Cook Ahead Christmas Lunch Planning – 20 Minute Christmas Dinner

Cook Ahead Christmas Lunch Planning 20 Minute Christmas Dinner

I will cook ahead a lot of my Christmas lunch, so there’s a little bit of lunch planning required for that to make sure it all comes together on the day – with just 20 minutes spent in the kitchen for the final cooking and plating up!

20 Minute Christmas Dinner!

The plan is to spend just 20 minutes or so in the kitchen on Christmas Day actually cooking.  There are two motivations for this:

  1. I never like to leave any unattended items cooking in the kitchen, which means I have to stand in there until food has finished cooking.
  2. The kitchen is away from the living room which has the television, entertainment, PC/Internet, sofa, sweets, crisps, nibbles….. “everything” in fact that I could want/need.

So I do not wish, on Christmas Day, to be standing in the kitchen for 1-2 hours “watching” food cook and juggling items about, creating a pile of washing up in my wake.

I want to cook ahead as much of the Christmas lunch as possible, so I am just in the kitchen for the final 20 minutes of cooking time when the roast potatoes, roast parsnips and stuffing are cooked!

While it is possible to cook ahead a lot of Christmas lunch items, it does come down to personal preference and choice.  I am more than happy to cook ahead a lot of the items – but my sibling wouldn’t dream of ever having a single item on the plate that wasn’t cooked fresh that day, from fresh ingredients…no matter how long the prep work took.

There are a few ways to plan for a cook ahead Christmas lunch and so it’s possible to just use the ones that suit your plans and needs. There are also some items I’ll be buying ready-made, because I can!

Completely Cook Ahead Christmas Lunch items: 

Once cooked, these will be boxed in takeaway boxes and popped into the fridge.  Takeaway boxes are great as they keep food fresh, you can see what’s in the box, they stack and can be moved around without spillages … and you can then use the boxes to microwave the contents if you’re re-heating all of what you cooked in one go… otherwise, you can just spoon out what you want and reseal the box.

  • Nut Roast – This year I’m planning on making a nut roast – with 20 ingredients.  Once cooked I’ll just box it up in the fridge and am happy to microwave this on the day!  The nut roast needs parsnip, celery, onion, couscous, spices, fresh parsley, lemon, breadcrumbs, crushed nuts …. it goes on and on and on – so this is definitely best made in advance.  I’ve taken the original Cranks Brazil Nut & Cashew Nut Roast and adapted it for half the quantity, a lot of food cheats and a couple of ingredient swap outs!  I do hope it turns out as good as the original one I’ve enjoyed for the last 15-20 years (that my sibling used to make and everybody raved over) ….
  • Mashed Potatoes – yes, with Christmas lunch, because it’s MY Christmas lunch – and, mashed potatoes, rather than roast potatoes, were common in days gone by!  It only takes a few minutes to make mash in the microwave, but I’d rather cook that and wash up the steamer and get everything put away.  Once mashed the potato will be stored in the fridge in a plastic takeaway box and will be microwaved hot at the last minute.

Part Cook Ahead Christmas Lunch Items: 

  • Roast Potatoes – I will par-boil the roast potatoes, by microwave steaming them, then fluffing them up and letting them cool.  I’ll then roast them for 20-25 minutes until they’re quite brown.  At this stage I’ll cool them down and box them up in the fridge in a takeaway box; on Christmas Day I’ll re-heat these and finish off the roasting.
  • Roast Parsnips – at the same time as par-boiling the roast potatoes and part-roasting them in the oven, I’ll cook the roast parsnips alongside those before cooling and boxing up to be finished on Christmas Day.

For both these items I could have bought frozen roast potatoes and frozen parsnips, but I didn’t want to have two 1Kg bags of these left in the freezer, cluttering it up for months to come!  I also wasn’t impressed with the frozen potatoes I bought last year (just cheap ones), so didn’t want to go through that whole “trying out some new ones” on Christmas Day.  Roast potatoes and roast parsnips are the “hardest part of cooking Christmas Dinner” just because they can take so long (the roast potatoes are the longest time) …. and, to be honest, I CBA with all that!

Bought in Ready Made to Cook on Christmas Day:

  • Yorkshire Puddings – yes, I know Yorkshire puddings are super easy, I make them quite often, but, for Christmas Day I didn’t want the “hassle” to get the best Yorkshire puddings I could make as I’d have to double up my usual batch (to get the mix/ratio spot on), then either cook about 8 of them to freeze, or portion out the mixture and freeze 7 portions and cook just one on the day.  So I’ve bought frozen Yorkshire puddings again – they take just 4-5 minutes in a hot oven on the day to re-heat and no washing up 🙂
  • Pigs in Blankets – these aren’t high on my agenda, I don’t like bacon and we didn’t ever have pigs in blankets when I was growing up, so they’re low priority – however, in recent years I have been eating a couple of cocktail sausages with my Christmas Dinner (nobody else in my family did, just me) – and so I’ve got some ready cooked cocktail sausages which I can microwave in hot water for 2 minutes at the last minute if I fancy it!

Freshly Cooked on Christmas Day:

  • Turkey – this will be cooked on the day.  I’m cooking the turkey breast joint in the slow cooker, just like I did last year – and it’ll be put on at about 8am, making lunch about 1pm.
  • Christmas Stuffings – yes, plural stuffings probably. I love stuffing and have always been drawn to the Xmas Stuffing Mix packets over the years, but was unable to buy one as I always had Christmas Dinner at my parents’ house, where we were already eating other stuffing flavours. So I do plan to treat myself, call it one of my “Christmas presents to me” – stuffing mix will be mixed up on the day, then oven-baked to give a nice crisp top, I love a crisp top to stuffing but only treat myself to this for Christmas dinner as it takes about 20 minutes of cooking time to get that bit -v- a stuffing mix without a crispy top being quicker usually.  This is stuffing packet mix, not made from scratch, simply due to the ingredients required and the volume I’d be making…
  • Christmas Vegetables: I’m cutting back on the variety this year and plan to have just Brussels sprouts and carrots – maybe a spoon of peas at the last minute.  The vegetables will be cooked, from fresh, on the day – they only take 3-4 minutes of microwave steaming.
  • Gravy – well, “fresh”, I’ll be using Bisto chicken gravy granules – and I might mix that with some turkey juices, or I might not. That’s a last minute decision to be made.


I’ll not have room, to be honest – my Christmas Dinner is usually one course … on a slightly larger than usual plate!

If I were making a Christmas pudding, or an Apple & Cinnamon Suet Pudding, I’d microwave those at the last minute.  I do have “an apple” on my shopping list, but there’s no rush for me to actually buy one as I know, realistically, I’ll not have room for a dessert, so it can wait until the shops open again 🙂