Thanksgiving Cooking Tips
Thanksgiving is just right around the corner and with that means lots of us will spend hours in the kitchen! But remember that there are ways you can cut down on the mess. We don’t want you to spend days in the kitchen, but with these tips we can get it down to hours which will be nice. Here are some great Thanksgiving Cooking Tips to help you celebrate this Thanksgiving Holiday!
Thanksgiving Menu Planning
- Plan your menu, and allow room in your fridge.
- Stock up on parchment paper, waxed paper, plastic wrap, foil, baking cups, paper towel and containers for leftovers.
- Clean off your counters so you have lots of room to work.
- Keep it as simple as you can.
- When thawing turkey for the holidays, be aware of the bacteria zone – 40°F—140°F – where bacteria will multiply quickly. The outer layer of your bird will reach this temperature at around the 2-hour mark –even if the interior needs a day or more to thaw.
- To avoid bacteria growth, always thaw your turkey in the refrigerator or in a tightly-sealed plastic bag placed in cold water.
- You can thaw a turkey in your microwave – but if you can’t follow the manufacturer’s directions (e.g. your turkey exceeds the maximum recommended size), it’s not safe to do so.
- Allow 24 hours per 5lbs, when thawing turkey in the refrigerator – providing your refrigerator is set just below 40°F.
- When thawing a turkey in cold water, follow the 30-minute rule: Change the water with fresh, cold water every 30 minutes and allow 30 minutes per pound.
- If you soak your turkey in any sort of brine solution in the refrigerator, be aware that it may give the meat a pinkish look (but it’s not undercooked!)
- When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, don’t rely on its plastic bag: Put it in a bowl or on a baking tray to ensure nothing drips onto foods below.
- Be on your guard against cross-contamination, when preparing holiday poultry. Never chop vegetables on any surface that has contained your turkey: Thoroughly wash and clean all cutting boards and utensils before preparing other foods.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure your turkey is properly – and safely – cooked at 165°F interior temperature. (Don’t cook in an oven whose temperature is any lower than 325°F.)
- Follow safe practices with your stuffing, too. Insert your stuffing mixture right before cooking, salting the body cavity interior first. And check your stuffing also with your thermometer: It, too, should reach 165 degrees.
- Remember that stuffing your holiday poultry will increase cooking time. (Figure on a minimum of 3 hours for an 8lb bird; 3 ½ hours for a 12lb. bird; 4 ¼ hours for a 15lb, give or take 20 minutes – use your thermometer to ensure interior temperature has reach 165°F throughout.)
- When carving your turkey, be sure to start with the proper, nicely sharp carving utensils. Check them right now – don’t wait until the bird is ready to be served to discover they’re dull!
Skip the Pre-Stuffed Bird
Never buy pre-stuffed birds – the stuffing is just too susceptible to bacteria.
- Let turkeys and other large birds sit for 15 minutes before removing the stuffing.
- Peel potatoes ahead of time! They won’t discolor and turn brownish at the edges if you store them in a bowl or pan of cold water in your fridge. (They’ll keep for up to one day.)
- Be sure to thoroughly wash all salad greens in cold water before serving – even if the package says “pre-washed”. Pat dry with paper towel.
- It’s tempting to “just leave” all the dishes for “tomorrow” – but clean up after yourself in the kitchen as much as you can during the preparation process. Take the extra few seconds to put containers back in cupboards, jars left in the fridge, etc.
- If you have trouble removing burned food or fat from the bottom of your roasting pan, scrape out as much as you can and let cool. Fill it with cold water, adding 4 tbsp. baking soda. Soak overnight. The next day, bring your pan of water and baking soda to the boil on the top of the stove and simmer at a low heat for half an hour. Your roast pan should magically come clean.
- Be sure to refrigerate all cooked, leftover food within 2 hours of serving. (Leaving food sitting out on the dining room table or buffet for too long is one of the major causes of holiday tummy troubles.)
- When re-heating holiday leftovers in the microwave, be sure to let it sit, covered, for at least two minutes before serving. The microwave heats unevenly, so this will help ensure it finishes cooking without leaving areas at less than the safe 165°F temperature you need.