Christmas Dinner Survival Guide for Cooks

Christmas dinner disaster! It’s every cook’s worst nightmare. But don't panic, we’re here to help you get it right first time. And if things do go wrong? We give you the low down on how to salvage even the worst kitchen catastrophe.

Here’s our guide to avoiding common pitfalls and rescuing your festive dishes when disaster strikes. And as always, some of our favourite bloggers are on hand offer their tips and advice.

I've overcooked the turkey

Get your turkey out of the oven in time (with an oven glove for both hands!)
Image: Andrey Armyagov

Burning the turkey is bad enough but Nicola Street's mum blew hers up! She got up at 4am to put it in the oven and went back to bed, only be woken at 7am by an almighty bang.

Nicola says: “Mum and Dad raced downstairs to find the turkey had somehow exploded in the oven, to this day we have no idea how.”

Here’s how to save an overcooked turkey should if happen to you: Peel back the burned skin and discard. Next carve the breast meat and leave the slices to soak in the meat juices for a few minutes before serving. Another way to put moisture back into dry meat is to steam it for a few minutes. And don’t forget, lashings of gravy hides a multitude of sins!

To get it right first time, celebrity chef Mary Berry relies on her meat thermometer to tell her when the turkey's done. Alternatively, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a sharp knife. "If the juices are clear, then the turkey is done. If they are still tinged with pink, then roast for a little longer," Mary says.

There's not enough room in the oven!

We’re going to need a bigger oven
Image source: Gotham Gal

Huge turkey, tiny oven? Blogger Charlotte O'Shea was just about to turn the oven on when she realised that a single oven wouldn't cope with her enormous bird!

"I was so excited by the prospect of my West Midlands version of the Waltons, I had completely failed to consider the fact that I simply do not have the facilities to cater for the quantities of food required.”

Charlotte called on her family and asked them to cook different parts of the dinner for her. But there’s an even simpler solution to this crisis:

Once your turkey’s done, create a foil tent around it, wrap a warm tea towel over the top and the bird will stay cosy for up to two hours. That’ll give you plenty of time and oven space to roast the potatoes and other veg.

Another solution is to buy a turkey crown; a whole bird minus the wings and legs. You get all the succulence of meat on the bone but it takes up a fraction of the space in the oven.

Help, I have a vegetarian to cook for!

Vegetarians won’t like a plate of sprouts any more than a meat eater
Image Source: Natalija Sahraj

A plate of sprouts, no gravy? What a way to treat a vegetarian! That’s just one Christmas dinner nightmare the BBC Food blog's Simon Rimmer writes about. Others include an unseasonal serving of salad and a veggie lasagne ready-meal. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Simon suggests roasting a good variety of vegetables particularly those with rich flavours. Two of his favourites are butternut squash and celeriac.

We recommend you test a few veggie recipes on your family in the run up to Christmas. Their honest feedback is sure to help you choose a standout meat-free meal to cook on Christmas day. You’ll find some great veggie mains on the Demuths blog.

My guests don't like Christmas Pudding

Not everyone likes Christmas pudding?
Image Source: Shebeko

What are you going to serve those who don’t like Christmas pud? Or the dog eats it? If you have nothing else, save talk about sugar being ‘poison’ and go straight to cheese and crackers. Or chop up some fruit to make a quick fruit salad. Of course it’s better to avoid a pudding crisis in the first place by keeping an alternative in reserve.

Note: If your dog does eat your Christmas pudding, call your vet immediately. Christmas pudding contains raisins and currants, which are very poisonous, potentially fatal, for dogs.

Recipes from a Normal Mum blogger Holly Bell's Chocolate Biscuit Christmas pudding is crumbly, indulgent and packed with all the flavours of Christmas. It also lasts for up to two weeks in a cool dark place, so you can make it well ahead of the big day.

I’m worried I won’t cook enough!

What are you going to do if you’ve not got enough turkey?
Image: pio3

What do you do if you haven’t cooked enough turkey? There’s no denying this is a major festive faux pas, but if you can fill the plate with veg, at least your guests won’t go hungry.

Allow for 1.5lbs of uncooked turkey per person. Bear in mind that smaller birds have a lower meat to bone ratio so it’s a good idea to buy a slightly bigger bird than your calculations suggest you need. Cater for one more person than you’re expecting, that way you’re sure to have plenty for all.

Proper planning will make sure you avoid one Telegraph reader’s mad panic. Catering for fourteen "he was discovered by his not-yet mother-in-law, stripped to his underpants in the steam-filled kitchen.”

Blanch veg, like carrots and sprouts, ahead of time and freeze until needed. Also consider peeling the potatoes, parsnips and other veg on Christmas eve. Place them in a saucepan of cold water to keep them fresh until the next day.

We hope these tips will make your Christmas dinner a roaring success. But if you do slip up, don’t worry - what would Christmas be without some funny stories to tell your future guests! Merry Christmas!