A family affair – how to share the Christmas cooking
Christmas dinner prep shouldn't involve one person slaving away in the kitchen. Take the stress out of cooking by sharing out tasks among the family so everyone can enjoy a magical day.
If Christmas dinner duty usually falls to you while the rest of the family sifts through presents, watches telly or heads to the pub, then now’s the time to redress the balance. This year, it’s going to be all about delegation so you too can nestle into an armchair before nightfall. Read our tips for breaking down this seemingly mountainous to-do list and set your family elves about their fun festive tasks.
Two weeks before
This is the time to write a list of who’ll be around and when, so you can identify potential helpers.
Speak to everyone to let them know that this year it’s a family affair and that each person is going to get involved. Emphasise the fun factor!
Before you allocate tasks, think about what people are able to do, are good at or enjoy. It’s not much use asking the kids to prepare braised red cabbage on a hot stove if they think it’s vile and are likely to end up in A & E. Instead, set them on a Christmas baking mission to produce some delicious chocolate orange cookies that are sure to fuel everyone's preparation efforts in the run-up to the big meal. Discover more helpful kids' Christmas projects to keep your little ones busy.
Some relatives might like to lay the table but not cook, some would rather bring a dish from home, others will happily stand side-by-side in the kitchen. Whoever you assign to what, the preparation you do at this stage will really help you on the big day.
If you’re lucky enough to have the day off work on Christmas Eve, this is an ideal opportunity to get ahead. The pressure isn’t really on yet so you can enjoy cooking at your leisure with whoever’s around. Here are some of the jobs you could do or delegate:
Laying the breakfast table
One less thing to do in the morning when there’s a sackful of presents that need attention.
Preparing the veg
This is one of the easiest jobs to delegate – just give your helper a peeler and off they go. Potatoes can be immersed in a saucepan of water and left overnight. Most other veg will be fine peeled and popped in a freezer bag in the fridge.
If you’re preparing vegetable dishes in advance like braised red cabbage or cauliflower cheese (and haven’t managed to convince a family member to bring it with them), print out the recipe and give this to older children or an adult, along with all the necessary ingredients. Allow a bit of time as they’ll probably have questions for you.
Try more red cabbage recipes.
Even the youngest of children can have a go at pigs in blankets. Don’t be too precious about how they look and make sure they wash their hands before and after. Set up a production line for stuffing and stuffing balls – older kids can help younger ones, or do them on their own. Or, why not combine these two festive favourites into one moreish mash-up with our pigs-in-blankets Christmas stuffing balls.
If you’re shunning the Christmas pudding or preparing a more child-friendly option as an alternative, get this made the day before. A chocolate log or trifle are both desserts that are fun for kids to help make. Again, try not to worry about appearance – the idea is to get everyone involved and enjoy the process.
If there still happens to be any time left on Christmas Eve, why not thank your helpers by packing a gorgeous foodie gift box for them to unwrap the next day.
If you’re doing the main meal, you’re well within in your rights to let someone else tackle breakfast – just let them know in advance. If they want to make something speedy, see our 10 quick Christmas breakfast ideas, or if there is a crowd to feed, these big sharing breakfasts will go down a treat.
Get their buy-in by asking them what they’d like for breakfast and swiftly follow it up with, ‘Would you mind making that while I get on with lunch preparation?’ If they say they can’t, nudge them in the direction of something they feel confident with and let them know clearing up is part of the deal!
The big lunch
- You’ll need one person who coordinates getting everything on the table, and that should be you. Our easiest ever Christmas dinner has plenty of quick tricks for producing a stress-free meal, and even comes with a printeable timeplan that you can stick on the fridge to orchestrate what happens when.
- If there's any last-minute chopping – pass this on.
- Get your family to take it in turns to keep on top of washing-up and ask someone to lay the table.
- Appoint one useful helper to be your wingman for the final push – re-heating, draining and serving up.
- Designate another helper or two to take plates and dishes to the table.
- Clearing up should be a communal effort too. No one is going to be keen after a big meal, so save up your sweetest voice and ask for exactly what you want – clearing the table, washing-up, drying and stacking the dishwasher. Everyone can play a role.
- Above all, make the day fun. You may meet with a little resistance but if you’ve thought out, planned and printed your way to a calm Christmas meal, your confidence in the plan will win through. Set the scene, get the Christmas carols playing and enjoy!