Cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be a stressful process if your kitchen isn’t prepped and cleaned properly. Make sure you have all the ingredients, cooking supplies and help you’ll need before going to bed Thanksgiving eve.
Do meal prep the day before.
Facing the supermarket Thanksgiving Day is a nightmare. Standing in line behind 20 people, each only buying the one thing they forget, is maddening. Have a list of ingredients for all your recipes and shop a few days or even a week ahead of time. Set groceries for the main dishes out the night before, and start any other meal prep possible. From cutting veggies to marinating the turkey, there’s plenty of time to be saved if you start cooking a day early.
Here are some meal prep ideas to get you started:
Have the right equipment too. Yes, you’ll need a turkey baster. Some quality baking dishes, and good-looking serving plates, bowls, and spoons. With so much time to practice, now is a good chance to learn which knife to use when. Consider your oven space and make a schedule for which dish will be cooked when. That way everything will be served hot and on time.
Find the right recipes.
Having a variety of dishes is important, especially when feeding a large group. Don’t make the green bean casserole on the back of the Frenchie’s fried onions can. Everybody does that. At least have a somewhat recipe from online. Check out the ratings first to make sure it’s a hit, and for any additional cooking tips from those who have tried it. Consider preferences and allergies that your friends and family may have, vegetarians for example.
Read up on baking too, especially if you’re not big into it year-round. With good baking and browning tips, and some broiling tips too, your recipes will come to life. If you're a baking pro, read up on your oven specs to master bake times.
Clean up quickly and efficiently.
Nobody wants to do a bunch of dishes after hours of meal prep, and a giant meal. In my family, the men do most the cleaning after the women commit to a full day of cooking. But regardless of how you divvy up the tasks – you’ll want to use effective cleaning methods to get the job done quickly.
I prefer nonstick bakeware to avoid scrubbing dirty pans for too long. Otherwise, just wrap your pans in foil so you can easily throw away the mess. Use square Tupperware containers to make the most of your fridge space. I also use Ziplocks whenever I can to help save space.
Remember to take care of your cooking equipment, it’s costly to replace and if cared for properly can last many years. I have a few pans in my closet I've been using since I moved out of my parent's house. Wash stainless steel safely and be careful what you put in the dishwasher. Wooden spoons and thin plastic are no-goes. When cleaning the oven or stove top, scrub thoroughly to avoid stinky smoke clouds the next time you cook.
Make soup and sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch.
Every year my family has plenty of Turkey leftover so my mom makes a big pot of soup and we all make sandwiches for lunch the next day. Pro tip: use Hawaiian rolls and make mini sandwiches. If you’re feeling adventurous, put mashed potatoes and gravy on the sandwiches too.
You’ll want to shop for the soup ingredients ahead of time as well. Rushing to the store the morning after Thanksgiving is never fun. The whole weekend should be spent relaxing with family, so stock up on enough food and activities to spend a few days at the house. If soup isn't your thing, check out dozens of other recipes to use up your leftover turkey.
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Use prep and cleaning tips pros have picked up along the way to save time. Everyone can pitch in a little help when it comes time to clean up, so delegate tasks to family members so everyone can get back to doing Thanksgiving traditions.