Our game plan to pull off Thanksgiving without a hitch
Even if you’re someone who’s comfortable in the kitchen, Thanksgiving’s a big cooking day.
It’s great if you’ve been doing as much as you can in the days leading up to Turkey Day. But even if you just woke up this morning and thought, yikes, Thursday is Thanksgiving, don’t panic. We’ve got a game plan that will ease the stress.
If there are ingredients you need to pick up today, get to the grocery store as early as possible. You weren’t the only one who put off the trip until today. Not by a long shot. Did you remember these: bouillon cubes (for the gravy), twine for trussing the turkey, whipping cream?
If you’ve been defrosting a frozen turkey, check on the progress. Don’t worry if it’s still partially frozen. Put in a clean sink and cover with cold water. Replace the water every 30 minutes; you’ll be surprised how quickly the bird thaws.
Kids home from school? Spouse got the day off? Enlist them to set the table.
No matter how well you season your food, someone’s going to ask for salt. Make sure to refill the salt and pepper shakers.
Got enough ice? Remember to turn the ice machination on in the freezer or go out (better yet, send a family member) for bagged ice.
Chill your beverages.
Write out your menu. Figure out the timetable for everything. If everything you need in the oven won’t fit at the same time, figure out alternatives (slow cookers, small roasters, woks, etc.).
Now that you know what’s cooking, get as many appetizers, side dishes and desserts done. (Make that cranberry sauce!) Clean the lettuce, chop up the toppings and store them in separate resealable bags or containers. If there is a dish with some stage that can’t be done until tomorrow, prepare it up to that point. Put the serving utensil each dish needs atop it in the frig.
Did you make something ahead of time and freeze it? Good plan! Now move it from the freezer to the frig so it can thaw.
Cut up and put in separate containers the ingredients for your stuffing. (Mixing now could cause cross-contamination.)
Where’s your carving knife? Pull it out and put it in an easily accessible spot.
Pastry chef Paula Haney says the pie crust works better if it is made the day before. Prepare it. Think how much time that will save you tomorrow.
Set aside containers that you will use in the cleanup. Do you need to buy some so you can share leftovers with guests?
Use the timer on your cellphone to remind you of tasks: when to put the pies in, etc. With so many distractions, it’s easy to forget when the rolls come out, and once they’re burnt ...
Check your timetable to make sure you have included dishes guests may be bringing. Note not only when to put things in the oven, but also when to put on the table.
If you’re stuffing the turkey, mix ingredients right before bird goes into the oven.
Figure out when the turkey’s going in the oven. A 12- to 16-pound turkey takes 41/2 to 51/2 hours if stuffed; 4 to 5 hours if unstuffed, for example. When the meat thermometer registers 180 degrees in thigh and 165 degrees in breast and stuffing, it is done.
Put the appetizers and drinks out somewhere that are not in your line of action.
This is the one day you might consider wearing an apron.
If something goes wrong, call the Butterball Talk Line: (800) BUTTERBALL. They are trained to answer even the oddest of queries. They’re pleasant and unruffled, which will calm you down and remind you, Thanksgiving’s not about perfection. It’s about family and friends getting together to share a meal.