Challenging. Grueling. Exhausting. Just plain hard. Preparing the Thanksgiving feast is a tough job. It’s a job that I now have greater respect for.
I don’t have the responsibility of creating the Thanksgiving meal so I thought it might be fun to cook a mock Thanksgiving dinner for my hubby and me. Boy, was “fun” the wrong word.
As I was slaving in the kitchen, I discovered some tactics that work and some that should never be used. I’ve definitely learned from my experience and I hope you can too.
Get comfortable, you’re going to be here a while
Before you step foot in the kitchen, put on some comfy clothes and shoes. Your body will thank you later.
I walked into the kitchen wearing a sweater, a jacket, jeans and boots. Not long into the chopping and sautéing was I tearing my jacket off as sweat pilled on my brow. I hadn’t thought to take my boots off. I got swept up in the adrenaline and by the time I noticed my feet, it was too late. They were killing me.
Once the meal was ready to be served I was wearing a tank top and no shoes. It’s best to start off in comfortable clothing so you don’t get hot or your don’t feet hurt. You can avoid those problems altogether.
Come up with a game plan
Get a list of all the dishes you’ll be making and sort them by whether they require the oven or stove top. Then, based on cook times and oven temperatures, put your dishes in order of when they should be started.
I also listed out which cookware and utensils I would need for each dish so I could make sure I didn’t double-book anything. This also allows you to see where you can use a dish twice to cut down on cleaning.
Planning ahead like this helps the process flow smooth. You know you won’t forget anything, you won’t accidentally start a dish too late, and you know exactly which dish you need to start next.
Many hands make light work
It’s always best to have help when taking on a task this huge. All those little steps that don’t seem like they’ll take a long time really add up and before you know it, you’re an hour behind schedule.
Recruit children to scrub potatoes or measure ingredients. Ask Aunt Betty to chop carrots, onions, apples, etc. There’s a job for everyone.
Obviously, you will only want to enlist the amount of people you can fit in your kitchen. Mine is what you call a step-saver kitchen. You stand at the sink and can reach the oven and refrigerator without moving. Needless to say, there’s really only room for one person at a time so I had no option but to plow through on my own.
Clean as you go
It’s so easy to use a spatula, fork, pot or cutting board and just toss it in the sink to deal with later. Then you look over at the sink and it’s piled high with dirty dishes that will take forever to get through.
Cleaning as you go has two benefits. First, you won’t have a mountain of dishes to clean after you’ve just spent hours cooking. You will also be able to re-use dishes, saving you from dirtying everything in your cupboard.
You can either clean each item after you use it or clean multiple dishes every so often. Whichever way you choose, you’ll be happy to stare at an empty sink when you’re all done.
I don’t know if it’s me or every single recipe out there, but I know that I need to double the prep time listed on the recipe because it always takes me so much longer than what’s stated. Is it just me? If this sounds like you, make sure you take that into account when scheduling your day.
Speaking of scheduling your day, it’s so important to take time out for yourself. Even if it’s just 5 minutes every hour to stretch or sit down, this is so important for your stamina.
Remember that you are not a machine. Stay hydrated. Eat if you’re hungry. Check in with yourself regularly to see what you need so you can perform your best.
Good luck to you all this week and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
What tactics do you use when cooking the Thanksgiving feast?