How to Prep for Your Easiest Thanksgiving Yet Gallery
How to Prep for Your Easiest Thanksgiving Yet Gallery
Just the thought of hosting and preparing a Thanksgiving day meal can cause some people to spin out of control and break out into a cold sweat. "The turkey! The stuffing! The sides! The pies!" these people clamor and cry, making such a fuss and hullaballoo you'd think the sky was falling. And really, there's absolutely no need for this sort of behavior.
If you recognize some of these melodramatic tendencies within yourself, do not panic. Quell that feeling before it has a chance to emerge. With the right approach, Thanksgiving can be a day filled with good food, and, though there may be family members present that bring with them an inevitable dose of stress, you can rest assured that the food will nothing but stress-free.
From the right way to plan the meal as a whole to prepping individual courses in the most sensible way, making dishes ahead of time, peeling and chopping ingredients and storing everything the right way, these tips are sure to save you time and energy on the day itself. So don't delay, read on a discover how to prep for your easiest Thanksgiving yet!
Make a Game Plan
Before you do anything, sit down and plan. Write out your menu, bookmark or print out the recipes you will be using and write a detailed shopping list. Make sure you have a balanced number of dishes that can cook on the stove top as well as the oven. It's all very well being organized leading up to Thanksgiving, but if you suddenly discover you don't have enough oven space, things certainly won't feel any easier.
Be Organized in the Kitchen
Before you begin cooking and prepping up a storm, make sure you are organized. Get your mise en place all ready to go. Make sure you have all of the equipment you will be using, make sure it is all clean and ready to use. Need to grab something from a really high shelf or a box in the basement? Do it before you begin cooking, you don't want to spend half of you day running back and forth to grab different essential cooking utensils.
Once you start chopping, peeling and cooking, make sure you are labeling everything! As you finish one task, put it away and label it so you can easily identify it on the big day.
Store Things Properly
Storing things properly goes hand in hand with labeling and being organized. Group containers together if they are all being used in the same dish. Store any raw proteins on the bottom of the fridge in leak-proof containers. There's nothing more frustrating that opening the fridge on Thanksgiving morning only to find that all your pre-prepared food has been contaminated by a gross, leaky container!
With turkey, stuffing and all the rest, it's no surprise that most people might not give Thanksgiving Day breakfast much thought. Maybe it's just a round of toast or a piece of fruit. But if you have a big family or some early morning guests you can easily prep something delicious the night before and have a tasty and festive meal that will tide everyone over until the afternoon! Try making overnight French toast or a savory breakfast casserole. If pancakes are more your thing, measure out the dry and wet ingredients (keep them in separate containers) and simply mix everything together in the morning!
Drinks and Appetizers
For super easy pre-dinner nibbles and drinks, offer marinated olives (you can make your own or buy some already made) offer cheeses, dips and crudités (which can be cut the day before). Have a drinks area set up the day before so you aren't rushing around minutes before guests arrive all in a fluster and doing a million things at once. Ask a reliable family member or guest to be in charge of drinks so you can get on with the rest of it.
Soups and Starters
If you are serving a soup, making it ahead of time is a no-brainer. Soups always freeze beautifully, so you can make one weeks before Thanksgiving and check it off your to-do list early on! If you are serving deviled eggs, hard-boil your eggs the day before, or perhaps you are planning on having a delicious caramelized onion tart with Gruyère (always a hit at most dinner tables) use store-bought puff pastry, caramelize the onions a day or two before and have your cheese grated and ready to go.
Ahh, the bird, the turkey, the main event! People get flustered and anxious at the thought of cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving, but with the right approach it needn't cause any worry. Decide how you are going to season and cook it well in advance. Brining a turkey is a great way to ensure it stays succulent and full of flavor. If you decide to go down that road, make the brine ahead of time and just submerge the turkey the night before. When the big day finally arrives, cook it according to your favorite recipe!
If you aren't brining your turkey, you can still prepare any aromatics, like onions, carrots, rosemary and thyme, in advance - cut and peel everything and store it in a container, ready to stuff in the cavity in one fell swoop. You can also make delicious compound butters to smear under the skin of the turkey for even more delicious-ness.
Get a start on the gravy by making some stock in advance. If you roast a chicken between now and Thanksgiving, don't waste any time in making some homemade stock. It will make your gravy come together effortlessly and taste so much better than if you were to use the pre-made stuff. If your turkey comes with giblets (you lucky thing!) roast them and make the gravy in its entirety the day before and just heat it up before you sit down to eat. It really couldn't be easier!
To prep for your stuffing, cut your bread into cubes a few days out, store it in a paper bag and let it stale away, because, hey, it's stuffing! Chop and mix everything together the day before and hey presto, you are good to go. On the day of, just stuff your turkey, put the rest in a casserole dish and that's it!
If you are having roasted carrots, a parsnip or two, or maybe some delicious roasted butternut squash or pumpkin, make sure you peel and chop everything the day before. You can even season it with olive oil, herbs and spices (though wait until you cook everything to add salt, as it can make some vegetables go a bit mushy). While you're at it, clean any Brussels sprouts you may be enjoying (not a root veg, true but oh well). The more you can clean, peel, cut and drizzle with olive oil ahead of time, the easier things will be when it comes to cooking.
Here's another no-brainer - make your cranberry sauce, if you aren't buying some already made (no shame in that!), at least the day before Thanksgiving.
Salads and Dressings
Most salad dressing can be made a few days in advance and stored in a jar in the fridge until needed (also a great tip if you like meal prepping and having a weeks' worth of salads). When it comes to the salad itself, wash and dry leaves the day before and store them in a plastic bag, lightly wraped in some paper towel that will absorb any excess moisture and keep the leaves lovely and fresh.
Did you know you could make mashed potatoes ahead of time? Follow your favorite recipe and store it in a microwave-safe container covered in plastic wrap. When it's time to heat it up, just microwave it on a medium heat , stirring occasionally until it is heated all the way through, which should take about 15 minutes.
If you don't have a microwave, never fear! You can also heat mashed potatoes up in the oven in a wonderful casserole-y way. A few knobs of butter, a drizzle of olive oil and a hot oven will transform your cold mashed potatoes into something absolutely fabulous.
If you still have suspicions and simple have to make mashed potatoes on the day itself, you can still peel and cut your potatoes the night before, cover them with water and store them in the fridge to save some precious time the next day.
Here's an easy category, right? Casseroles have a solid reputation for being easy to throw together ahead of time. From sweet potato casserole to green bean and more, definitely make them ahead of time and add any last-minute topping like marshmallows or crispy onion once they are partially reheated.
When it comes to Thanksgiving dessert, pies reign supreme. Luckily they can easily be made in advance (or even bought if that's what you fancy) to take a bit of pressure off the morning of Thanksgiving. Make dough ahead of time and freeze it, either in a neat dish or even an already-formed in a pie shell. You can measure out ingredients for fillings that only need to be mixed together without a thought and then baked in the oven. You can even make a whole pie, like apple or pumpkin - just bake, cool and freeze the whole thing and defrost it the night before in the fridge, which is why pies are just one of the perfect make-ahead dishes you need this Thanksgiving.
More From The Daily Meal:
Things You Didn't Know You Could Make With Canned Pumpkin
The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide
25 Ways to Cook a Turkey
Every Recipe You'll Need to Get You Through the Holidays