Christmas is an incredibly exciting time of year, as you get to make some fantastic memories with your nearest and dearest. But, it can also be quite stressful if you’re planning to host parties or cook Christmas dinner for your family — especially if you’re not used to spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
Here, we’re going to outline five ways you can make things much easier for yourself this year. We’ll explain how you can stay organised, and have even asked an industry expert for their top tips on how to use your cooker efficiently. Read on to ensure your Christmas cooking experience goes as smoothly as can be.
Don’t try to do too much
A few well-cooked dishes are always going to go down much better than a badly cooked banquet. So, when you’re planning any of your Christmas meals, don’t be afraid to keep things simple. You don’t have to cook three kinds of potatoes, four different sauces, and two kinds of cabbage if you aren’t confident. A roast with three vegetable sides and some pigs in blankets will be enough to wow your guests if they’re cooked with love and care.
Similarly, don’t be fooled into thinking you need to offer five courses. A main course and a festive dessert should be more than enough to send your loved ones into the food coma they’ve waited all year for.
Prepare what you can in advance
Whether you’ll be cooking your family’s Christmas dinner or you’re planning a dinner party for your circle of friends, you won’t want to be rushed off your feet on the day in question. Fortunately, you can make things much easier for yourself by preparing some things in advance.
You might be surprised by how many things you can do this with. Here are just some foods you can prepare in advance:
- Gravy: Simply freeze in a container until you’re ready to use it.
- Stuffing: Freeze in an oven dish and pop straight into the oven on the big day.
- Red cabbage: Can be kept in the fridge for 2–3 days.
- Potatoes: Peel and chop these the night before, then keep them in a water-filled container.
- Bread sauce: This can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a few days.
- Parsnips: Boiled parsnips will last up to a day in the fridge.
- Yorkshire puddings: You can make the batter the day before, or make and freeze them.
If you do as much as you can long before your family and friends arrive, your days is likely to go much more smoothly.
Use your cooker efficiently
You’re going to rely on your cooker a lot throughout the festive season, so learning how to use it efficiently is important.
We asked Denver Hewlett, Chief Executive at kitchen appliance manufacturer Stoves, for his top tips. He said: “There are certain steps you can take to ensure that your food is cooked perfectly in the shortest time possible. For example, if your cooker has multiple compartments that you can set to different temperatures, look at all of the ingredients you’re planning to cook and decide which ones can be cooked at the same temperature, and therefore the same time. It can be difficult to have all of the different elements cooking at once so, if you have the space, you could even use one of these compartments to keep any cooked food warm before it can be taken to the table.
“If you know you’re going to struggle for oven space, it might be wise to look for alternative cooking methods you could use. Perhaps you could steam your vegetables rather than roasting them. Not only will this save you some precious space in your oven, but it will also make it much easier for you to cook everything at the same time.
“My last tip would be to avoid the temptation of opening your oven to check on your food while it’s cooking. This lets heat escape, which means your food could take much longer to cook and your Yorkshire puddings might struggle to rise.”
Don’t be afraid to cheat a little bit
Homemade sauces and desserts might be nice but, if you already feel like you’ve got too much on your plate, don’t stress about them — you can buy ready-made versions from the supermarket, and they’re perfectly tasty. Plus, you can transfer cranberry sauce into a pretty bowl or display some mince pies on a festive plate and nobody will know the difference.
When supermarkets are offering a whole host of Christmas treats, there’s no need to cook every element of your meals from scratch. So, if you want to make things easier for yourself, don’t be afraid to cheat a little bit.
Be flexible with your meal time
It’s a good idea to be flexible with your meal time, as this will take some of the pressure off. When you’re cooking for a lot of people things can go wrong, or some foods can take longer to cook than expected. As a result, it’s best to give people a rough idea of when their dinner will be ready, but don’t make any promises. Just make sure you have some snacks on hand in case you do encounter any major problems!
Cooking a Christmas meal can be stressful if you aren’t properly prepared. But, by ensuring you’re organised, using your cooker efficiently, and being flexible with the time of your meal, you’ll make things much easier for yourself.