The 4Cs of Christmas Cooking

When it comes to Christmas cooking, each person has their own family traditions.  Cooking a bird is a tradition in many countries with turkey and goose being favorites on the menu.

Often preparations for Christmas Day catering start well in advance.  In Britain, the traditional day to make a Christmas Pudding is Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday before the Advent Season.  It’s a good opportunity to teach children how to weigh out ingredients and in many households, each person gets to stir the mix and make a wish.

It would be easy to think of the 4Cs of Christmas cooking as:

  • Christmas Cake

  • Christmas Pudding

  • Crackers

  • Chilled Champagne

Christmas is one of the peak times of the year for catering establishments and in homes as the Party Season gets into fully swing.  It’s a time of parties and celebrations with professional and home kitchens often operating a full capacity.  Food and drink go hand in hand with the celebrations at this time of year.

It’s a time when food safety and hygiene is ever more important to reduce the risk from foodborne illness.

It is estimated by the Food Standards Agency that there are 1 million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year.  In the US, a tri-agency group consisting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service estimate the figure to be 9 million people get sick.

To make sure your Christmas cooking is safe and hygienic, the Food Standards Agency has come up with an alternative 4Cs of Christmas.

These are:

  • Cleaning

  • Chilling

  • Cooking

  • Avoiding cross-contamination



To help stop bacteria spreading into food, there are a few important cleaning steps to keep in mind.  Hands should be washed with soap using warm water.  You should wash your hands before handling food and between handling different types of food.  Bacteria can spread in a kitchen so utensils, chopping boards and surfaces should also be kept clean.



It’s always best to check your refrigerator is operating to the correct temperature.  Dials on your refrigerator are not always accurate so it is important to check that the coldest part of the fridge is below 40°F.  It is a time of year when the refrigerator is crowded with food but some space should be left to allow air to circulate so the correct storage temperature is maintained.  It is best to keep chilled food out of the refrigerator for as short a time as possible before serving.  Cooked food should be chilled quickly at room temperature and placed in the refrigerator within one to two hours.


Christmas is a time for cooking turkey, goose and other poultry as well as joints of gammon or beef.

Digital pocket thermometers can be used to check the correct temperatures have been reached to make sure the food you serve is safe.  If you want to check whether your oven is cooking at the correct temperature you can use a special oven thermometer.

There’s some useful information on chilling and cooking food in our 5 Temperature Safety Tips.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination takes place when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one object to another.  For example, when handling raw chicken, bacteria can spread to the knife and chopping board.  If you then handled vegetables or cooked meat without cleaning the equipment and your hands, the bacteria would spread to those foodstuffs with the potential to cause foodborne illness.  Comark uses BioCote® antimicrobial technology in its instrument cases.  Although it does not take the place of proper cleaning of your equipment, the technology kills bacteria over time providing an extra measure against cross-contamination.

Defrosting and Cooking a Christmas Turkey