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For many home cooks, Christmas dinner is the biggest production of the year. It’s often the only time we prepare food for a crowd, and one of the few occasions when the entire family gathers together to share a meal. This can lead to considerable pressure, especially given the numerous other demands on our time around Christmas.

However, Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be a stressful event; with a little forward planning and know-how, it can be the relaxed family occasion we aspire to. To help streamline your festive preparations, we’ve compiled some of our favourite time-saving tips for making Christmas dinner...

Plan ahead

This may initially seem like extra work, but you’ll save time in the long run by deciding on your menu in advance so you can figure out shopping lists and cooking timescales. You’ll be less likely to find yourself scrambling in the shops at the last minute because you’ve forgotten that all-important seasoning for the stuffing, or grinding to a halt on Christmas Day because you underestimated the time it would take to chop all those vegetables. To make the shopping process even quicker, consider purchasing your supplies online – just make sure you make the order deadline to make sure you get your food in time for Christmas.

Make it easy for yourself

Don’t worry about complicated starters – most people would rather save room for the main meal at Christmas, so serve light nibbles if you’re having a starter at all. Likewise, as much as we love cooking everything from scratch, don’t feel too badly if your schedule requires you to cut a few corners for efficiency (and sanity)’s sake. Use pre-rolled pastry for your mince pies, or add a few secret ingredients of your own to a packaged stuffing mix. Most of your guests likely won’t even notice – they’ll be too glad it’s not them doing the cooking!

Stock up in advance

Make sure your shopping list includes more than just the necessary food ingredients – you should also stock up on foil, freezer bags, kitchen roll and any other supplies that could come in handy. Remember that you may need extra of everything when cooking for a large group – nothing disrupts your schedule like an emergency dash to the shops. This is also a good time to make sure you have enough pots, oven dishes, cutlery and wine glasses – it will save you having to work out last-minute improvisations on the day.

Prep beforehand

Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be entirely cooked on the day – there’s a lot of prep work that can be done a day (or more) in advance. Not only does this spread out the time and effort involved (so you’ll be more relaxed on Christmas Day itself), but it leaves room for minor delays and mishaps, so you don’t have to stress about falling behind schedule.

Most vegetables can be chopped or even parboiled for roasting the day before, then left in a bowl of water in the fridge overnight. Or parboil the veg even earlier, and store it in the freezer until the day before – freezer-proof bags and containers are useful in this respect.  Consider the same approach with mince pies, biscuits and other baked goods. Some people do their Christmas baking in November, freeze the lot and then just warm individual batches in the oven as needed.

Gravies, sauces and other dishes can often be prepared the night before and reheated on the day – you can also save time by prepping the turkey for cooking the day before. Just be sure everything is sealed well and there’s no cross-contamination between the raw meat and cooked food – no one wants to risk food poisoning at Christmas.

Draft in helpers

Your festive feast doesn’t have to be a one-person show. Even if you’re the designated cook in the family, you can still enlist family members to perform simple tasks such as slicing vegetables and washing up so you don’t have to spend too long on these time-consuming tasks. If everyone pitches in to help, you’re less likely to have to spend the entirety of Christmas hidden away in the kitchen.

Look like you’re ready

Don’t leave it to the last second to set the table, especially if you aim to put together a festive display. Your creative juices will flow better without the pressure of impending guests, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the process rather than madly throwing plates and cups at the table. Plus when your guests arrive, it will look like you’re all ready to go – even if you’re still in the kitchen applying the finishing touches to dinner.

What are your best time-saving tips for Christmas dinner?


Lockhart Catering on 23 December 2013 12:35 AM

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