Food galore, drinks a flowing and being surrounded by friends and family. Who doesn’t love this time of year? To many though, the thought of having to cook Christmas dinner can be a very daunting task – especially when doing it for the first time. That’s why we’ve put these tips together with the help of Ian Salmon, Head Chef at Rick Stein, Sandbanks.
1) Organisation! This is number one on our list, and the most important tip of all. In the days leading up to Christmas make sure you’ve got absolutely everything you need, from the obvious like a turkey, potatoes and pigs in blankets, to checking you’ve got enough oil to cook with and plenty of salt and pepper for seasoning too. We recommend getting all your food and drink shopping done by December 22nd – that way you can avoid a last-minute trolley dash around your local supermarket.
2) Brine your Turkey on Christmas Eve: As turkey is a lean meat, it can become dry quite quickly, so Ian recommends to brine your bird for around 12 hours before popping it in the oven to cook. During this process, it’ll absorb extra moisture, which in turn helps it stay moist and juicy, and the brining liquor will also help to season the meat. To do this you’ll need a large pot or bucket, filled with a 10% salt water mix, 2 tbsp of sugar and lots of aromats (black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, a couple of bay leaves and orange peel).
3) Have you got the right equipment for the job? Make sure you’ve got plenty of oven trays, pots and pans and serving dishes. Oh, and not forgetting a new roll of extra-long tin foil – super handy for helping to keep things warm before you serve dinner. Another thing to check is your knifes – make sure they’re nice and sharp, as this will make cooking faster and easier.
4) Prep your veg the night before: Peel potatoes, carrots, parsnips and any other veg you’re having and leave them in pans of cold water overnight. This will save you a lot of faff and additional mess on Christmas morning. If you’ve got lots of space in your fridge (unlikely), you could even pre-cook your potatoes and parsnips on Christmas Eve to save even more time.
5) Get your timings for the big day sorted: Plan exactly how long everything takes to cook and make yourself a to-do list. EG/ Turkey goes in the oven at 7.30am, check it at 8.30am and lower the temperature and so on…
6) Keep it fun, get the family involved: Christmas is all about seeing family and friends, and enjoying quality time together. So, why not get everyone involved in the Christmas dinner process (just make sure you forget the old proverb ‘too many cooks…’).
7) Buy a Christmas Pudding to cook in the microwave: By doing this you’ll save over an hour, as cooking your pudding this way should only take 5-10 minutes. Giving you back some vital time to host or concentrate on juggling the other five things you’ll no doubt be cooking.
8) Wash as you go: If like us, when you cook a roast dinner you use every pot, pan and utensil in sight, clean up as you go (where possible). Even if this just means packing the dishwasher before carving the turkey, it’ll insure you get to relax and enjoy the after-dinner festivities with your family – rather than being chained to a washing-up bowl for an hour after you’ve eaten.