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Christmas cooking catastrophes: dry turkeys and burnt food revealed as the nation’s biggest festive fears

The nation’s turkeys are being roasted for 9.25 million hours longer than they need to be
Brits are clueless when it comes to cooking times – more than one in four admit to not knowing how long to cook popular favourites leading to overcooked turkeys and deflated Yorkshire puds
Food writer and cook Rosie Birkett shares her energy-saving handy hacks with the help of smart meters to avoid common Christmas catastrophes and help save time and energy on Christmas Day
 Preparing the favourite feast of the year is not always plain sailing for households across the UK, as almost a third say their biggest worry is having a dry turkey, followed by burning the food (29 per cent) while many guess the time each dish takes to prepare and cook (24 per cent).

Three in ten of us also worry about the stress of having to keep an eye on everything at the same time to make sure nothing is ruined.

According to new research from British Gas Smart Meters, Brits are estimating how much food they need to feed their guests (43 per cent), not accurately weighing ingredients (20 per cent) and more than one in ten (15 per cent) go as far as guessing the oven temperature, all risking ruined festive feasts and wasted energy.

The turkey has been named the biggest challenge of all as the hardest dish to master, with Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes coming in second and third place respectively.

On average, the nation is overcooking their turkeys by 55.5 minutes and one in five have no idea how long the favourite centrepiece takes to cook. With 10 million turkeys sold in the UK at Christmas*, that’s a whopping 9.25 million hours of unnecessary oven time and energy wasted - and lots of dry turkeys on Christmas Day.

With Brits spending an average of 7.5 hours cooking Christmas dinner, and a third starting before 9am, the increase in energy use at home means one in five (22 per cent) are more conscious of their energy use on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year.

Rosie Birkett, popular cook, food journalist, food stylist and author, has teamed up with British Gas Smart Meters to develop fool-proof festive hacks to avoid the most common Christmas catastrophes. Rosie’s twists on festive favourites are designed to help the nation be more efficient with their energy use and have a less stressful cooking experience.

Rosie Birkett says:Christmas dinner can come with a lot of pressure and worry, which can lead to disaster in the kitchen - not to mention a huge amount of wasted time and energy. But there are simple solutions to avoid most of the common cooking fails.

“Nobody wants a dry turkey or burnt roasties. We’ve discovered which dishes the nation finds the hardest to master and, with my handy energy-efficient hacks and the help of smart meters, I’m offering a helping hand for those cooking Christmas dinner across the country – which I hope will save lots of time and energy, and in turn mean the end of any Christmas catastrophes!

Sarah Scrivener, Smart Energy Expert at British Gas, adds: “Christmas is a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy a feast that everyone has been looking forward to. If, like many of us, you’re more worried about energy use on Christmas Day, the smart energy monitor that comes with your smart meters is a great way to help you keep track of your festive energy use in pounds and pence. Plus, with automated and accurate meter readings, you’ll only ever pay for the energy you use.

“With Rosie’s help, we want to help ease the stress and reduce the unnecessary time and energy spent in the kitchen, so we can all get back to our loved ones.”


Rosie Birkett’s handy hacks for a fabulous festive feast with British Gas Smart Meters 

Roast potatoes: Microwave your potatoes instead of boiling to soften before roasting – this will reduce the time they need in the oven and therefore the amount of energy used, and it’s also quicker than boiling on the hob and uses less energy, as well as taking up less hob space.

Turkey: Buy a slow grown turkey, which is grown to full maturity and takes less time to roast than a normal bird. Less oven time means less energy usage too, and more time to focus on the trimmings! Try to avoid opening the oven during cooking as this will let the heat escape, meaning the turkey will take longer to cook and use more energy. 

Sprouts: Boil sprouts in a pan and make sure you keep the lid on tightly to trap the heat in, which will mean you can boil on a lower temperature. Turn the heat off five minutes before the sprouts are done (keeping the lid on) so the residual heat of the water will keep cooking them. Once cooked, simply drain and refresh the sprouts in ice water. 

Gravy: Re-use your turkey roasting pan for the gravy – not only will this have all of the flavour of your roasted meat, but the pan will also already be piping hot from the oven and so will heat your gravy up faster, meaning you won’t need to have it on the hob for as long and will save energy.

Another time and energy-saving trick is to get your roasting fat really hot on the hob, rather than heating it in the oven, then tip the parboiled potatoes into the hot fat before roasting.

Christmas pudding: It may sound unconventional, but you can cook a delicious Christmas pudding just with your microwave! It’s much easier and faster than steaming (which can take up to ten hours) and uses just 2% of the energy as seen on the smart energy monitor that comes with your smart meters. Drench your pudding in brandy and flame for a lovely centrepiece dessert.

Notes to editors

Media contact:

Katie Rose, Senior PR Manager British Gas UK Home:

Notes to editors

Overcooking the turkey calculation based on 1½lb per person. 2.7kg of turkey for four people, 35 min per kilo.

*according to The British Turkey Information Service (BTIS), 2013

  • To find out more about energy efficiency in the kitchen, take a look at British Gas’ tips here
  • To find out more about British Gas smart meters and for a free installation, visit
  • British Gas has installed more than four and a half million smart meters in people’s homes and has 500,000 Hive hub customers in the UK
  • For more information visit British Gas Smart Meters

About the Research

Nationwide survey carried out by Onepoll of 2,000 adults in November 2017.



British Gas is Britain’s leading energy and services company, serving more than 10 million homes and over 400,000 businesses across the country. More than 8,000 highly-trained engineers guarantee the highest quality of service for our residential and business customers. We also provide a range of innovative offers and services including connected home Hive™ products, smart meters, and the online tradesman service, Local Heroes.

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