Millions practise cooking Christmas dinner before the big day

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And a fifth will attempt the whole feast on their own for the first time, as Covid restrictions mean many are spending Christmas at home instead of heading to large family gatherings. But a quarter of those in charge of cooking this year have been practising to ensure it goes down a treat – an average of four weeks ahead of December 25.

Their desire to get it right is understandable though as 57 percent consider the meal to be the culinary highlight of the year.

Food influencers and chefs Billy Wright and Jack Layer are ambassadors for speciality cooking oils brand U:ME, which commissioned the research.

The duo said: “Cooking the Christmas dinner for the first time – or any time – can be nerve-wracking, but we want to reassure that it can stress-free and even fun.

“It is great to see that many of those polled have a very admirable approach – looking forward to it rather than fearing it.

“This year more than any other, Christmas dinner will be the highlight of 2020 for many, so we’re also sharing our top tips and recipes for making Christmas dinner a roaring success.”

The study found the biggest challenge for getting dinner just right is the timings (45 percent), followed by ensuring the turkey is succulent (36 percent) and pleasing everybody (33 percent).

Remembering every dish (19 percent), ensuring there’s enough food for everyone (30 percent) and getting the gravy spot on (26 percent) are also hurdles to overcome.

In a bid to live up to expectations, a quarter of those polled will turn to recipe books, 12 percent will avidly watch cooking TV programmes and 26 percent will surf the web for tips.

However, 32 percent admitted their first point of call for advice is their mother.

Despite the concerns about serving the perfect meal, more than two thirds are excited at the prospect of making or helping to make Christmas dinner this year.

And while 56 percent of those cooking dinner will stick with tradition, 23 percent will throw the rule book out of the window and add a few modern twists.

The study, carried out via OnePoll in November, also found the traditional meal with all the trimmings is the best thing about Christmas day, according to 59 percent.

But 57 percent said this year’s feast is more important than any other before.

Kim Matthews, the commercial director at Princes Group, said: “Many of us will be looking forward to this year’s Christmas dinner more than any other but for first time cooks there could be a lot of pressure.

“We created U:ME to inspire people to cook with confidence and experiment with their dishes, and that starts with knowing which oil to use – especially for the most important meal of the year.”

You can find all of Billy and Jack’s Christmas recipes, along with recipes for all year round here.

BILLY AND JACK’S TOP TIPS FOR AN EXTRA SPECIAL CHRISTMAS DINNER:

1. PREP AHEAD

Most parts of a Christmas dinner can be cooked or prepped ahead of time. Set yourself a goal to get as much as possible done the days before so on the day you just need to focus on a few elements and can have a bit more fun.

2. GET PEOPLE INVOLVED

There’s a reason restaurant kitchens have a lot of chefs – there’s a lot of prep work. If you hate peeling spuds, there’s normally someone around who can help.

3. KEEP IT LIGHTER

Use an oil spray when roasting or frying as it reduces the amount of oil in the dish, particularly good for Christmas when calories are in plentiful supply.

4. KEEP IT LIGHTER AGAIN

Always heat oil before adding food, this way the ingredients will absorb less oil.

5. COOK WHAT YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH

If you don’t like a roast dinner, or don’t feel comfortable cooking one, then why not do something else special? A great pie, a knock-out curry or even a stir-fry? The most important thing is spending time with the people you love, the food should always be second.

6. KEEP ON TOP OF THE MESS

Cooking any big meal can create a lot of washing up and there is probably no bigger meal than Christmas Day. Tidy as you go so that you aren’t faced with a mountain to do once you are full and content.

7. NOT KEEN ON XMAS PUD?

The traditional pudding is not everyone’s cup of tea, so make any other show stopping cake, be it chocolate to lemon drizzle, but make sure to swap your butter for oil to not only lower your dairy intake but also give that beautiful moist crumb.

8. USE THE RIGHT GEAR!

Make sure you have what you need ahead of time, from decent sized roasting trays to the right oil. The last thing you want on the big day is to find out you have forgotten something.

9. WRITE A LIST

Get your to-dos and timings down on a piece of paper, that way you know what you’re doing and you’re less likely to panic and get stressed.

10. DON’T BOIL SPROUTS

The best way to ruin this vegetable is to boil it. Roast them, fry them or stir fry them instead, they’ll have more texture and you can add other flavours as well.

11. REST YOUR MEAT

It’s an easy mistake to make, but meat needs to rest. The longer it rests the juicier it will be. You can take a turkey out of the oven and it will happily rest, covered for an hour, giving you time to roast the spuds.

12. ROAST YOUR VEGETABLES

Once your turkey (or whatever you’re having) is out of the oven and resting, you can roast your vegetables – it’s simple and such a great way to add extra flavour. Add honey and orange zest to carrots, or roast cabbage with bacon and juniper.

13. PLAN DIETARY REQUIREMENTS CAREFULLY

It can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to make sure all dietary requirements are covered, luckily there are loads of great recipes and ingredients out there to make your life easier, from great GF options to using oil instead of butter for those following a plant-based diet.

14. DON’T BE TOO WORRIED ABOUT IT

If the turkey is a little dry or your sprouts are overdone, don’t worry about it. It’s the time with loved ones that makes it special, the food is just an added bonus.

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