 cats and 1 naughty chocolate lab. Rachel is one of our much loved Trusted Explorers, which means all content has been written exclusively for dayoutwiththekids.co.uk in exchange for a contribution to their family piggy bank. All posts are first hand, honest and based on real experiences.

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