What is the traditional Christmas dinner recipe and what time do you need to start cooking it?
10th December 2018

But what will you be eating on December 25? If you want to stick to tradition, here's everything you need to know about cooking a Christmas dinner.

What is included in the traditional Christmas dinner?

Depending on the country, the meal can take place any time from the evening of Christmas Eve to the evening of Christmas Day itself – but in the UK it is usually consumed on December 25.

In the UK, the dinner normally consists of turkey served with stuffing and gravy and is often accompanied by pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and vegetables.

Vegetables particularly associated with the meal are Brussels sprouts and parsnips.

Typically, dessert is Christmas pudding or sometimes mince pies or trifle served with brandy butter or cream.

What time do you need to start cooking your Christmas dinner?

What time you start cooking your Christmas dinner depends on factors such as what time you want to sit down to eat and how big your turkey is – and if you're enjoying a full turkey or just the crown.

Generally speaking, the secret to cooking your Christmas dinner perfectly is by planning a thorough to-do list and making sure your turkey is completely defrosted before the big day.

According to the NHS, the following guidelines should be followed for defrosting your bird:

  • In a fridge at 4C (39F), allow 10 to 12 hours per kilogram. Be aware that not all fridges will be set to this temperature.
  • In a cool room (below 17.5C/64F), allow around 3 to 4 hours per kilogram, or longer if the room is particularly cold.
  • At room temperature (about 20C/68F), allow approximately 2 hours per kilogram.

When your turkey is fully defrosted, put it in the fridge until you're ready to cook it – or cook it immediately.

And when it comes to cooking the meat – depending on your oven – the following is a rough guide, in an oven preheated to 180C (350F, gas mark 4):

  • allow 45 minutes per kilogram, plus 20 minutes, for a turkey under 4.5kg
  • allow 40 minutes per kilogram for a turkey that's between 4.5kg and 6.5kg
  • allow 35 minutes per kilogram for a turkey of more than 6.5kg

You should cover your turkey with foil during cooking but uncover it for the final 30 minutes to get the skin nice and brown.

To stop the meat drying out, baste it every hour as it cooks.

Vegetables will take much less time to cook, but if you prep them early or the night before, you will save yourself time and stress when it comes to getting everything cooked.

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