Thanksgiving Tips

Posted by Debra Carmona on 24 November 2014 | Add a Comment

Thanksgiving Tips for a Less Stressful Day

Thanksgiving preparation can be a big job especially if you have company coming. It is typically the biggest meal we Americans prepare. It can feel a bit overwhelming if you are not prepared or if this is the first time you are hosting the event in your home. If you are like me you do not cook turkeys on a regular basis so every time Thanksgiving rolls around you have to look up some of the details about thawing and baking turkeys. I have included some thawing and baking charts here to make that task easier for you and also for myself.

 

Over the years I have learned a few things that have helped to make the day less stressful for me. The hostess should not feel stressed because guests will feel it. The guests will enjoy their time and the meal so much more when the host is at ease. You will also enjoy the day more if you do not feel stressed.

 

Pre-Planning before Thanksgiving Day

  • Buy your food products ahead of time maybe a little each week instead of waiting until the last minute to do the big grocery shopping.
  • Plan your decorations and table setting weeks in advance of the event
  • Start cleaning your home a week or two in advance to get the major jobs such as cleaning the oven, the refrigerator and the bathrooms. You can always do a last minute dusting just before guests start arriving.
  • If you can prepare breakfast ready-to-eat foods the night before the big day so the family and early guests can begin the day with some delicious treats to satisfy them while they wait for the big meal. Check out my breakfast foods.
Bacon Twists Cinnamon Rolls
 Bacon Twists
Cinnamon Rolls

 

  • To give yourself more time by planning the big meal later in the day such as the dinner or supper hour. That also allows traveling guests more time to arrive and maybe not feeling so rushed.
  • Thanksgiving time is NOT the best time to clean the oven. Try to do that a week or two before. BUT if you didn’t get to it because of your busy schedule and it desperately needs a cleaning so the guests will not wonder what that burning smell is do NOT use a harsh chemical to clean it. Use a paste made from Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide. It really works great.

 

Cool Lime Pie Peanutbutter Cream Pie
Cool Lime Pie
Peanutbutter Cream Pie

 

  • Frozen desserts can be made several days or even weeks in advance to cut down on the business of the big day.
  • Make lists and prioritize the lists: Grocery List, Menu List,  Cleaning Lists, & Baking Schedule. What does not get done is not so important because it is near the bottom of the list.
  • Some desserts that include pudding may need to be made the morning of the big day or the evening just before the big day.
  • Whenever possible recurit help from other family members.
  • Get plenty of rest so you are not tired out when it is time to entertain the guests.
  • Allow enough time to thaw the turkey and/or ham

Turkey Thawing Times Chart
 Quick Thaw Turkey Chart

If you forgot to begin thawing early you can do a quick thaw. Place the turkey or ham in the sink with cold water with ice. They will thaw faster with cold water than warm water plus it is safer to keep it cool. Do not allow the water to become warm. Rotate the position of the bird or ham every so often and change the water as needed to keep it cool. Once thawed place back in the refrigerator until you are ready to prepare it.

 

  • Plan ahead the time needed to bake the turkey or the ham. I usually do both because the Ham is the family favorite and turkey is tradition. We like to eat the ham hot out of the oven so I bake the turkey first then the ham last. If you are blessed with two ovens you can cook them both at the same time. Depending on the time you plan to serve the meal you could bake the turkey during the night while you sleep or get up early in the morning to start it. A 20 lb. turkey unstuffed takes about 5 hours to bake, or 5 1/2 hours stuffed.  {Allow extra half hour if stuffed}
Turkey Roasting Time Chart
 Allow additional 1/2 to 1 hour of extra time for a stuffed turkey

 

  • Turkeys or hams could be prepared in the pan, set in the refrigerator over night ready to place in oven in the morning or when you are ready to begin baking them.
  • If you forgot to buy the large plastic turkey roasting bags, no problem. You can use a plain brown paper grocery sack instead. Just butter the inside of it thoroughly, place the bird inside, fold the edges in and staple shut. I have used this method many times. The butter does two things: adds to the flavor and juiciness of the turkey and prevents the bag from catching fire.
  • I usually plan for the main meat to be done 30 minutes before the meal is served. That give me time to cook the vegetables, finish up the potatoes, and make the gravy so I can serve a hot meal.

