If you know me, you know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday mainly because I love the crispy skin on the turkey. I love when families come together to share a meal, spend time with one another and say thanks for everything they have earned in life. This is why it is so important that the day runs smoothly, and a big reason there is so much stress over the holiday. I have a few simple tips and tricks that will make this Thanksgiving a little more stress-free and afford you more time spent with the family, rather than stuck in the kitchen.
Preparation is the key. Start with making out a menu. This can be difficult since a lot of people can be picky eaters. Over the years I have determined that the best way to overcome this obstacle is quite simple. Make out your menu and inform your guests of what is being served. In the event there is an item missing from the menu that they traditionally eat; they are more than welcome to bring the dish with them to add to the service. I have found most people feel obligated to bring at least a little something when invited over for dinner and having them bring their preferred food item also gives them a chance to share their culinary skills and provides a little more variety to your Thanksgiving Day spread.
Once the menu is done, create a shopping list and dedicate a day to just shopping for the Thanksgiving meal. I know a separate shopping trip sounds like a hassle, but there is nothing worse than missing that key ingredient on the big day when the stores may be closed. If you can’t make a separate trip, be prepared to a few extra items on your regular shopping day. Double and triple check the list and make sure you pick up everything you need.
Once you have your groceries, the time to truly prepare has begun. If you picked up a frozen turkey, I recommend starting the defrosting process about three days before the bird goes in the oven. I use an ice chest filled with water. If you use this method, make sure the water stays cold, adding ice if needed and change out the water regularly. Most turkeys will thaw within 24 hours and can be moved to the refrigerator (I almost forgot, cleaning out the fridge and making room before the big day is very important as well). It is very important that the turkey be fully defrosted before the big day.
Over the few days before Thanksgiving, many dishes can be prepared ahead of time. The stuffing or dressing can be made the day before so it’s ready to go into the turkey that morning. Cranberry sauce and desserts can be made a few days ahead of time, along with any cold dishes which may be served alongside the main course. You can even do a make-ahead gravy (recipe to follow) that simply needs to be warmed before serving. The key is the division of labor, if you spread the effort over a few days you will have less stress on the big day and more time to spend with the family as well.