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A foolproof step-by-step guide to cooking Christmas dinner

Make sure the big day is as relaxed as possible.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas! – but the festive period can also be quite stressful.

To alleviate this, we’ve created a Christmas Countdown guide to help get you through the big day without everything falling to pieces.

There’s an expectation that Christmas Day will include an extravagant, luxurious dinner, regardless of your cookery skills, so if the feast is being held at your house, it’s normal to feel some anxiety. The most important thing to remember is that this is a time to be with your family, so we’ve created this guide in order to help you maximise your time with them instead of being stuck in the kitchen all day.

READ MORE: Where to eat in Cork when you're Christmas shopping

Before you get started

Make sure you have enough equipment; you don’t want to start preparing your turkey only to realise that you haven’t got a tray big enough to cook it in. In the week leading up to Christmas (so now basically), make sure you have enough of the following:

  • Tin foil
  • Baking parchment
  • Kitchen roll
  • Washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets
  • Bags for rubbish, recycling and compost bins
  • Tea towels
  • Baking trays and roasting dishes

READ MORE: How to create a cracking cheeseboard this Christmas

Hero equipment

These are the things you definitely need to make your dream Christmas feast a reality. They’re also pretty good additions to any well-stocked kitchen, so add them to your wishlist if you don’t think you’ll get around to purchasing them before Christmas:

Our ultimate Christmas countdown

Your game plan for the days preceding Christmas to ensure that you’re ready to go on the big day:

December 21st:

  • Make your shopping list, including everything from booze to napkins. If you’re super organised, you could break down the list into sections, grouping things together to make sure you don’t have to double back on yourself while you’re in the supermarket.
  • A time plan is also a good idea if you’re super stressed out as it will allow you to figure out what needs to be done when and how long your meats need to be cooked for, ensuring you leave yourself enough oven space. I like to work backwards, so I decide what time I'll be serving my meal at then figure out my timings from there. For instance, dinner is at 4pm in my house this year, so I know that my roast potatoes need to go in the oven at 3pm, which is when my turkey needs to come out the oven to rest. Working back like this means you can easily plan for your entire day to be as smooth and stress-free as possible.

December 22nd:

  • Make your stuffing and put it in an oven-safe dish. You can cook the stuffing, chill it and freeze so that all you have to do is warm it through on the big day, or you can simply freeze it as is and cook on Christmas day.
  • If you’re planning to use a frozen turkey, depending on its size, you might want to start defrosting it today as you need to allow 8-12 hours in the fridge per kilo.

December 23rd:

  • This is your big shopping day; get yourself up early, have a fortifying breakfast and get down to the supermarkets before everyone else does. Make sure you bring enough reusable bags with you. Today would also be a good time to get any last-minute gifts, ensuring you miss the mad dash on Christmas Eve.
  • If you’re making soup for starter, make it today and keep it chilled or freeze it for use on Christmas Day.

December 24th:

  • Peel all your veg and place them in cold water to hold until Christmas Day. If you’re planning to serve any plainly boiled, blanch them off today by cooking in boiling salted water until just tender, then run them under ice water until totally cooled. You can then reheat the boiled veg for 3 minutes (depending on size) in boiling water until hot the whole way through.
  • If you’re making cranberry sauce, get it done today so you can just reheat it tomorrow if you like to eat it warm.
  • If you’ve frozen anything, now is the time to take it out of the freezer to defrost (other than your turkey, which should already be defrosting!).
  • Make your dessert; you can have it cooked and ready to go on a serving dish so you won’t even have to go near it tomorrow.
  • The big job for today is to cook your ham; get it done early and chill it down, then reheat tomorrow in packs of foil with some of the liquid that you cooked the ham in.
  • Today is also the day that you should set your table, get all your utensils and serving dishes ready, as well as placing any drinks that require cooling into a fridge, cooler or icebox so that they’re ready to go tomorrow.

READ MORE: Where to eat in Cork while Christmas shopping

December 25th:

  • It’s the big day! If you’ve followed our guidelines, then today should be pretty relaxed for you.
  • Remember to take your turkey, and any other meats you’ll be cooking, out of the fridge a couple of hours before they go into the oven. Depending on the size of your turkey and whether it’s whole or just a crown, your cooking time will vary. More than likely, a whole turkey will take around 2 ½-3 hours to cook, then you need to rest the meat to ensure maximum juiciness, so you might need to get it into the oven pretty early. Check your time plan to make sure you get it in the oven in enough time.
  • Blanch your potatoes and get them into the oven to roast about an hour before you want to serve dinner, turning halfway through to guarantee a crispy result.
  • Once your turkey is out of the oven, cover it with foil to rest and make your gravy using the juices.
  • Reheat your stuffing in the oven and carve your turkey.
  • Refresh your parboiled veg in boiling water, then serve everything and enjoy!
  • After dinner, make sure you store everything correctly to ensure that you have leftovers for turkey sandwiches tomorrow.

Getty Images.
Getty Images.

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