How to cook a Christmas dinner – timings and planner for cooking perfect turkey

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Christmas dinner is a meal traditionally eaten on the big day, with turkey typically being the centrepiece. For many, this year may even be the first time cooking a Christmas dinner, due to the ongoing restrictions around the country.

While cooking a full roast or main meal may seem complicated, it is all about timings and preparation.

Getting ahead of preparation before the big day could also help save time tomorrow.

BBC Good Food’s cookery team have shared their top tips on how to cook the perfect Christmas dinner.

The first step is to practically plan out the Christmas dinner.

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Practical Planning

The team said: “Before you plan your menu, consider the size of your oven and the size and amount of tins, pans and hob space you need.

“A large turkey is a big thing to cook, and if you don’t normally cook for a lots of people, your largest roasting tray may not be big enough, but a new very large roasting tray may not fit in your oven. You might be surprised at how much room roasts take up.

“Unlike the Tardis, ovens are surprisingly smaller on the inside.”

If there is not a lot of space in the oven, roast potatoes can be cooked in the same dish as the turkey if there is room.

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Don’t roast everything

For those with a smaller oven, BBC Good Food’s cookery team recommend cooking the potatoes while the turkey is resting.

They explained: “Don’t plan on roasting everything that goes with Christmas dinner. Once you’ve got the turkey in the oven, there may not be room for much else.

“Your potatoes can go in after the turkey comes out, the turkey can rest for a long time if kept warm under foil and a heavy towel to insulate it. If your potatoes are not crisp enough from cooking with the turkey, then turn the oven up to crisp them.”

It is important for the turkey to rest for around 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

Write a time plan

Planning is key when it comes to cooking a roast dinner because no one wants cold food on their plate.

The cookery team said: “You can never be too prepared when it comes to a big meal like this. Make sure you have your menu planned fully and read through all the recipes you are using thoroughly, rereading any instructions that aren’t clear.

“Write a list of all the ingredients you are going to need, then cross off the ones you already have. Write a prep list of all the jobs you are going to need to do to make the meal. Ticking them off the list as you do them will give you great satisfaction.”

BBC Good Food also has a printable Christmas time plan for the day with roasting times and temperatures already calculated.

Gravy

Gravy is an essential part of the roast dinner and can take quite a bit of time to make and in the meantime, the food is sitting getting cold.

The BBC cookery team recommend making gravy ahead of time and freezing it.

Since Christmas Day is tomorrow, it could even be put in the fridge overnight and reheated tomorrow.

They said: “When making a large roast dinner, the stress point tends to be making last-minute gravy. To rid yourself of this, make a gravy ahead and freeze it – no-one will be any the wiser and the gravy is likely to be tastier if made with care and patience, rather than whilst trying to do three other things at the same time.”

Be flexible

Being flexible with the time you eat your dinner means that there is less stress to get everything cooked on time.

The cookery team recommend thinking about making the meal time a little later than is traditional, which will help allow you to cook at your own pace.

They added: “Eating later in the day buys you more time to cook happily at your own pace, rather than feeling like you’re pushed for time.

“Don’t keep opening the oven to check how your roast is doing, this will affect the cooking times as your oven will constantly be having to get back up to the right temperature. Also, make sure to defrost anything frozen thoroughly before cooking, otherwise the cooking times won’t be accurate.”

Opening the oven can add a lot of time onto the cooking time as it allows the heat to escape the oven.

Use shop-bought food

Homemade cooking can take a lot of time, especially with foods like potatoes which require peeling, boiling and then roasting.

The BBC Good Food team said: “Don’t feel that everything has to be homemade. Running up to Christmas, the media is full of the best supermarket buys. Buy in anything you’re not confident making or anything that is going to lighten the load.”

Buying frozen vegetables can also save a lot of time in the kitchen and they also come in mixed bags too.

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