A Squared: Top 10 Turkey Day Prep Tips

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top 10 Turkey Day Prep Tips

Our turkey circa 2011
We just got back from a very intense trip to the grocery store where we picked up all of our supplies for Thanksgiving week/weekend.  My mind is reeling now with everything that I need to get done in order to be ready for the big day.  This is the second Thanksgiving that I have hosted on my own, but I have assisted my mom with many holiday dinners over the past several years so I have some sanity saving tips to share with you (hint: a lot of them include planning ahead) as we begin this crazy and wonderful Thanksgiving week.  Some are a little random, but all are helpful!

1. Thaw your turkey! 
If you have not done so by now, you are probably going to want to do this very soon-- especially if you are serving a large turkey.  The Butterball website has a fantastic little page dedicated totally to the turkey including calculators to tell you exactly how long to cook your turkey, how long it will take to thaw it based on its weight, and what size bird to buy based on your number of guests (it told me I should get a 6 lb. turkey.  Do they even raise them that small?  That sounds like a turkey breast to me.  Or a chicken.  Guess we will have lots of leftovers!).  Check  out the website here.

2. Make a master shopping list.  This is one of my favorite tips.  There are so many ingredients to consider when planning this meal so get out your computer, all of your recipes, and start making a list of all of the ingredients you will need.  There are certain items like butter, flour, broth, salt, etc. that will be used in multiple dishes so add them up as you go so you know exactly how much you'll need for the whole meal.  When your list is done, check your pantry against each item to see what you already have on hand, and then take your trusty list to the store to fill in the rest of the blanks.

3. Prep as much as you can ahead of time.  In my opinion, a pumpkin pie tastes better after it has rested for a day so bake it ahead of time and that will free up time and oven space on Thanksgiving Day.  A lot of people peel potatoes the day before and leave them soaking in a pot of water until its time to boil them on Thanksgiving Day.  Cranberry sauce is an easy thing to make ahead of time and can be stored in your refrigerator.  Just make sure you bring it closer to room temperature before serving.  Also, chop all of your veggies the day before to save time and cutting boards.

4. Paper plates are your friends.  You'll likely want to pull out your good china for Thanksgiving dinner, but for breakfast and snacking throughout the day paper plates will save you cleanup time and dishwasher space later in the day.

5. Movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving Day.  Sometimes the house gets a little crowded with children or with people that are generally in your way.  Send them to the movies (a lot of great holiday blockbusters will come out for Thanksgiving) for a few hours while you're working on dinner.

6. Refrigerate your mixer bowl.  Homemade whipped cream is so delicious and pretty easy to make in your stand mixer.  Just make sure that you keep the bowl (and also the beaters) in the refrigerator-- overnight, if you can-- and remove just before you are ready to make your whipped cream.  It will make a huge difference in the texture.

7. Keep the drinks out of your kitchen.  If you don't, people will be in and out (and in your way) grabbing and fixing drinks throughout the day.  Keep beer, soda, white wines outside in a party bucket filled with ice or skip the bucket all together if it is cold enough.  Set up a bar (complete with glasses, cocktail napkins, mixers, garnishes, etc.) in your living room or even near the entry of your home so that guests feel welcome to serve themselves.

8. Serve low maintenance appetizers and snacks for afternoon grazing.  Veggie trays and antipasti platters are great things to keep out during the day on Thanksgiving for your guests to graze on.  They're substantial enough to tide people over until dinnertime, but require very little work from you.  And don't forget about your slow cooker!  Make a hot dip like spinach and artichoke or a chile con queso, plug it in (away from your workspace, of course), and forget about it.  Guests can serve themselves throughout the day and you don't have to worry about keeping things warm and taking up valuable space on your stovetop or in your oven.

9. Don't overplan for post-Thanksgiving meals.  You'll have tons of leftovers and chances are your family and guests will be just as happy having a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast or making turkey sandwiches for lunch as they would be if you got up and slaved over pancakes for them.  Just make sure you add bread, cheese, and condiments to your Thanksgiving shopping list.  And use those paper plates too!

10. Don't sweat the small stuff.  Something is bound to go wrong and that's okay.  I felt so prepared last year, but grossly underestimated my turkey cook time and it ended up pushing dinnertime back almost 2 hours.  All of my sides were done and getting cold and I got really frustrated.  My guests really didn't care though.  So at the end of the day, you just have to laugh about it and move on.  Enjoy the day, your friends and family, and go with the flow.

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