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How to have a Smooth and Successful Thanksgiving

Always check the specific recipe, but Thanksgiving recipes in general have plenty of make-ahead possibilities. Little steps taken ahead can really speed up putting a dish together for the big feast.

1. Start with a plan. Sketch a countdown chart, noting how long each dish takes, what can be made ahead, and what has to be accomplished simultaneously.

2. Desserts or components thereof (such as sauce, crust, pie filling, or topping) can often be made at least a day ahead, if not more.

3. Bread for stuffing can be cut up the day ahead and stored in a paper bag (remember: dried out bread is good for dressings!).

4. Aromatics for most dressings (onions, celery, mushrooms, etc.) can be cooked the day ahead and then tossed with the bread and baked on the big day.

You can safely thaw a frozen turkey in three different ways: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

Thawing in the refrigerator: The time required for thawing a turkey in the refrigerator depends on the weight of the turkey. For example, a 12-pound turkey will take up to two days to be completely thawed; a 16-pound turkey will take three days; and a 20-pound turkey will take four days. A good guideline is 24 hours/five pounds of frozen turkey.

Thawing in cold water: Put the bird in a waterproof bag. Check the original packaging material for cuts to insure that no water will get through if you are using this as your thawing bag. Allow six hours for a 12-pound turkey; nine hours for a 16-pound turkey; and 12 hours for a 20-pound turkey. Change the water every 30 minutes.

Thawing in a microwave: Frozen turkey can also be thawed in the microwave. Follow the directions of your microwave model. Use the DEFROST cycle if it is available. Normally, it takes four to seven minutes per pound to thaw a turkey. The bird should be defrosted unwrapped; use a turntable if available, or turn the turkey periodically during defrosting. Cook immediately after thawing.

Never thaw the turkey on the counter at room temperature. Thawing takes place from the outside in. At room temperature, this allows the bacteria on the surface of the bird to grow during the thawing process.

5. Have turkey as prepped as possible (salted, even spiced and rubbed with butter, in its pan) and ready to go in the oven. You can loosen the skin on the turkey by poking the end of a small spoon between the breast meat and skin, starting at the open cavity of the turkey. Move the spoon over the breast to separate the skin from the meat; take care not to rip the skin.

Do this on both sides of the breastbone. Place a spoonful of the herbs, butter, spices, etc. under the skin, and press it out to distribute it evenly over the breast.

6. Most cranberry sauces can be made several days in advance.

7. Salad dressings can often be made at least a day ahead.

8. Wash, dry, and wrap lettuce in paper towels, and store in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge until ready to toss.

9. Vegetables can be chopped, cheese grated, and spices or seasonings measured out the day before.

10. The roux (fat and flour mixture) for gravy can be done several hours ahead using butter instead of rendered fat ― just reheat and add stock and pan drippings.

11. Many appetizers ― or parts of them ― can be made ahead. Check recipe specifics.

12. Most soups benefit from being made a day before they're eaten.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Home | How to Live Green | Halloween Safety  | Pumpkin Carving | E-mail Etiquette
Lowest Gas Prices | Thanksgiving Tips | Black Friday Info | Christmas Trees
Mind Candy | Blog | Links | Contact Us