Christmas kitchen survival guide

christmas table

Whether you’re entertaining others on Christmas Day or just planning on cooking something special for your own household, getting into the kitchen to cook things you don’t normally make can be incredibly stressful!

We typically spend the big day rushing around to different places for each main meal while trying to deliver homemade gift baskets; this year the gift baskets will be sorted ahead of schedule and we only have to venture out on Christmas Day in the afternoon so I’m making breakfast for five (pancakes and fresh fruit) and lunch for just us (whole turkey with roasted vegetables, salad and pavlova).

christmas table
I saw the turkey on sale at the supermarket the other day and decided we’d give it a go – even though I’ve never cooked one before. We’ve also been gifted a ham which I’m very excited about. I’m usually pretty decent in the kitchen but today I literally had to Google whether you have to cook hams or not (FYI, most hams bought in New Zealand are already cooked so you don’t really have to, but you can cook them a second time to glaze them which makes the ham pretty for the dining table and more appealing).

Then there’s all the baking that I’m currently in the middle of doing – 10 recipes that get split out into gift baskets for friends and family which essentially equates to two days on and off in the kitchen. It used to be three to four days but I’ve made the recipes so many times I’m almost a professional at them now. Needless to say, Christmas cooking is a little daunting but I absolutely love it otherwise I wouldn’t bother!

Here are some tips that will help you make it through Christmas in the kitchen:

Be organised

Planning ahead will make all the difference to having a stress-free time.

Know your menu, go through your ingredients list and make sure you have everything in stock (nobody likes emergency supermarket trips late at night on Christmas Eve and you can’t guarantee your neighbour will have your missing ingredients in their cupboards on Christmas morning!).

Hopefully you’ve done a trial run of the recipes you’re using but if you haven’t, have a readthrough ahead of time to make sure you understand all the instructions and haven’t left out any steps. Turkeys may require 12+ hours/overnight brining the day before, hams may require soaking, or meat may need to marinate.

If you have an enormous cut of meat, make sure it actually fits into your oven (I used to do PR for a turkey brand and during my time there heard of people buying large turkeys and having to brine them in the bathtub, then cut bits off to get them to fit in the oven!).

Pre-prep anything that you can at the beginning of the day or even the night before if possible. Chop veges and set them aside, whip the cream and chuck it in the fridge. Any of these little tasks will give you more time later.

If you’re making something that could go wrong easily, read up on tips that will help it run smoothly. The best tips I’ve learned for pavlovas are to use a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl instead of plastic (fat clings to plastic so your bowl has probably got remnants of butter from your last baking venture, fat’s also not ideal for pavlovas which is also why you want to make sure there is zero egg yolk in it), don’t overmix it, use room temperature eggs (they foam/froth better which adds height to your pavlova mixture), and use an electric mixer rather than a whisk if you really want it to be amazing!

Run a tight ship on the day

Clean your dishes as you go when you have a spare moment (having to do an enormous wash up/clean up on Christmas Day sucks, especially if it’s afterwards when everyone’s left the building and you’re on your own). This will leave your bench clear so you can see what you’re dealing with. This leads me to the next point:

Lay out all your ingredients before you get started and ensure they are visible. I almost always do this, but didn’t for hubby’s birthday cake last weekend. Put the first tier in the oven, started clearing my bench space and found the eggs sitting behind a used bowl. First tier ended up with no eggs but at least managed to get them into the second :-/ Not a disaster but still…

Sort out the timing for your recipes and stick to the schedule. Nobody really wants to eat dinner at 11.30pm at night because you got the turkey into the oven too late and it took longer to cook than you thought it would.

Delegate when you need to

If you’re entertaining others, don’t be afraid to pull them into the kitchen and make them get stuck into it. Slogging it out alone while everyone else is having fun sucks so spread out the tasks, most guests will be pleased if they can help out (been there done that, I’m generally a control freak so I’ve really had to work at delegating to others over the years).

Stirring pots, turning over roast veges, sifting or mixing ingredients, washing dishes, cleaning up the dining table after each course; assigning these things to others will help you get everything done easier, while also making sure you won’t get burned out on the day.

Also don’t be afraid to ask people to brings things that will help. Salads, desserts, fruit platters, nibbles and snacks, drinks, stuffing… all you will need to do is assemble everything and put it out on the table.

Involve the kids. Depending on their age, they can mix things, scrub potatoes, use cookie cutters, do the dishes or help clean up. If you really want to up the game, pay them pocket money for each task (it doesn’t have to be a lot of money!).

Merry Christmas! Whether you just have something small planned or are making it a big special occasion with your loved ones, I hope you have a wonderful day!

Ange xx

Image / NZ Real Health

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