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Northern Irish home cooks nervous ahead of Christmas meal

A quarter of home cooks are nervous about cooking the Christmas meal, according to research by “safefood.”

The online poll of more than 300 adults across Northern Ireland in late November also found that one in six people aged between 18 and 34 years old will be cooking their first Christmas dinner this year. Safefood is a government body that promotes food safety on the island of Ireland.

More than half of respondents will also be hosting Christmas dinner for fewer family and friends, with 15 percent planning to deliver the meal to loved ones.

A third of those surveyed plan to buy their food for Christmas Day earlier than normal and freeze it with a quarter planning on using ready-prepared foods on the day.

Leftover advice
The research also found 15 percent keep their turkey for longer than recommended and some up to four days or more, which can increase the risk of food poisoning. Safefood said any leftovers should be cooled and stored in the fridge within two hours of cooking and eaten within three days. They should only be re-heated once.

The survey was done by Empathy Research and commissioned by safefood, which has teamed up with local home cook Suzie Lee to launch a Christmas food safety campaign to take the stress out of holiday cooking.

Linda Gordon, chief specialist of food science at safefood, said: “With so many people cooking Christmas dinner for the first time this year, we really want to help build confidence ahead of what might seem like a big task. The key is to give yourself plenty of time – whether that’s how long to defrost a frozen turkey, how long to cook it for or how long to keep leftovers.”

In 2019, more than 110,000 people visited safefood’s website between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for cooking advice. It includes food safety tips, a cooking time calculator for turkey and leftover recipes.

With smaller groups of people coming together, the research found that almost half of festive cooks are planning to cook a turkey crown this year as opposed to a whole turkey, with 8 percent planning on serving a boned and rolled turkey.

Advice for first time cooks
Lee said she was teaming up with safefood to try to help take the pressure off Christmas cooks.

“To many though, the thought of having to cook this festive feast can be a very daunting and stressful task, especially when doing it for the first time,” she said.

“The key to a successful Christmas dinner is often down to the preparation. Plan everything out beforehand and stick to that plan. Make your stuffing the day before and peel potatoes, carrots, and any other vegetables you are having and leave them in pans of cold water over night.”

In the Republic of Ireland, safefood has joined with celebrity chef Paul Flynn to launch its Christmas food safety campaign.

Research found that 9 percent of the population, or 315,000 people, will cook Christmas dinner for the first time with 13 percent saying they feel nervous about it.

The survey also showed that half of respondents will have a smaller gathering on Christmas Day with 27 percent purchasing a turkey crown and 17 percent buying a boned and rolled turkey. However, 42 percent still plan to cook a full turkey. More than one in 10 are planning to deliver Christmas dinner to family this year.

Safefood’s chatbot, available on Facebook Messenger, Google Assist and Alexa, can answer questions ahead of Christmas or on the day.

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