Now that we have planned our themes and menus, let’s talk food! Cooking and preparing for a picture-perfect Thanksgiving meal can be a lengthy process, but it doesn’t have to be (that) stressful. Here are 5 tips to help you prepare a delicious meal.
1. Let’s Talk Turkey
Thanksgiving is the time for none other than turkey. Brine, defrost, roast, baste—these are all things you hear leading up to Thanksgiving. To help ease the mind, first off decide where you will purchase a turkey and what kind you will be purchasing. The fresher the turkey the better, so call your local meat shop and order a turkey a few days in advance.
Turkey option: Having a small gathering and don’t really need that huge turkey? Choose turkey parts like legs, thighs, or breast to roast.
2. Shopping 101
With your finalized menu and set number of guests, it’s time to shop for food. But first you need to shop around your kitchen. Carefully look through your pantry and cabinets and make a list of things you need to purchase. Note the things you don’t need to purchase; this will help with over-buying. Also take advantage of your local supermarkets and wholesale clubs. Buying things like oil, carrots, onions, celery, butter in bulk will help you save time and money. Because who wants to keep going to the store because they forgot to buy something a recipe calls for?
From working in a restaurant, I know that prepping is a major component of serving a successful meal. Keeping that in mind will also help you have a successful Thanksgiving dinner. With the bulk items you just bought, chop all the same veggies at the same time, even if they will be used for different recipes. This will cut down on chopping each veggie for each item. Also, pre-measure dry ingredients for desserts and put them in labeled ziplock bags. This cuts down on the time it takes to measure out each component for the perfect pie! Also remember the following:
- Cranberry sauce can be made up to a week in advance
- Gravies, soups, and dips can be made 24 hours in advance and re-heated
- Make fresh pie dough a few days before and freeze. Defrost the day before you need them
- Cut up bread a day before so it can become perfectly dry in texture for stuffing
- Assemble your casseroles a day before
4. Focus on Food
Now that everything is pretty much finalized, this is a time to lay out the proper game plan of your attack for Thanksgiving dinner. This is the time to look at your kitchen and know what needs to be prepared, reheated, or saved to prepare up until the last minute. Not everything can go into the oven at the same time, so plan when oven essentials (i.e turkey, pies, stuffing) need to go in the oven. This is also a great time to decide whether you want your meal to be served in courses. By doing so, you can space out eating times and figure out at times food will need to be reheated and served. This will also take some pressure off of you and allow you to enjoy sometime with your guests.
5. The Grand Finale
Thanksgiving day has arrived and you have made it! The turkey should be in the oven roasting to a perfect golden brown. The panic should be about over, and your guests should be arriving. It’s simply time to relax and enjoy all the hard but delicious work you have put together, and see your guests marvel in your masterpiece.