 

Ham Baking Time Chart
 

 

On Thanksgiving Day

  • It is helpful to have ready-to-eat breakfast foods for the family and guests in the morning so you do not have to prepare yet more foods on an already busy day. I prefer the home baked kind.
  • When preparing the turkey, do not forget to remove the bag of heart, liver, and neck that is usually stored inside the cavity of the bird. I remove the meat from the turkey neck and stew these items to collect the broth to add to my stuffing. I feed the parts to my cats afterwards.

  • Turnips can also be tossed in with the turkey to bake in turkey juices than added to the stuffing later.
Dinner Rolls
 Hot dinner rolls

 

  • As nice as it is to have fresh breads right out of the oven if you do not have double ovens it is OK to bake the breads the day before or on Thanksgiving morning.
  • Place your turkey on the lowest oven rack. You may need to remove a rack to allow enough space for the bird. You do not want the bag to touch the top burners of the oven. Plastic bags will expand as they heat up.
  • While the turkey or ham is roasting prepare your veggetable dishes or casserole that will go into the oven after the turkey is removed.
Table Setting Thanksgiving Table Decor
 Set the table while the turkey is roasting
Thanksgiving Table Decorations

 

  • Set the table while the turkey or ham is roasting. Gather serving utensils. Plan where you will set out the food. Buffet style usually works well on the countertop or an extra portable table if you do not have a buffet table.
  • While the turkey or ham is finishing up prepare your drinks. Have them in the refrigerator ready to serve.
  • Check for doneness, temperature on meat thermometer should be 170° for breast/ 180° thigh. If turkey is stuffed test in center of stuffing, temperature should be 165°
  • Save the drippings from the turkey and /or ham to make the gravy.
  • The ham bone can be saved to add to split pea soup. It can be frozen for a later date. I often let my dog have it for his Thanksgiving feast.

  • It is so nice to have a thankful husband that enjoys all the treasures from your kitchen to come behind you washing dishes throughout the day multiple times so you can keep on cooking. My children used to do that when they lived at home, each one taking a turn.

 

Crunch Time

Crunch Time is when the Turkey or Ham comes out of the oven. That is where you have a small window of time to get several things done to finish up the meal. The turkey needs to be carved, the potatoes need to be cooked and mashed, vegetable dishes and remaining caseroles need to be baked now that the oven is free, bread may need to be baked (if not done previously) and the gravy needs to be made.

  • Let the turkey sit 15 minutes after removing from oven before carving. Ask the husband to carve the turkey and/or ham. Make it his traditional duty.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your early guests to help during this critical time. Doing things together builds comradery and can be a great time to fellowship or get to know new members of the family or to spend time with those you do not get to see as often. Most people would rather help than sit around waiting anyways. Including them helps them feel more a part of the event. Besides you might learn new ways to do things.
  • As entres are done and removed from the oven cover them with foil to keep everything warm as you get the rest of the food on the serving table. Don't forget to include serving spoons and knives.
  • The mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy are usually the last things I have to do in order to serve a hot thanksgiving meal. The dressing and gravy are the two items that take the least amount of time to prepare, which is why they are are are the tail end of duties.

 

Updated Tips with New Appliances

This year I have added a few new appliances to make the Thanksgiving meal a little easier.

 

  • I have learned how to use the Crock Pot or Slow Cooker to make the mashed potatoes which cuts down on the above "crunch time". But you must start the potatoes much earlier as they take longer to cook. It takes 7 minutes preparation time. Allow four hours for cooking. Here is a great recipe
  • I am planning on cooking my turkey in the Turkey Roaster  which frees up the oven so I can bake the ham in the oven while the turkey is roasting in the turkey roaster.



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