Keep calm and merry on: Do as much preparation as possible before the big day
Keep calm and merry on: Do as much preparation as possible before the big day

The ultimate step-by-step Christmas food planner

Cooking the biggest and most important roast dinner of the year can be stressful. Get your timings, preparation and ingredients all in order with our handy guide

Friday 22 December 2017 13:19

While it might feel like overkill before the big event, once you’re rushing around surrounded by resting meat, red hot potatoes and rapidly cooling stuffing, a detailed checklist of what to do when can make all the difference between the perfect Christmas and a cold roast dinner made by a very stressed cook.

Of course, everyone’s Christmas menu is different, so the timings below for the actual day might need to be adapted and expanded upon. We’ve put together a checklist for a dinner served at 2pm with a 5kg stuffed turkey, but always check your meat is cooked with a thermometer for proper peace of mind.


Make sure your turkey is ordered from the butcher, along with any other special items.

Check you’ve got enough alcohol, taking advantage of deals where you can find them.

If you’re doing an online grocery shop, book your delivery slot as far in advance as possible.

Make and freeze things like mince pies and sausage rolls, which you can then bake from frozen for unexpected guests.

The weekend before

Go Christmas food shopping; start picking up all the dry goods you’ll need until the shops are open again after Boxing Day.

Make sure you’re not missing any vital cookware and have enough plates, glasses, etc – it’ll be too late if you realise on the 25th.

If you are cooking a frozen turkey, take it out of the freezer a few days before to defrost in the fridge.

Designate storage areas for all the extra food you’ll be stocking up on.

On the 23rd, buy all the fresh produce you need.

Christmas Eve

Make your stuffing, then wrap it and store in the fridge.

Peel, boil and fluff up the potatoes in advance for tomorrow, then cover and keep in the fridge.

Do as much prep for tomorrow as possible – any vegetables which will discolour in the air can be kept in acidulated water. It’s a good idea to parboil sprouts, then chill and finish them off in a frying pan just before serving.

Make a checklist of the different things you need to do tomorrow with timings, so you don’t forget the cranberry sauce or to warm the plates.

Christmas Day

8am – Take your turkey and stuffing out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

9.30am – Preheat the oven and rub the turkey with butter or oil, and season. Fill with the stuffing.

10am – Place the turkey in the oven, remembering to baste regularly throughout the cooking time and to cover in foil if needed.

11am – Set the table. Do any remaining prep, such as peeling or chopping.

12pm – Put your Christmas pudding on to steam, which should take three hours.

1pm – Remove the turkey from the oven and make sure it’s cooked through. Cover tightly and leave to rest, then drain and deglaze the juices to make gravy. Turn up the heat and put roasting trays full of oil or goose fat in the oven to warm up.

1.15pm – Place the potatoes in the hot oil or fat and make sure they’re completely covered, then return to the oven. Do the same with any other roast vegetables, depending on size.

1.30pm – Place the pigs in blankets in the oven, then keep warm if they cook through in less than 30 minutes. Boil the water for the vegetables.

1.40pm – Begin boiling and stir-frying the remaining vegetables, keeping an eye on what’s in the oven. Make sure your gravy is ready and keep warm. Begin heating through any other sauces.

1.50pm – Start sauteing the Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon. Warm plates and serving bowls ready for the table. Open the wine.

2pm – Grab anyone you can to help carry food through to the Christmas dinner table. Eat, drink and be merry.

3pm – Remove the Christmas pudding from the heat and serve with lots of brandy butter.

3.30pm – Serve the cheese, if there is any, or retire to a comfortable sofa and have a well-deserved rest.

Merry Christmas from everybody at Great British Chefs.

Christmas planner courtesy of Great British Chefs. Visit their site for more delicious Christmas recipes

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