Top 10 Thanksgiving Tips
Want to learn more about great holiday cooking? Take a CIA holiday cooking, baking, or entertaining classes.
1. Plan your week.
Make a timeline that starts several days or even several weeks out that includes shopping and preparation. Some things can be made ahead and frozen, and some products can be purchased in advance.
2. Map out your day.
Make a timeline that accounts for every 15 minutes of preparation. Sometimes it is better to begin at the end and work backwards so you know when you need to start. Remember to leave time to clean up, and to take a break during the day.
3. Think about your equipment.
If you have a small oven, do not make too many things that require baking. Think about your refrigerator and freezer space. If you live in a cold region, the garage, shed, or deck may be a good source of additional refrigeration.
4. Remember food safety.
Cross contamination is a big deal around Thanksgiving. Keep a container of bleach water (about 1 quart of water with 1 capful of bleach) with a disposable cleaning cloth like a Handi Wipe available. Wipe your work area in between tasks. Remember to wash your hands in between tasks as well, and change the bleach water every hour or two.
5. Break it down.
To speed cooking, break down the bird. Removing the legs from the bird will help it cook faster and allow you to take out the breast when it is done (usually before the legs are).
6. Invest in a good probe thermometer.
(Or get two: one for the legs, one for the breast). A probe thermometer will allow you to monitor the internal temperature of the bird while it’s cooking, to avoid guessing. Remove the parts when they reach 165 degrees F.
7. Remember resting.
The bird (or parts) should rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to settle and prevent them from running out during carving. To keep the bird warm during resting, tent it with foil (do not tightly seal it with the foil or the bird will continue to cook).
8. Be creative with sides.
The traditional stuffing and vegetables are nice, but don’t be afraid to be more contemporary. Use additional flavorings like olives and tomatoes for a bit of Mediterranean flair, or ginger and soy sauce for an Asian inspiration.
9. Consider smaller.
If you don’t like too many leftovers, consider a large roasting chicken or capon rather than a turkey.
Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to each bring a piece of the dinner. If your guest list is international, ask them to bring something from their culture to celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving: many people, from all walks of life, sitting together and sharing a meal.
by CIA Chef Kamen