If you’re the host and chef, Christmas dinner can turn out to be a little more stressful than expected. You have to juggle schedules, dietary requirements, and all manner of messes and stains, all while appearing cheerful, relaxed, and chatty.
Therefore, many of us take turns welcoming guests or offering our help in the kitchen. But after all, there is no doubt that it is stressful to prepare such a meal, which is not really what you want on Christmas Day. To help you, we have compiled a list of 10 tips to make preparing Christmas dinner less stressful. Follow them and you may gain a whole new perspective on cooking this holiday season.
1. Check for allergies
It is extremely important to check allergies and diets before preparing your dishes. The last thing you want is for someone to sit down at the table and say they can’t eat most of what you made. Clarify in advance what you are going to serve to your guests; this way they will be able to confirm that the entire menu is suitable for them.
Allow for any changes when preparing your dishes and remember that extra dishes may require extra space in the oven, so check you can accommodate. Otherwise, extra time may be required for cooking.
2. Practice your timing the night before
Speaking of which, calculate and write down all your cooking times the night before. This will tell you exactly what to do and when, so you can better control and streamline the entire process. Start with the time you want to serve and work your way up to when the turkey is in the oven. Do not forget to take into account the preheating time of the oven as well as the time for peeling and cooking the vegetables. You will feel much calmer and more confident if you have a plan in place.
3. Prepare the foods you can
If you want to save time during the day, you can prepare some foods in advance to make it easier for you. Many dishes can also be prepared, cooked and then frozen in advance so you only need to reheat them on Christmas Day, such as stuffing or roast potatoes. You can freeze your potatoes after parboiling or after boiling if you really want to cut down on time.
Also, make sure your turkey has plenty of time to thaw before Christmas Day. Instructions should be given on your turkey regarding the time needed in your refrigerator.
4. Clear the work area
It is important that you also prepare your kitchen in advance. Your countertops will always be full of plates and utensils on D-Day, so clear out what you can from your workspace beforehand. Store anything decorative or unlikely to be used, such as plants and bulky appliances.
Don’t forget to do the dishes too – ideally, the sink and dishwasher should be empty when you start cooking, so there’s room to stack and wash what you need that day.
5. Set the table in advance
Just like cooking, it is good to set the table in advance. That way, you have less to worry about on Christmas Day. Find any serving dishes that may be hidden in the back of cupboards, such as gravy boats and dessert plates, and lay them out. Consider whether you need extra pots and pans for cooking and find them.
Make sure there are enough chairs around your table and enough cutlery for starters and dessert. Also arrange crackers on the table so your guests have something to do while you serve.
6. Do not leave drinks in the kitchen
If you want to avoid obstacles in the kitchen, it is best to leave alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in a designated area. This way people won’t lean over you to reach for glasses in the cupboards and regularly pour drinks where you need to be. It also keeps people from stopping and chatting with you while you’re cooking, which is fine in small doses, but can end up being quite distracting and stressful.
7. Cook what you want and keep things confidential
Creating a menu that you can’t wait to eat yourself can make the whole process less stressful and more rewarding. The same applies to the recipes you are used to cooking. Don’t feel bad if you decide to adapt the traditional Christmas dinner to your cooking style – you might even improve it.
Try offering alternative dishes to your guests and see how they react – they might even have some ideas for you.
8. Accept help when you can
We’ve all been there: you want your guests to have the best time possible, so you turn down any help in the kitchen and send them off. But preparing Christmas dinner is a huge task when all is said and done, so consider getting help where you can – it might not even involve the kitchen.
For example, one adult may watch small children running around, while another may begin to wash the dishes or carry the dishes to the table. You shouldn’t feel bad about accepting a helping hand – your guests would rather you not feel isolated and stressed during the meal.
9. Keep an eye on children and pets
It is a good idea to create a play area for children. Thus, they want games and toys to distract themselves and do not want to run into the kitchen, where there is a hot oven, and where they risk being burned. For the same reason, try to keep room for curious animals.
10. Do not overcook
It’s easy to overdo it when it comes to Christmas dinner. However, be sure to keep an eye on your purchases and overall quantities, as there can be a lot of wastage at this time of year. Although it is perfectly possible to freeze leftovers, unfortunately many of them end up in the bin, so keep an eye on how much you cook and save yourself the extra cost and effort.
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