Skip to content

Tips for a stress-free Christmas dinner


The first thing to remember about cooking Christmas dinner this year is not to stress out, it’s just another Sunday roast.

You want to relax and enjoy yourself on Christmas day, not spend every minute in the kitchen. So take a moment to plan ahead for fun and family time.

1. Get some prep done the day before: Maybe you could peel and chop all your vegetables. Or boil the ham so it's ready to glaze and pop in the oven while the turkey is resting.

2. Delegate: Chances are your Christmas dinner party will include some able-bodied adults and children. Divide up the different jobs according to abilities and let everybody join in the fun of getting ready.

3. Pay attention to food safety: The last thing you want is for you or anyone else to get sick, so it’s really important that you never wash your turkey, as this spreads germs everywhere. Be sure that before and after you handle your turkey, you wash your hands with warm soapy water and dry them with a clean towel.

4. Cook your turkey to perfection: Many people worry that a turkey is difficult to cook as it can dry out easily. Use our turkey cooking time calculator to make sure you don't over-cook your turkey - or under-cook it! Covering the breast with strips of bacon or prosciutto will help keep the moisture in and add extra flavour.You can also rub butter over the bird and under the skin to help flavour the turkey and the skin and season it with salt and pepper. Then baste the turkey every hour during the cooking process.

5. Easy and delicious gravy: Sit the bird on a bed of vegetables, such as carrots, celery and onion. This creates a wonderful base for making gravy and you can keep the cooking juices from the roasting tin to make your gravy – delicious!

6. Beware of overstuffing the turkey: A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not over stuffed. Consider loosely filling the cavity with garlic and thyme, or small wedges of lemon or clementine. Over-stuffing will mean the heat won’t get to the centre and your turkey won’t cook.

7. Schedule in some rest time - for yourself and the turkey: Always allow the turkey to rest before you serve. Do this by covering it with tin foil and then with a couple of tea towels. This will ensure the bird can rest without losing too much heat and it also allows all the juice back into the bird for a moist turkey.

8. Carve with confidence: your step-by-step guide

  • Make sure your knife is very sharp.
  • Hold the turkey secure with a large fork.
  • Cut the skin between the thigh and the breast.
  • Bend the thigh outwards, cut through the hip joint, removing whole leg.
  • Separate the thigh from the drumstick.
  • Cut towards wing, cut through the wing joint.
  • Hold the fork against the side of the breast.
  • Slice evenly starting at the neck cavity.
  • Lift the slices off with the fork and knife.

9. Leftovers are your friend: You can eat any turkey leftovers in the 3 days after Christmas. First though, make sure they're safe to eat: get them covered and stored in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking. Speed up the cooling process by removing all the meat from the carcass and cutting it into smaller pieces. Then store the meat in an airtight container in the fridge. When all the meat is removed, remember you can boil the carcass with some carrots, onions and herbs to make stock for soup.


Related pages


Safefood Logo

Sign up for our latest healthy eating and recipe updates.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.

Confirm