Christmas Dinner Countdown: Turkey And All The Trimmings

19/12/2014 12:40 | Updated 20 May 2015

Christmas dinner ideas: Christmas meal prep, cook and serve timings Is it your turn to cook Christmas Dinner this year? Does the very idea fill you with dread? Fear not, Parentdish is here to help.

The answer? Get ahead and plan your Christmas dinner now! It might seem a bit military, but believe us, the more you plan and prep ahead, the more you can relax and actually spend Christmas morning enjoying yourself with your family. Well, if they're behaving that is!

Simply print out our handy guide, stick it to your fridge and check it off in the run up to the big day. Then when December 25 arrives you'll be ready to go, and it'll just be a question of following our time plan.

If you've had a glass of fizz with your festive breakfast, you'll be thankful there's a checklist to work through to keep you on track!

And try to remember it's just a glorified Sunday roast with a few extra trimmings..

Christmas dinner ideas

Guests: Figure out how many people you're catering for, if there are any special dietary requirements and plan your menu. Will it be turkey again this year or something new?

How much meat? Allow approximately 500g of turkey on the bone per person.

Order the bird: Have a chat with your local butcher and get that order in. Make a note on your calendar of when you need to collect it.

The kit: Do you have the right size roasting dish for the size of turkey you've ordered and crucially will it fit in your oven?

Table presentation: What crockery, cutlery and glasses will you use? Do you have enough that matches? How about tablecloths and napkins? Serving dishes? If you're catering for a crowd does someone have a hot plate/trolley you can borrow?

Share the load: If you're having relatives or friends over, why not ask them to bring things like canapés, desserts and cheeses, to take the pressure off having to do absolutely everything.

Christmas dinner ideas

Make and freeze ahead:

Cranberry sauce - definitely worth making yourself as it's super easy and very tasty with some zested orange and a splash of cointreau.

Bread sauce - delicious made from scratch.

Vegetarian option - make from scratch or buy it in now before the shops sell out.

Clear out the fridge to make way for the festive chilled food supplies. Get rid of out of date jars and make soup with any vegetables past their best. You could also put a cool box in the shed to take some of the extra load.

Christmas dinner ideas

Make and freeze ahead:

Gravy - get some chicken wings from the butchers and roast as the basis for a really special gravy.

Braised red cabbage - delicious side dish that freezes well.

Pigs in blankets - get those sausages wrapped in streaky bacon, then freeze ready for roasting on the day.

Using frozen meat? Make sure you get it out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge so it can defrost in time for cooking. It always takes a lot longer than you think - approx 8-12 hours per kilo of frozen turkey!

Christmas dinner ideas

Make ahead and chill:

Stuffing - try a special festive one like cranberry and chestnut.

Brandy butter - home made is easy peasy and extra delicious

Christmas dinner ideas

Defrost: Take everything you've prepped ahead out of the freezer to defrost safely in the fridge.

Starters: Opt for something cold you can make in advance and serve straight from the fridge. Little canapés are a great alternative to a formal starter and mean your guests can just have a light bite without ruining their appetite. It also frees you up to bring all those final elements of the meal together in that crucial last half hour.

Desserts: If frozen make sure they're in the fridge defrosting, or if you're making from scratch, get them ready today. Again, something you can serve straight from the fridge makes your life much easier.

Write a plan for the big day: There's one below but you might want to customise it to factor in a different size bird, type of meat or extra trimmings.

Vegetarian option? Put it into your schedule so you don't forget to put it in the oven!

Assign family members with tasks - laying the table, washing up duty, making drinks, handing around canapés etc.

How long will you need to cook your turkey?

Here's a basic guide:

For birds 4kg or less: 20 minutes per kilo, plus 70 minutes.

For Birds over 4kg: 20 minutes per kilo, plus 90 minutes.

Prep your turkey according to the recipe you're using - rubbing butter onto the breast under the skin, wrapping the bird with streaky bacon, and so on.

Chill the drinks and free up fridge space by putting your white wine/prosecco/champagne overnight in a box or bucket outside or in a cold garage/shed. It'll be lovely and chilly by the morning, especially after a frosty night!

Prep the vegetables and pop into saucepans with water for boiling/steaming/roasting the next day - carrots, sprouts, potatoes, parsnips.

Christmas dinner ideas

Eating at 2:30pm,5kg turkey to feed 8 people with leftovers


Take the turkey out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature before you cook it.


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and pop the turkey covered in foil in for 3 hours.

Once breakfast is cleared lay the table.


Take a couple of hours to chill out with the family for a bit of present opening and fun before the more intense bit of cooking begins...


Basting time! Take the turkey out of the oven, remove the foil and baste with the juices then return to the oven uncovered.


Take the meat out of the oven and check it's cooked. Use a meat probe for a precise result - 72C thigh, 66C breast. If you don't have one simply insert a skewer and if the juices run clear it's done, if they're pinkish return to the oven for a bit longer and test again. Once you're happy the meat is cooked, transfer to the carving board and cover the bird with foil leaving plenty of space between the foil and the bird and let it rest.

Pour the juices from the turkey into a jug and skim off the fat. Pour the remaining juices into your gravy to heat up later.

Parboil the potatoes and parsnips, drain and return to the pan over a low heat to dry out. Put on the lid and shake to rough up the edges.


Turn up the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and pre-heat your roasting dishes for the potatoes and parsnips with your choice of fat/oil then once smoking hot add the potatoes/parsnips and shake to coat and roast for an hour.


Put the pigs in blankets in the oven.


Put the pre-made stuffing in the oven to reheat and crisp up.

Pop your cranberry sauce into a dish.


Take the stuffing, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips out of the oven and transfer to warm serving dishes and cover with foil.

Steam/boil your chosen fresh vegetables (undercooking slightly to prevent them going mushy once they're on the table) and transfer to warmed serving dishes with some cling film over the top.

Heat up bread sauce, braised red cabbage and pop into warmed serving dishes.

Heat up the gravy and put in a jug.

Put your turkey on a serving platter, and take everything to the table. Dinner is served!

Christmas dinner ideas

Have a very large glass of wine and enjoy your meal!

Carve up the rest of the bird, shred the meat and pop into resealable plastic storage bags.

Save the remaining veggies and trimmings in lidded plastic tubs and label.

You can feast on the leftovers for the next 2-3 days from the fridge, or freeze until you can face the idea of turkey again!

Ideas with leftovers: Make stock with the turkey bones and carcass, the meat and veggies can all go into soup, risotto, bubble and squeak or make yummy fillings for pasties and pies.

More on Parentdish:


Recipe Ideas
Suggest a correction