Millions of adults will cook their first ever Christmas dinner this year – and have been ‘practising’ in the run up to the big day.

Researchers who polled 2,000 adults found 79 per cent will cook or assist in making the festive meal this year.

And a fifth will attempt the whole feast on their own for the first time, as Covid restrictions mean many are spending Christmas at home instead of heading to large family gatherings.

But a quarter of those in charge of cooking this year have been practising to ensure it goes down a treat – an average of four weeks ahead of December 25th.

Their desire to get it right is understandable though as 57 per cent consider the meal to be the culinary highlight of the year.

Food influencers and chefs Billy and Jack – full names Billy Wright and Jack Layer – are ambassadors for speciality cooking oils brand U:ME, which commissioned the research.

The duo said: “Cooking the Christmas dinner for the first time – or any time – can be nerve-wracking, but we want to reassure that it can stress-free and even fun.

“It is great to see that many of those polled have a very admirable approach – looking forward to it rather than fearing it.

“This year more than any other, Christmas dinner will be the highlight of 2020 for many, so we’re also sharing our top tips and recipes for making Christmas dinner a roaring success.”

The study found the biggest challenge for getting dinner just right is the timings (45 per cent), followed by ensuring the turkey is succulent (36 per cent) and pleasing everybody (33 per cent).

Remembering every dish (19 per cent), ensuring there’s enough food for everyone (30 per cent) and getting the gravy spot on (26 per cent) are also hurdles to overcome.

In a bid to live up to expectations, a quarter of those polled will turn to recipe books, 12 per cent will avidly watch cooking TV programmes and 26 per cent will surf the web for tips.

However, 32 per cent admitted their first point of call for advice is their mum.

Despite the concerns about serving the perfect meal, more than two thirds are excited at the prospect of making or helping to make Christmas dinner this year.

And while 56 per cent of those cooking dinner will stick with tradition, 23 per cent will throw the rule book out of the window and add a few modern twists.

The study, carried out via OnePoll in November, also found the traditional meal with all the trimmings is the best thing about Christmas day, according to 59 per cent.

But 57 per cent said this year’s feast is more important than any other before.

Kim Matthews, commercial director at Princes Group, said: “Many of us will be looking forward to this year’s Christmas dinner more than any other but for first time cooks there could be a lot of pressure.

“We created U:ME to inspire people to cook with confidence and experiment with their dishes, and that starts with knowing which oil to use – especially for the most important meal of the year.”

You can find all of Billy and Jack’s Christmas recipes, along with recipes for all year round at https://www.ume.cooking/

BILLY AND JACK’S TOP TIPS FOR AN EXTRA SPECIAL CHRISTMAS DINNER:

1. PREP AHEAD
Most parts of a Christmas dinner can be cooked or prepped ahead of time. Set yourself a goal to get as much as possible done the days before so on the day you just need to focus on a few elements and can have a bit more fun.

2. GET PEOPLE INVOLVED
There’s a reason restaurant kitchens have a lot of chefs – there’s a lot of prep work. If you hate peeling spuds, there’s normally someone sat about that can help.

3. KEEP IT LIGHTER
Use an oil spray when roasting or frying as it reduces the amount of oil in the dish, particularly good for Christmas when calories are in plentiful supply.

4. KEEP IT LIGHTER AGAIN
Always heat oil before adding food, this way the ingredients will absorb less oil.

5. COOK WHAT YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH
If you don’t like a roast dinner, or don’t feel comfortable cooking one, then why not do something else special? A great pie, a knock-out curry or even a stir-fry? The most important thing is spending time with the people you love, the food should always be second.

6. KEEP ON TOP OF THE MESS
Cooking any big meal can create a lot of washing up and there is probably no bigger meal than Christmas Day. Tidy as you go so that you aren’t faced with a mountain to do once you are full and content.

7. NOT KEEN ON XMAS PUD?
The traditional pudding is not everyone’s cup of tea, so make any other show stopping cake, be it chocolate to lemon drizzle, but make sure to swap your butter for oil to not only lower your dairy intake but also give that beautiful moist crumb.

8. USE THE RIGHT GEAR!
Make sure you have what you need ahead of time, from decent sized roasting trays to the right oil. The last thing you want on the big day is to find out you have forgotten something.

9. WRITE A LIST
Get your to-dos and timings down on a piece of paper, that way you know what you’re doing and you’re less likely to panic and get stressed.

10. DON’T BOIL SPROUTS
The best way to ruin this great little vegetable is to boil it. Roast them, fry them or stir fry them instead, they’ll have more texture and you can add other flavours as well.

11. REST YOUR MEAT
It’s an easy mistake to make, but meat needs to rest. The longer it rests the juicier it will be. You can take a turkey out of the oven and it will happily rest, covered for an hour, giving you time to roast the spuds.

12. ROAST YOUR VEGGIES
Once your turkey (or whatever you’re having) is out of the oven and resting, you can roast your veggies – it’s super simple and such a great way to add extra flavour. Add honey and orange zest to carrots, or roast cabbage with bacon and juniper.

13. PLAN DIETARY REQUIREMENTS CAREFULLY
It can be a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to make sure all dietary requirements are covered, luckily there are loads of great recipes and ingredients out there to make your life easier, from great GF options to using oil instead of butter for those following a plant-based diet.

14. DON’T BE TOO WORRIED ABOUT IT
If the turkey is a little dry or your sprouts are overdone, don’t worry about it. It’s the time with loved ones that makes it special, the food is just an added bonus.

ENDS

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