Your most common Christmas dinner problems: fixed

From delayed dinner guests and dropped turkeys, to broken ovens and dry desserts, here's how to fix the most common mistakes so you can rescue your Christmas Day meal from meltdown

Your most common Christmas dinner problems: fixed

We asked our Facebook and Twitter fans for their festive faux-pas, and they shared some spectacular Christmas catastrophes with us. We put the most common quandaries to our food editor, Cassie Best. Here are her top tips to help you rescue your Christmas dinner from a culinary disaster.

Dinner is ready, but my guests are late. What should I do?

Don’t panic! The turkey will stay warm for a few hours if well wrapped in foil and a couple of tea towels - Cassie even uses a bath towel! For the veg, keep the roasties in a very low oven, and drain any boiled veg a few minutes before it has finished cooking so you can reheat just before serving. Make sure your gravy is piping hot, and keep the plates warm. Bread sauce can have an extra splash of milk stirred through to loosen it, then just pop it in the microwave to reheat. 


My oven has broken, how else can I cook my meal?

If you’ve got a gas kettle barbecue, you can cook your turkey on it – yes really! Our commissioning food editor Helen Baker-Benfield has barbecued turkey every year. She says: ‘It takes roughly the same amount of time, just make sure your barbecue circulates the air properly.’ Cook all your vegetables on the hob or in the microwave, and try these stoved potatoes.


I forgot to defrost the turkey, is there a way to do this quickly?

The short answer is no. You can leave the turkey out of the fridge for a few hours to start off the defrosting, but it should really be out of the freezer at least two days before cooking to allow it to totally defrost.  If all else fails, serve ham on Christmas Day and save the turkey for a Boxing Day feast. We love this cola ham with maple & mustard glaze.


What should I do if I don’t have enough space for all the dishes in the oven?

Cook the turkey first, once it’s out and well wrapped, stick everything else in, just make sure the turkey is wrapped up well so it stays warm. Cook as many of your side dishes on the hob as possible. Vegetables can be boiled and potatoes can be pan-fried - we love these baby potato fondants. You can use your slow cooker to reheat the Christmas pudding.


The turkey is too big to fit in the oven! How can I cook it?

Break it down. Cut off the legs and braise them, or make a confit, then reheat on Christmas Day. If the crown still doesn’t fit, take the breasts off the carcass and roast with the wings. 


What can I do if I spill the gravy, and don’t have any instant powder?

Make a roux, add Marmite, a chicken stock cube and soy sauce.

What if I’ve made gravy, but it has no flavour?

Add a stock cube, some soy sauce, or a few teaspoons of Marmite for a salty-savoury kick. Or for sweetness, some redcurrant jelly or onion marmalade.


What can I do if my roast potatoes are soggy?

There’s probably too much steam in the oven, try to cook them without too many other dishes, and make sure they’re well spaced out on a flat baking tray, or spread across two trays (not a deep sided one). They need space for the hot, dry air to circulate.  Also, make sure you’re using the correct oil – goose fat will add a lovely flavour but you should combine it with an oil with a high burning temperature, such as vegetable or rapeseed. Try our really good roast potatoes to ensure you have perfectly crisp, fluffy spuds.


How can I move the turkey from roasting tin to carving board without dropping it?

Don't wreck all your hard work by letting lunch slip through your fingers at this point! We find the easiest way to transfer the turkey is by using a pair of thick rubber gloves. Make sure your bird is well rested and cooled a little before trying to move it, and pour any juices from the cavity into the gravy pan before lifting. 

Bay & bacon roast turkey with make-ahead gravy


I left the giblets in the turkey when I cooked it! Can I still serve it?

So long as the giblets weren’t in plastic wrap, and there’s no melted plastic on the meat, it’ll be fine. 


My turkey is too small to feed the number of guests coming, how can I make it stretch to more servings?

You don't need masses of meat to keep everyone satisfied. Make sure you serve lots of extra pigs-in-blankets, stuffing and Yorkshire puddings alongside – these are most people's favourite bits anyway. To liven up veggie sides, we've got delicious recipes for red cabbage, roasted carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Finish your feast with some cranberry sauce and creamy bread sauce, and no one will have room for more turkey.


I’ve overcooked the sprouts and they’re mushy, how can I serve them?

Don't worry - with just a few everyday ingredients you can turn them into creamed sprouts. Drain well, then return to the pan with a knob of butter, mash to break down, then add a generous splash of cream and plenty of seasoning and nutmeg. These smashed sprouts with chestnuts will be just as delicious, but make sure you've made enough - even sprout haters will want seconds.


My beef Wellington has a soggy bottom! How can I fix it?

We’d recommend removing the pastry completely. Serve the beef in generous slices with a shard of pastry (cut from the crisp top of the wellington) on top. Tell everyone its deconstructed beef Wellington.


My Christmas cake is dry, what should I do?

If you still have a week or two to go before Christmas, you can feed the cake with booze every other day for a week - this will make the cake moist and the fruit juicy. If you'd like to start again, our suits-all Christmas cake tastes delicious just a day or two after baking. If all else fails and you’ve cut into the cake to find it dry, crumble it and use it to make Christmas cake soufflés, then serve with a thick caramel and whisky sauce.


I’ve bought a Christmas pudding but left it for too long, and the plastic bowl melted. What last-minute alternatives can I serve?

Buy a spare one just in case! If it’s too late, change strategy. Crumble Christmas cake into ice cream and serve with a sauce made of coffee liqueur and double cream. A lighter dessert of Christmas pud ice cream might even be a welcome relief after such a filling feast.


Have you had any festive fiascos, or have some tips to avoid added stress? We'd love to hear below...


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