Hosting Thanksgiving can be stressful, but cooking for your family and friends can also be immensely rewarding. If you’re lucky enough to be having Thanksgiving at your house this year, take some time to plan ahead so you can enjoy the occasion. Making some basic kitchen preparations in the days before Thanksgiving can help ensure the day will proceed without a hitch. Below are some tips will help make preparing the big meal even easier.
1. Make turkey stock in advance.
Homemade turkey stock is the perfect substitution for any Thanksgiving dish that requires chicken broth or stock. All you’ll need are some turkey wings, vegetables, and a few hours to simmer the resulting brew. Then you can store the resulting broth for up to four days in the fridge or freeze it for several months before using.
Master tip: Make the gravy ahead of time using your turkey stock and just reheat before serving.
2. Get a meat thermometer
Never rely on the pop up turkey thermometer! Instead, purchase a good meat thermometer and verify that the bird reaches an USDA-recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees before serving.
Master tip: Spring for an instant-read thermometer for less fuss and more accurate readings on the big day.
3. Make a cooking schedule.
If you don’t often cook for a crowd, take some time and create a written schedule that includes all of your prep work and cooking times. That way you’ll know exactly when to put the turkey in the oven, start prepping side dishes, and reheat precooked food.
Master tip: Create a seating chart, but don’t stress if there’s a few last-minute alterations when everyone sits down to eat.
4. Chop, peel, and dice beforehand.
Prep all of your vegetables before the big day. This step includes chopping and peeling potatoes, washing lettuce for a salad, and chopping vegetables for side dishes. Doing this prep ahead of time also ensures you’re not in a rush while you’re handling sharp knives.
Master tip: Think about making some side dishes ahead of time to save even more time on the big day.
5. Clean as you go.
It can be tempting to leave all of the cooking dishes until after the dinner, but it’s often easier to clean in small steps. Keep a sink full of hot, sudsy water so you can clean commonly used kitchen utensils immediately after use. That way, they’ll be ready for use when you need them again.
Master tip: Enlist a family member or friend to wash dishes and clean kitchen countertops as necessary, so you can focus on the cooking.