Planning Ahead Helps Holiday Cooks
Posted: November 13, 2012
A little advance planning goes a long way to ensure the day goes smoothly.
Below are some tips for making some preparations for your holiday meal.
A week or two before the holiday, clean out your refrigerator and freezer to make room for the extra food you’ll be preparing. Discard expired and spoiled foods. Clean with a solution of 1 tablespoon of baking soda per quart of water, or equal parts of vinegar and water, or hot water and liquid dishwashing detergent. Scrub visible mold using a solution of 3 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. Use the same solution to clean the rubber seal around the door.
While cleaning out your frig, clean and sanitize your kitchen counters and sinks. This should also be done after handling the raw turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Use paper towels to wipe up meat juices. Wash the surfaces with hot soapy water, rinse and sanitize using 1 1/2 teaspoons of bleach to 1 quart of warm water. When cleaning your kitchen consider using paper towels or clean cloth towels. Sponges are not recommended since the average kitchen sponge harbors 7.2 billion bacteria.
Plan your holiday menu a week or two in advance. Write it down and use it to help create your grocery shopping list and to determine what dishes will be needed for serving the food. You can also post the menu and refer to it on Thanksgiving Day to ensure all dishes are prepared and served.
Determine if you’ll be preparing a fresh or frozen turkey. If you prefer a frozen bird, you may purchase it at any time, but you’ll need adequate freezer space. If you buy a fresh turkey, purchase it 1 to 2 days before cooking.
If you’re wondering how much turkey you’ll need to feed your guests, figure on 1 pound per person if cooking a whole bird. If you’re feeding a small group and plan on serving a boneless breast of turkey, plan on 1/2 pound per person. And if you’re serving a breast with the bone, figure on needing 3/4 pound per person.
If you’re planning on serving a turkey which was frozen, remember to plan for thawing it safely in the refrigerator. Allow approximately 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey. After thawing, keep turkey refrigerated for only 1-2 days. When thawing be sure to place it on a tray to catch any meat drippings so they do not contaminate other foods in your refrigerator.
One or two days before the dinner, make sure you have all of the food and equipment you need. Remember, when storing food in refrigeration and freezer units, don’t over stuff them. Cold air must be able to circulate in order to maintain proper temperatures. Do not line your refrigerator shelves with aluminum foil as it cuts down on air flow in your unit.
By making some advance preparations for the Thanksgiving meal, putting dinner on the table will be easier and less stressful for the cook.
Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension of Lackawanna County.