As Thanksgiving approaches, home cooks everywhere are having nightmares of overcooked birds, wonky thermometers and missing ingredients. But there’s no need to worry! These five easy tips will keep you prepped and ready to take on the turkey in your kitchen.
Rather than rushing (and most likely forgetting) parts of your ideal Thanksgiving itinerary, start your holiday prep about two weeks in advance. Make note of what ingredients you need, calculate the cooking time of every dish and start planning your home décor and table settings. Some dishes, like pies and vegetables, can be prepared a day before Thanksgiving and then reheated. Assembling these components ahead of time will not only save you time, but will also save room in your oven for the turkey.
Write Out Your Menu
When it comes to planning major holiday get-togethers, to-do lists and menus are a must. Writing down exactly what ingredients you need ahead of time will save you time and effort at the grocery store. You can even install a chalkboard in your kitchen for quick and easy referencing. Chef Ina Garten recommends creating a grocery list organized by ingredient categories to make store visits as speedy as possible. Also, when devising your menu, try to stay realistic about what you can whip up in a limited amount of time. Rather than creating complicated dishes or testing out new recipes, stick to simpler dishes that require a few quality ingredients. Staying true to a few fool-proof dishes will help you avoid any disasters in the kitchen.
Brighten Up Mantels with Festive Décor
When friends and family gather in your home’s kitchen or Great Room, dazzle them with a warm and welcoming display around the fireplace. Festive, seasonal accents, like pumpkins, foliage and flowers, along with candles and other rustic elements will create the perfect ambience for your Thanksgiving gathering.
Keep Centerpieces Simple
If you’re designing a Thanksgiving centerpiece this year, remember, a little goes a long way! You can create a stunning holiday table setting with basic materials, like fresh fruit, vases and candles. For a quick and easy solution to festive decorating, try fashioning a deconstructed cornucopia by placing seasonal fall fruit, such as pomegranates, apples and pears, in large glass vases. Wooden bowls and platters make a perfectly rustic backdrop to showcase small pumpkins, pinecones, flowering branches and other fall favorites.
Know Your Turkey
Don’t be afraid of the big, bad turkey! While many home chefs dread this part of Thanksgiving dinner, mastering turkey prep is as easy as knowing some basic mathematics. The golden rule of turkey selection is one pound per person, so that equates to an approximately 15 to 20-pound turkey for larger parties. The weight of the bird and the amount of stuffing will affect cooking time, but, luckily, Real Simple designed a handy chart to help you calculate exact timing for your turkey. Typically, unstuffed turkeys at around 20 pounds will require around four-and-a-half hours of cooking time, with additional time for resting. This Bon Appetit Thanksgiving turkey recipe suggests letting the turkey brine overnight for added flavor. If you’re defrosting a turkey, be sure to start two days before the big day, lest you end up with a partially frozen bird. Pro tip: To avoid over or undercooking your turkey, invest in a digital thermometer that can be read without opening the oven.
Now, keep these tips in mind, take a deep breath and have an amazing Thanksgiving dinner!