I have to admit, I will never be much of a daily cooker, but throwing parties once or twice a year and preparation is a love that I always have since I was a kid. Pretend to bake a pie with my toy oven, shampoo foam as frothy cafe, colourful play dough as my turkey food decor and invite all my stuff animal bears, bunnies and foxes to my party. 🙂 (a note I don’t play with dolls) I just love the festive decoration at this time of year, the fresh scent of autumn in the air. The cool breeze outside and the warm fireplace sparkling inside filled the room with love.
Preparing a Thanksgiving Feast Does Not Have to be Difficult!
Thanksgiving has a different meaning for every person sitting at the dinner table. For most, it marks the beginning of the holiday season during which food is often a focal point. For most Americans, turkey is the main course on Thanksgiving Day. From sauerkraut to rigatoni, family favorites creep into the menu alongside more traditional dishes with the turkey like stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and other accompaniments.
While these traditions and expectations are part of what makes Thanksgiving so special, they can also be very intimidating to a new or part-time cook. It takes special effort to remember everyone’s favorite sides, dessert, and, most importantly, how to time the meal so the turkey is ready before dessert time. With a little organization, a few simple tips from people who have conquered the Thanksgiving feast already, even a novice cook can prepare and enjoy a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal.
The Thanksgiving Countdown
Organization is the key to a successful Thanksgiving dinner. Use the following checklist to help plan your meal, and stick to a reasonable time line.
The Night Before Thanksgiving
- Double check to make sure you have everything you need for the festivities. Stock up now as some grocery stores have shortened hours or are closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Arrange your table and buffet. If possible, set the table to avoid rush and confusion tomorrow.
If you have not already done so, finish your baking. Pies, rolls, and other baked treats are best prepared no more than one day ahead if they are not going to be frozen.
Decide what time you need to begin cooking your turkey, and set your alarm clock accordingly. DO NOT cook the bird overnight or for long cooking at a low oven temperature (250°F) This method is NOT recommended because it is not safe. Because of the low temperature, the turkey may not reach a high enough temperature to destroy bacteria. The quality of the turkey might suffer too. During prolonged cooking, some areas would tend to become very dry. The oven needs to be at least 325°F.
- Preheat the oven and prepare your turkey for roasting.
Finish up any last minute chores around the house in preparation for your guests.
Thirty minutes before the turkey is ready, put the dish of stuffing in with the turkey to cook.
Begin heating/cooking anything that will take more than 20 minutes. (Hint: If your guests are bringing side dishes that need to be heated or attended to before the meal, ask them what needs to be done and offer to do it for them. This will limit the number of people in the kitchen.)
Right before taking the turkey out of the oven, tell your guests that dinner will be served in about 20 minutes. Offer to refresh their drinks so they will not be in the kitchen when you are trying to get dinner on the table.
- When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. This allows the juices to distribute throughout the bird and makes it easier to carve the bird. The oven is now available for heating dishes that cannot be heated on the stove or in the microwave.
If you are going to carve the turkey at the table, put all of your other food dishes on the table while the turkey is sitting. That way, your guests can serve themselves while you carve. If you are going to carve the turkey in the kitchen, enlist someone’s help to put things on the table while you carve.
Once you have carved and served, relax and enjoy the meal!
After everyone has finished, remove all food from the table and prepare it for storage. This is also a good time to make coffee and prepare the dessert for serving.
When the food is safely stored, you can begin the clean-up process.
Staying organized, following food safety instructions, and using spices and other staple items to accent pre-packaged goods can make preparing a Thanksgiving meal fun and easy. Consider using the slow cooker or crock-pot to cook in or warm up side dishes to free up oven space. Or even consider cooking side dishes in the microwave oven and then transfer the food to a slow cooker or crock-pot to keep food warm. I hope these tips will allow you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the holiday festivities with your guests and loved ones.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 🙂