Holiday Cooking Tips and Tricks
My friend Stephanie, who has been a caterer for years and has had a lot of experience feeding a large number of people recently shared her best tips and tricks for feeding a crowd during the holidays.
You may still have a minor panic attack at some point during the holidays, but with planning and preparation, hopefully it won’t be over the food!
Make a Menu:
A plan is the number one ingredient for stress-free holiday meals…which means make a menu.
A few weeks out, go through your recipes and figure out how many people are coming and make a detailed list of what you are going to make.
Will you need two pumpkin pies, or will one be enough? What size turkey will you need?
Will someone be upset if you don’t make Aunt Ethel’s green bean surprise?
-Write it all out. This also makes it a lot easier to recruit cooking helpers. You can point them toward the exact recipes you want them to bring.
-If you’re feeling overzealous you can make a pretty printed menu for the day of the meal. A posted menu can help hold off questions from hungry guests.
Make a Schedule of Events:
A relaxing meal is all about timing. When making your menu, figure out what you can do weeks, days, hours even minutes ahead. It’s very helpful to have a schedule for how the day will play out and what needs to happen, especially when it comes to dishes that need to go in the oven. In addition to planning your menu, it’s just important to make sure you have all the cookware and kitchen tools you’ll need to prepare dinner.
Plan two shopping trips:
Once you have your menu and recipes all mapped out, make two shopping lists. Two lists?! Yes, and here’s why: because chances are you are going to forget something…for sure…no matter how thorough you are. So you might as well use that second, last minute trip to your advantage.
The first list is for nonperishable items, things that will keep for a week or more. Be sure to add the frozen turkey to the first list because you will need a few days to defrost it.
The second list is for items like fresh produce that need to be picked up a day or two before.
Stick to the Basics:
Thanksgiving is not the time to try out new untested recipes. Nostalgia plays a huge roll in holiday memories, especially the food…and music. These big meals are not the time to try tofurkey or healthy salads and sides. Save those recipes for the weeks before and after the holidays.
When it comes to new to you recipes, give them a test run at least one time before serving it for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Keep it Simple:
Limit side dishes to 4-5. You don’t need four desserts, three will be fine. You don’t need three different kinds of veggies, people will probably only take a little bit of one anyway. It can be so tempting to go huge and make a ton of side dishes, but it’s so much easier to make large quantities of a few recipes than to make moderate quantities of a bunch of recipes.
Coolers are great to keep cold things cold (even without ice), freeing up fridge space.
Coolers can also keep hot things hot, like the turkey or side dishes, freeing up precious oven space if needed.
All of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes here.
Are you already in holiday meal planning mode?