Food & Drink

How to plan your Christmas dinner

By How To


We all love Christmas, right? But whilst it’s supposed to be the season to be jolly, preparing and planning Christmas dinner can turn into a logistical nightmare. From burnt turkeys, to cold starters, when there are a lot of hungry mouths to feed, it’s important to know how to cook Christmas dinner and how to organize a Christmas dinner. Timing is everything so here’s a little guide on getting started and keeping everyone happy this festive season. Yule never believe how easy it is! 


Keep things as simple as possible and try to choose foods that can be prepared in advance. Just look at Christmas dinner like a glamorous roast dinner. You can peel the potatoes early, chop the veg and slow roast the meat, leaving you time to relax and chat to your guests whilst everything’s cooking.  

The checklist 

Jot down on a piece of paper exactly what you need for your Christmas dinner and the rough cooking times for all the food. For example, if you know the turkey takes the longest to cook, you know that needs to be popped in the oven first. You can then work backwards from that as to which bit to prepare next. Remember to decorate the table (or delegate to another family member for ease), chill the white wine (if drinking) and organize the house – again, delegating if needed.  

The venue 

If it’s you hosting Christmas dinner, it makes more sense to have it at your own house. That way, you’re in familiar surroundings so you know how the oven works, plus know which rooms to escape to if things get too much! If you know how many guests are coming round, work out which room in the house is the best in which to sit them all – a large living room often works well. If you don’t have a big enough table, don’t stress – just push a couple together and throw a large table cloth over the top.  

The seating plan 

It’s inevitable arguments are going to happen, as it’s Christmas after all, but to make life that little bit easier for yourself, sit people together who you know get along well. There’s nothing worse then ending up next to someone you have to make small talk with for the next few hours or, if it’s a distant relative you don’t see very often, still calls you by the wrong name. Write down the table plan before the big day so you know who is sitting where. Place cards can be typewritten, or if anyone in the family has a particularly pleasant hand, can write them with a fountain pen and contribute a small part to the day.  

The food

The more food you prepare or buy in advance of the big day, the better for you. Good starters include soups, or chilled seafood like prawn cocktail. Most of these can be bought ready-done or be made the night before so you don’t have to worry. The turkey too can be slow cooked over night and the veg won’t take long to cook, so long as you’ve peeled and chopped it before hand. Desserts too can be bought in, or made a few days before. Opt for those that need little attention, so something chilled, or something you can pop in the oven to simply re-heat.

For more great tips and advice, read: A Banquet on a Budget: cooking for weddings, birthdays and other big parties (£7.99, Robinson) by Judy Ridgway