10 top tips for cooking the perfect Christmas roast

From succulent turkey to crispy spuds - perfect your Christmas lunch with our tips

It’s the big one – the Christmas lunch. It’s a prospect to strike fear into the heart of even the bravest man or woman, and has left many a home cook weeping into the sherry.

But don’t worry! This year we’ve collected together our very best tips to make sure that you come up with the goods, without losing your cool.

Write a plan

I always do this when I’m cooking a big roast lunch. Set out a timeline, counting down to serving time, so that it’s all ready at once (this also means you only need to set one timer, and then just keep checking it to see what needs to in when). Write down which dishes and pans you’re using for each item, so that everything’s clean and ready when you need it – and appoint a washer-upper to make sure.

Start strong

Soup makes a really easy and delicious starter – make it the day before and then just heat it up again. Go for something wintery and warming like parsnip with a touch of fiery heat, and serve with some nice cheeses.

Prepare your vegetables ahead of time

Peeling and chopping can take up a lot of time (and a lot of space in the kitchen) so doing it first thing or even the day before can really help you out. Peel potatoes and place in a pan full of cold water to keep them from going brown. Carrots and parsnips can be parboiled and then kept in the fridge, and Brussels sprouts can be blanched and then reheated on the day.

Make your own stuffing

This might sound like an unnecessary extra task, but it’s actually really easy and so delicious, it’ll impress all your guests. You can also get it ready the day before, keep it in the fridge, and then pop in the oven on the day. Combine sausage meat, chopped bacon, onion and breadcrumbs and add any other flavours you fancy – cranberries or apricots can be nice – and bake in the bottom of the oven for about 40 minutes.

Get lovely crispy skin

If you’re cooking a bird for Christmas, dry the skin out thoroughly the day before, with clean kitchen paper, and cover with a layer of salt to draw out the moisture. Scrape off the salt on the big day and dry again with kitchen paper. This will ensure that the skin really crisps up in the oven.

Mix it up

Getting a bit bored of the turkey? Why not try something different – a really good beef Wellington or a big venison pie will make a fabulous centrepiece for the Christmas lunch.

Roast your potatoes with lard

This might seem like a pretty old-fashioned idea, but just trust me – it’s the secret to the crispiest, crunchiest, most golden roasties you’ll ever have. Try it once and you’ll never go back.

Make really good gravy

Add a generous spoonful of jam to your gravy – it might sound a bit odd, but the touch of fruity sweetness will make the gravy beautifully rich. Go for something a bit sharp, like redcurrant or plum.

Rest the meat

Giving the meat a bit of time to ‘rest’ will make it much more tender and juicy. This is because the muscle fibres in the meat contract during cooking, and need time to relax again afterwards. Don’t worry about it getting cold – cover with tinfoil and then a clean tea towel, and it should be fine.

Make your own crackers

We all know how rubbish crackers can be these days, so why not make your own? It’s a fun thing to do with the kids in advance of the day and you could even customise them for each guest. You can buy the cracker snaps online really cheaply.

And one more…

Take it slow

The meal really is the key moment of the big day, so there’s no need to rush it – taking it slow means you can savour every mouthful. Of course, if you’re going for a full three-course feast, then your guests might well be flagging by the time dessert comes around – so why not give everyone a little break? Play a game at the table in between each course. It’s a great way to keep the festivities going and everyone will enjoy their food that much more. Cheers!

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