Jamie Oliver's advice for a smooth and stress-free Christmas feast

Megan Johnston
Make Christmas easy on yourself and practise cooking your menu beforehand, Jamie Oliver says.
Make Christmas easy on yourself and practise cooking your menu beforehand, Jamie Oliver says. Photo: Freddie Claire

He's making a list and checking it twice. And no, it's not Santa. It's Jamie Oliver, planning a relaxed festive feast even the host can enjoy.

While the British chef admits being organised doesn't come naturally to many people, including himself, he says mapping out your Christmas cooking with military precision is essential.

"If you want to keep the food delicious, and organised, and laugh a lot more, unfortunately, being organised about timings is the only way forward," he says on the phone from Essex.

This is especially true where cooking turkeys and big roasts is involved, as you need to allow enough time for them to rest before serving (usually one to two hours).

To avoid being a slave to the kitchen while all your guests are celebrating, Oliver suggests preparing as much food as possible beforehand and drawing up a timeline of all the jobs you need to do and when you need to have them done by. 

Don't be a mug. If you're going to use a recipe, you want to know it's trusted like anything else in life.

"I do it on a little chalkboard," he says. "I write it all down and put what time people were turning up – it's super pedantic but it's brilliant. It means you've got a checklist, and it means you're in control.

"If you want to go random that's fine, but you probably will end up forgetting a few things, not doing your very best, and probably end up a bit more sweaty than you should be."

Oliver's other trick to simplify Christmas Day would do Coco Chanel proud: "Remove two things [from the menu] because you probably don't need them, and that will make your life a bit easier."

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Also essential: find a cookbook you trust or a recipe writer who you know tests their recipes.

"Don't be a mug. If you buy a car, you want to know where it's come from. If you're going to use a recipe, you want to know it's trusted like anything else in life," he says.

If this is your first time hosting Christmas, make it easy on yourself and practise cooking your menu beforehand. You could even go so far as a full dress rehearsal with the same time, place and table.

"Don't be a beginner, and be vulnerable, and be nervous, and not rehearse," he says.

"Confidence is always built up by experience and repetition. If you've got the mother-in-law coming around and you want to make a good impression and you've never cooked a roast dinner before, then common sense should tell you, 'How about a week and a half before, do exactly the same dinner but with a roast chicken or turkey'."

You can still make Christmas special even if you can't gather with family and friends this year, Oliver says. He suggests sending a beautiful box of cooked or uncooked treats to whoever will be missing on the day, and making the most of technology by calling them during the meal, and sharing the screen on the TV or placing it on the table.

"There's no reason why you can't virtually eat together. Yes, it's not ideal. But I think being loving and inclusive is what it's all about," he says.

"We've never been luckier with technology but it's rough, I get it. But I actually think people are ready for this Christmas. I think they're up for it. And I do think that people will make the most of it.

"Certainly what we've seen in the UK is some really amazing citizenship and community spirit … and hopefully that'll continue."

Jamie's Quick and Easy Christmas on Thursday at 7.30pm on 10. Jamie's Easy Meals for Every Day on 10play.com.au.