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Your Stress-free Guide to Cooking the Christmas Dinner

Your Stress-free Guide to Cooking the Christmas Dinner

By Mark Murphy | Dingle Cookery School
I love cooking Christmas dinner and I hope it is also special in your house. Each year I try not to change too much about the Christmas dinner, it is brilliant the way it is.
The following is a full guide to include turkey, glazed ham, roast potatoes, a range of sides to choose from (remember you don’t have to do all the sides), stuffing, gravy and homemade cranberry sauce.
Trust us, don’t ever let the task of cooking it daunt you, even if it is your first time cooking it or if you feel that you are not a great cook.
Two pieces of advice that will help you really enjoy cooking on the day are to
1) make a list and plan everything
2) on the day focus on the hour before serving (the magic hour).
The following guide will help your break down each job to be done and will take the stress out of cooking it and putting it all together.
Make a Plan
Every year I still take out a notebook and write down all the jobs to be done, and what ingredients are needed. Then try to give yourself some idea of when each job will be done. Please note, the timeline at the end of this guide will help you with all of this.
The Magic Hour
One of the greatest pieces of advice to help bring it all together and get it to the table all hot, and on time, is to have the turkey out of the oven for at least an hour before you serve it. Once the turkey is out of the oven cover it with foil and keep it in a warm place in the kitchen. Not only will this time allow the turkey to be so juicy but it will give you a magic hour or so to finish everything off; finish the ham, potatoes, roast vegetables and sauces.

The Turkey

Before you start, make sure you have a large tray, which is big enough for the turkey, and ensure the tray (and the turkey) fits in the oven. It is worth buying a temperature probe to test if the turkey is done.

Know the exact weight of the turkey (your butcher will help here).

Before cooking, make sure the turkey comes to room temperature, this means having it out of the fridge at least two hours before you want to cook it.

To stuff or not stuff the turkey
People always have different views on the stuffing, whether to stuff the bird or to make stuffing and leave it out. My advice would be to cook the stuffing separately to ensure that there are no uncooked juices of the turkey in the stuffing and I always find that when I keep the stuffing separate I can adjust the seasoning more easily.

Cooking Times for the Turkey
I have had a look at several charts and cooking times but I think below is the most straightforward guide to follow, providing you with perfect results:

(for an unstuffed turkey)

Calculate 20 minutes per kg + 100 minutes.

For example, 5.5 kg turkey = 110 minutes + 100 minutes = 210 mins (3.5 hours)

Cooking the Turkey

1 turkey
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 bulb of garlic, split in half
plenty of herbs such as thyme, sage & rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper


1) Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan)

2) Add the onions, carrots, garlic and herbs to a tray, drizzle a little oil over them.

3) Season the turkey with salt and pepper all over and make sure to season the inside too. Drizzle some olive over the turkey and use your hands to rub it all over.

4) Place the turkey on the vegetables.

5) Place the tray inside the oven and cook to the times as listed above.

How to know if the turkey is done
To test if it’s done, make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh where it meets the body and if you have a temperature probe use it to check if the temperature reaches 75ºC. If not, put it back in the oven for another 20 mins, then test again.

The next step is one of the most important steps to prevent your turkey from drying out.

Once you are happy that the turkey is done take it out. Wrap it in tin foil and leave it in a warm place for at least an hour or so (Magic hour). This will give you plenty of time to get everything else finished off.

Once the turkey is out, turn the oven to 210ºC to finish all of the rest of the food.

The Ham

You can cook the ham the day before and glaze it on Christmas day if you prefer.

To cook the ham
1 ham (smoked or unsmoked)

1) Place the ham in cold water and bring to the boil. Change the water and repeat, then turn down to a simmer.

2) Allow 50 minutes per kg or 20 minutes per lb.

3) Once it is done, remove it from the water and allow it to cool a little.

4) If you are doing this the day before make sure you cool down the ham as quickly as possible to get it in to the fridge.

Honey, Mustard Glaze

This can be made the day before if you prefer.
• 5 tbsp. dark brown sugar, plus extra to sprinkle finely grated zest of ½ orange
• 20ml balsamic vinegar
• 20ml water
• 2 tbsp. English mustard
• handful of cloves

Mix all of the ingredients except the mustard together to a thick paste. Bring this carefully to the boil to allow the sugar to dissolve. Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes until you have a dark syrupy glaze. Keep stirring to make sure that the glaze doesn’t burn.

To Glaze the Ham
Place the ham on a tray, to make a criss-cross/diamond pattern on the ham, use a sharp knife to lightly score it, only cutting into the fat and not the meat underneath.

See Also

brush the ham with the mustard. Place a clove in each diamond and pour the glaze over the ham.

Put this in a hot oven, 210°C, and bake for about 30 minutes.

Dark Chocolate, Orange and Cranberry Roulade

An impressive centre piece for your Christmas table!
Ingredients for the cake
vegetable oil for greasing the tin and parchment paper
50g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
30g cocoa powder
50g ground almonds
4 eggs
100g caster sugar, plus a little extra for turning out the cake
for the filling
450g mascarpone
1 orange, zested and juiced
200g cranberry sauce
for the frosting
85ml water
20g dark brown muscovado sugar
120g butter
200g good quality dark chocolate
icing sugar to dust


Heat a fan to 180°c

Prepare a Swiss roll tin by brushing it with the oil. Carefully line the base and sides with parchment paper. Brush the parchment with oil.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl. Add in the ground almonds.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture comes to the ribbon stage (once ready the mixture will have thickened, increased in volume. Check it by drawing a figure of eight on top of the batter with the whisk attachment, if it is ready the figure of eight will hold it shape for a few seconds). At this stage you can carefully add in the dry ingredients. Use a large spoon and gently fold all the ingredients together. When there is no trace of the dry ingredients, carefully pour this mixture into the prepared Swiss roll tin. Make sure the tin is evenly filled. Place this in the oven for about 12-14 minutes or until it is firm with a slight bounce. Remove from the oven, lay a sheet of parchment on the counter. Sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar.

Allow the cake to cool for about a minute or so, carefully turn it out on to the parchment. Remove the upper sheet parchment on top of the cake. Roll from the short edge and place this on a wire rack and allow to cool.

To make the filling
Add the orange zest and orange juice to the mascarpone. Mix this well. Unroll the cake, use a spatula and spread the filling over the cake, leaving about an inch at the edges. Next spread the cranberry sauce over this. Carefully roll the cake back up again. Remove the paper and place the cake on a plate.

To make the frosting
This can be done while the cake is in the oven. Put the water, muscovado sugar and butter in a small pot over low heat. Once the butter has melted take the mixture of the heat and add in the chocolate. Allow it to settle and then use a spatula to mix it gently until it has all come together. Leave this for about 1 hour, whisking now and again. This mixture will now be ready to spread over the cake.

Spread the frosting over the cake using a spatula, use a fork at the end to create a log effect. Dust with icing sugar.


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