Your gravy is bubbling over, the bird is burnt to a crisp and Auntie Pam is already outside ringing the doorbell. There are some Christmas traditions we would rather not repeat. If the thought of holiday hosting makes you want to hide under the duvet until Boxing Day, we’ve got the plot twist you deserve. With the help of some industry experts, we’ve compiled a guide to help you rule the yule and pull off your best Christmas yet.

PRE-GAME

Eugene Ong from Knife Toronto

How to Prepare Your Knives with Eugene Ong, Knife Toronto

Start with the right tools
Two essential knives all home chefs should have in their kitchens are a santoku, which is a Japanese, all-purpose knife; and a petty for smaller jobs. You can accomplish most of your basic knife tasks with these two.

Know how to care for your knives
Make sure you’re cutting on a good-quality butcher block. Keep your knives clean and dry – and never put them in the dishwasher. When using your knives, cut in a smooth, push-and-slice motion rather than chopping machine-gun-style.

Prepare early
It’s easy to overlook sharpening your knives until you’re in the middle of cooking and realize they’re in horrible condition. Get your knives professionally sharpened now; or, if you’re sharpening at home, start spending a few minutes on it every week.

Your playlist has the potential to make or break the party

How to Truss a Bird

Trussing a turkey isn’t just a ploy to get that picture-perfect platter – no matter how delicious your stuffing or rub, if she ain’t trussed, she’s not going to cook properly. To ensure that the legs and wings don’t get burned, you’ll need to tuck everything into a neat little parcel to ensure things cook evenly. Flip your turkey breast-side up and start by grabbing some twine and tying it around the turkey’s neck bone, located in between the two breasts. Tuck the wings under the shoulders and tie the twine around those, too. Finally, cross the legs over and tie together, et voilà. Season and stuff as desired.

How to Keep Your Food from Sticking

To skip greasing your pan when baking, line the tray with parchment paper instead.

Season your pan ahead of cooking to create a natural, non-stick coating. Rub the interior with canola or vegetable oil, put it in the oven at 425°F for 30 minutes and repeat to build up the coating.

When frying, make sure your pan is sizzling hot before adding your food. We don’t have space to get into the science behind it here but trust us.

How to Decorate a Table

If Pinterest has taught us anything, it’s that some people have too much time on their hands. Keep things simple by sticking with a theme – whether it’s plaid, fir cones or sparkles – and add subtle touches. Make place cards so your guests know where to sit. Consider using an unconventional runner like pine boughs. And don’t forget to do a test run before December 25.

How to Make a Playlist with Katie Bridges, Staff Writer

The humble playlist has the potential to set the perfect festive tone or add stress to an already fraught affair. Bank on the latter with a musical beginning, middle and end to transition your evening. Create a playlist that's long enough to last the night so you’re not constantly on your phone. Upbeat tunes are great as guests arrive and mingle, but go easy on the holiday songs – we've been listening to them since mid-November. Then segue into mellower music for the meal and after-dinner-wind-down. No time? Utilize Spotify’s Party Mode feature, with custom-made playlists based on tempo.

Julius Chapple from Rodney's Oyster House

THE MAIN EVENT

How to Shuck an Oyster with Julius Chapple Rodney's Oyster House

Malpeques and kumamotos are top draws, but pick oysters that are in season, and try a few different sizes. Purchase a good oyster shucking knife ahead of time. Place the oyster under a tea towel, exposing only the hinge. With your other hand, place the tip of the shucking knife at a downward angle into the hinge and press firmly. Twist the knife until the hinge opens, then slide the knife around the opening of the oyster to release its abductor muscle. Give the oyster a quick, clean to get rid of any shell. Sere with wedges of lemon, an assortment of hot sauces and plenty of sparkling wine. 

Have a bottle of bubbly and a good toast prepared

How to Sabre with Renée Sferrazza, Heirloom Vine Imports

Renée Sferrazza from Heirloom Vine Imports

Have a good toast prepared, a bottle of bubbly and a sabre or dull kitchen knife. Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and use force to slide the blade against it, starting from the label and going up the neck. Use the same amount of pressure as you hit the lip of the bottle. Make sure you’re facing a wall – the bottle will break and the cork will go flying with the glass still around it. Half a glass of liquid will be lost. If you don’t succeed on your first try, don’t put the bottle down – it could burst open. Keep trying until you get it.

How to Keep Your Food Warm

Discover your warming drawer
You know that tray at the bottom of your oven? It’s not always designed for storage. On many oven models, it’s actually a warming drawer, designed for keeping your finished dishes hot until you’re ready to eat.

Rethink your cooler
Coolers are generally good at maintaining any temperature, hot or cold. Wrap your dishes in tin foil and stick them in a cooler. You can also pile some towels on top for extra warmth.

Plate like a pro
Warm your plates in the still-hot oven just before serving to prevent cold plates from cooling your delicious food.

How to Make Gravy with Jessica Huras, Associate Editor

Gravy might not be the prettiest dish on the holiday table, but it’s the glue that brings the meal together and makes it greater than the sum of its parts. When your turkey is finished, move the roasting pan to the stovetop and whisk in some flour and butter to create a roux. Add salt, pepper and stock (throw some wine in there too, because you deserve it) and you’re good to go.

How to Carve Your Bird

Most people get anxious when it comes time to carving a turkey, but the process can be quick and easy with a few basic principles. Start with the legs and thighs and drumsticks by cutting them out and laying them on a large cutting board where you can then section them off into pieces. Then, using a long slicing knife, cut down the middle of the bird and sides to remove the breasts. Now you can debone and portion the meat into finer slicers and transfer them to a large platter.

Once the booze stops flowing, the people start going

How to Plate Your Food

If you’re going to all that effort, don’t fumble your food at the final hurdle. The aim of the game is to bring your plate to life. Start with the canvas; white plates are a nice neutral background. Choose vibrant ingredients that will make things pop, and layer or stack things to add dimension. Don’t overload the plate – if your guests want more, they can restock later. Lastly, don’t forget that all-important garnish; go for something seasonal like berries or a cinnamon stick for dessert. Tweezers might be a bit much, but drizzling is a nice touch.

POST-GAME

How to Make an Epic Dessert Bar with Suresh Doss, Editor-at-Large

With all the planning and prep that goes into hosting a holiday feast, dessert is the last thing you want to fuss over when the dinner plates are cleared. To avoid missing out on the final moments of the night, try to prep your desserts ahead of time. Single serving desserts like pudding chomeur and sticky toffee puddings can be prepped in advance and will turn heads when you present them – plus, they’re fairly wine friendly. Or pies from a bakery and let your guests serve themselves. Leave toppings out like pecans, sprinkles or fruit so they can customize.

How to Streamline Your Cleanup

Before dinner, empty your dishwasher, have leftover containers on hand and make sure garbages are labelled and accessible. This will make cleaning more efficient and encourage guests to help out. If you have more cash to spare than patience to clean, rent your dinnerware from a company that delivers clean dishes to your door and picks them up dirty.

How to Get Rid of People with Taylor Newlands

Turn the lights on, the music off and start cleaning. Clear away glassware so there’s no opportunity for guests to grab another drink. Once the booze stops flowing, people start going. Thank your guests for coming and offer them leftovers to take home. If all else fails, put on your pjs and start yawning.