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Christmas is the perfect time to relax and indulge. And whether you’ve got loads of people coming round or a smaller celebration, preparing Christmas dinner in advance saves you lots of time and stress. Then you can focus on the fun stuff on the big day itself, like eating your own body weight in mince pies and nodding off in your armchair after the Queen’s speech. Here’s how to prepare for Christmas dinner ahead of time, from cooking turkey Christmas Eve tips to getting the table ready.
Christmas Eve food prep hacks to get ahead of the game
The more you can pre-prepare Christmas dinner before the day itself, the more time you’ll have to enjoy opening presents, snaffling chocolates and sipping Bucks Fizz. Try these clever tricks for how to prepare Christmas dinner in advance to be the host with the most... free time to relax!
- Pre preparing Christmas vegetables. The main gobbly event, your juicy turkey, undoubtedly gets the most attention, but vegetables can take up a lot of time too – and are often the make or break of a successful Christmas feast. However, you can peel the carrots and parsnips, chop the potatoes and even criss-cross the Brussels sprouts the day before. Peelings always end up in all sorts of places so getting ahead on veggies means one less mess to deal with on the day!
Once you’re happy with your slicing and dicing, you can pop all of the prepped veg in the fridge. Keep them fresh by wrapping veg in dampened kitchen towels overnight. If you really want to speed things up, you could even blanch or part-cook your veg, ready to be finished off in the morning.
Keep Plenty kitchen towels on hand for Christmas Eve food prep. They’re super-absorbent and strong, ideal for wiping up spills and keeping produce fresh when you’re pre preparing Christmas vegetables.
- Cooking the turkey on Christmas Eve. No, we’re not suggesting you frazzle it for 24 hours! But you can certainly stuff and prep the turkey and get the process well underway before Christmas Day.
A couple of days beforehand, dry-brine the meat (smother it in salt). That’ll help you get really juicy results. Stuff and cook the turkey on Christmas Eve and then let it rest for around half an hour. Once cool, pop it in the fridge – just remember to start early enough so the meat has time to cool completely beforehand. And do save some of those tasty turkey juices for stock to crisp up that bird when reheating before it’s served!
All that you’ll have to do the next day is reheat the meat thoroughly. The best trick for keeping it moist is to cook it in the oven (pre-carved) with a generous amount of stock in the bottom of the tray and a few spoons of butter over the bird. Cover in foil and cook to a safe temperature to eat (75°C).
- Dessert prep. Of course, the easiest option is to get a pre-made dessert and then just whip it out when you’re ready. But if you’re going to make your own Christmas pudding or other dessert, it’s a good idea to make it the day or two before – or even earlier, at least in its raw state, so that all you have to do is cook it on the day. Again, preparation is what takes the most time, and you’ll be really glad you didn’t leave everything to the last minute.
How to prepare for Christmas dinner – the table
When you’ve made a success of preparing Christmas dinner in advance, the last thing you want is a naff table setting – whether it’s not having enough chairs for all of your guests or forgetting Christmas crackers for the two of you. Put these tips in place to pre prepare Christmas dinner table settings:
- Check what you need. Do you need someone to bring an extra chair or even a foldout table? They’ll love being able to help… and having somewhere to eat their Christmas dinner.
- Clean the ‘good’ plates, glassware and cutlery on Christmas Eve. Get the rest of the household involved in making them spick and span. And then keep the clean goodies tucked away from wandering, snacking hands until dinner’s ready. You love those snack fans dearly, greasy fingerprints and all, so if you do find a few cheeky prints on your clean crockery it’s no big deal – that’s what kitchen towel is for!
- Arrange your table decorations. Check that they all fit: is there room for those salt dough Christmas decorations? It’s the homemade touches that touch the heart the most, even if they only bear a passing resemblance to Santa or Rudolph.
- Do one last check on Christmas Eve. Go through everything you’ve done to get ready, tick the jobs off and relax, ready to enjoy (rather than endure) the big day. The extra minutes you put in are going to save you time in the long run.
And that’s how to prepare Christmas dinner in advance! Make a list of what you need to do, figure out your timings and get everything done early, with the help of your loved ones. Then you can look forward to a lovely day together.