Whether this is your first year cooking Christmas dinner for your entire family or you are simply looking for ways to save time in the kitchen, this holiday, we have the food-prep hacks you need to make the most of your family time.
Prepare dishes ahead of time
Make and freeze your gravy long before your family dinner. This won’t spoil any time soon, so feel free to make it way in advance and thaw it out on the day of the dinner.
You may also freeze stuffing ahead of time. Freeze it in an oven-safe dish and simply pop it in the oven on the day of the dinner.
Chop and even cook some vegetables the night before. Get a lot of the prep work out of the way by chopping up all of the veggies served as side dishes or used in recipes. Boil veggies that take longer to cook the day before, and simply warm them up the following day.
If it is your family’s preference to have a de-boned or stuffed turkey, get these chores out of the way the night before. Store your stuffing or chopped vegetables in the fridge until it’s time to start cooking.
Oven space is precious real estate when cooking for a crowd. Don’t waste the space on any items that may be baked ahead. One type of dish that can almost always be prepared ahead of time is dessert. This is also a really good dish to put on your guests to bring, since you’ll be providing the main course.
Tips for the day of the dinner
Eat a good breakfast. Rather than snacking on the meal all day or being distracted by the rumble of your stomach, make sure your hunger needs are met before you begin cooking.
Make a timeline and use it to plan out when to begin cooking certain dishes. A gantt chart may undoubtedly make you the biggest nerd of Christmas, but it is also a great way to visualize your timeline and get all of your helpers on the same page. Use our gantt chart as a guide to get you started, and add your traditional family recipes to the list!
Ask for help. It is likely that others will offer their help before you even have the chance to ask, but it will also be smart to assign certain dishes that you won’t have time to make prior to the dinner. If family members can show up with a premade dish, that’s one more thing you are able to check off of your long list.
Some corner-cutting hacks can actually be better than the homemade version. Consider buying the boxed stuffing or canned cranberry sauce. If you choose the right dishes to buy from the store and make the rest, your family may never be able to tell the difference!
Food safety hacks
Your turkey has finished cooking when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Thaw your turkey in the fridge for several days prior to cooking. Thaw one day for every four pounds of bird.
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any food. Even if you aren’t touching raw food, washing your hands will eliminate cross-contamination for potential allergens.
Avoid the danger zone by keeping hot food hot (>140 degrees) and cold food cold (<40 degrees). If your family is the type to leave Christmas dinner out for after-meal grazing or late comers, keep food warm in the oven or on the stove.