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10 Chef Tricks to make Christmas Dinner a breeze!

A chef dressed as a superhero

Mark Donovan is an award winning Chef with over 20 years’ experience in the catering industry. Working as an Executive Chef in a number of extremely busy restaurants and hotels in the UK, as well as the offshore catering business, he possesses a real passion for food and an exacting eye for detail.

Mark now oversees the development and implementation of all food and drink menus at the University, and delivery of speciality food events on campus.

Below are Mark’s top tricks to help you breeze through Christmas dinner – complete with discount codes to save you some money along the way! Enjoy.

1. Clean down, declutter and organise your kitchen in November

This is just good some advice. Get yourself ready for how busy you will be and reduce pressure on the big day.

2. Buy tinfoil roasting dishes

An oven full of roasting goodness

Buy lots, and different sizes - especially for the turkey. You can place it on your normal roasting tray for stability, but is saves on the washing up after. Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen for an hour with your hands in gravy water?

3. Plan ahead

A woman sitting at a table, having a cup of tea and writing a list

Decide on your menu and write down the recipes. Then write yourself a shopping list. Only buy what you need, do not be tempted to keep adding things on to your shopping list; it will only sit in your cupboards for a year after, or worse still, in the recycling bin. Also spread the shopping out over the month, buying only the perishables the week before.

4. Do your food shopping online

Someone using a smartphone at the supermarket

Avoid the supermarket madness – it’s just not worth the jabs in the ribs or the fights over the last turkey in the freezer. Christmas delivery slots usually come online a month in advance and are like hen’s teeth. Get it into your calendar now to remind you!

5. Start prepping ahead of time.

Gravy being poured over dinner

You can make your gravy the month before and freeze it. The same with the stuffing. And bake it in a cupcake tin so you have individual muffin shaped stuffing. Again these can be frozen in bags and easily reheated on the day. Simple, and hassle free!

6. Turkey

When buying your turkey consider if you actually need a whole bird. If you don’t like turkey legs, buy a crown. The crown is the breast only, but still on the bone. Alternatively, buy a turkey lobe; the breast only, no bone. It cooks quicker and is easier to carve.

And brine your turkey! Who would have thought that immersing your turkey in a salt solution would keep it moist when cooking, but it works...and you will never go back! Ever!

7. Buy a turkey thermometer

It makes sense and it eliminates any risk. What’s more - if you go for the digital version you will never end up with overcooked meat again! Check out these amazing thermometers...

8. Roast potatoes

Roasted potatoes on a wooden table

Always par boil your potatoes first. Preheat your roasting tray and add the goose fat to the potatoes once you have drained them of water. Put them back in the pan and make sure they are well coated and season well with sea salt. Then pour them into the roasting tray, watching out for the sizzle.

Why not pimp them up a little by adding crushed garlic cloves, chopped fresh rosemary, thyme or bay leaves.

9. Brussels sprouts

Cooked Brussel sprouts in a bowl

Don’t just boil them, try something different. Trim them and cut them into quarters through the stalk. Add some pancetta lardon to a pan and fry gently until it releases its fat and starts to colour. Add the quartered sprouts and fry gently until they start to colour. Add a ladle of water, simmering until reduced.

Keep doing this until the spouts are cooked. This will take about 15 minutes, then add a pack of cooked and shelled chestnuts. Season if required and place in the oven until needed.

10. Don’t try to make everything

Don’t be a hero... buy a starter or dessert to take the pressure off, especially if you a cooking for big numbers. Remember you need to enjoy yourself as well!