My friend wakes at 3 am on Christmas cooking Day, so she can put the turkey in the oven and ensure it’s ready in time for lunch! But creating the perfect Christmas meal doesn’t have to mean scurrying around like a scalded cat all morning. With a little careful planning, you could have a relaxing Christmas morning and still produce a mouth-watering meal. Here are ten tips Christmas cooking to help you out.
1. Use disposable roasting trays
Disposable roasting trays are a lifesaver at Christmas, and you can use them for more than just roasting meat. You can find these handy containers for all kinds of foods, including pies and flans, puddings, delicacies like mince pies, and more. They’re relatively cheap, can be recycled, and will save you hours of scrubbing afterward.
2. Cook the meat in advance
This may sound like sacrilege, but hear me out. Why spend the whole of Christmas morning slaving over a hot oven when you can cook the meat in advance? Cook it beforehand, slice it, and freeze it in a little gravy. Remove from the freezer on Christmas Eve, and all you need to do is gently reheat it—the gravy stops it from drying out.
3. Make accompaniments early
Make these ahead of time (e.g. wrapping little sausages in bacon or cooking popovers), and freeze them individually on a baking tray. Once frozen, you can store them in a container as they won’t stick together—you can remove as many as you need on the day. Cook straight from frozen, along with the meat.
4. Be smart about stuffing
Stuffing is a fabulous accompaniment to turkey or chicken, but it also tastes delicious with other roast meats. Cook the stuffing separately, either rolling it into little balls or putting it in a flat dish. Freeze it in individual portions, which can be cooked from frozen on the day.
5. Prepare vegetables the day before
You may like to use frozen vegetables for your meal, but many people prefer to opt for fresh vegetables for Christmas. Although you can’t easily cook them in advance, you can prepare them the day before. I like to make an event of this rather than treating it as a chore. Pour a glass of wine, play some seasonal music, and get everyone involved—even small kids can peel and chop carrots! Leave the veggies standing in water overnight.
6. Make the gravy early
Make your gravy early in the morning and store it in a thermos flask. It will stay piping hot, and you can decant it into a gravy jug just before you serve up. No more rushing round to mix the gravy whilst you’re also juggling hot meat and all the trimmings!
7. Plan ahead for Christmas dessert
You may love the traditional Christmas pudding, or you might prefer something more contemporary, but Christmas cooking it a few days in advance will free up more time on the day. For hot desserts, your microwave is your best friend—even steamed Christmas pudding can be heated in just a few minutes.
8. Store premade sauces
Whatever sauce you need for your meal, it can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer. Cranberry sauce, bread sauce, apple sauce or horseradish will all keep well in the fridge for several days. However, if you want to plan further ahead, freeze your sauces and defrost on Christmas Eve.
9. Create lasting Christmas drinks
Some Christmas drinks must be made fresh, but you can prepare others in advance. Make the base for eggnog 24 hours before you need it, and chill it in the fridge. You can add the final ingredients at the last moment. Hot drinks—such as mulled wine or spiced cider—can be made early and will keep well in a sealed bottle for a couple of weeks.
10. Set the table early
Finally, setting up the dining table on Christmas Eve will really ease the pressure. You’ll have time to place everything exactly where you want it and to add all the little finishing touches like place names, napkins and floral decorations without being in a rush. Place glasses upside down to eliminate dust and turn them over just before serving.
As you can see, the key to success for a relaxing Christmas cooking is forward planning. Tackle one item a day for a couple of weeks before, and you’ll be amazed at how much calmer and easier Christmas morning becomes!