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how to prep for holiday meals

How to Prep for Holiday Meals

If you love to cook, bake, or host large, celebratory gatherings, we’re entering into your favorite time of year. The holidays are a wonderful time to share your culinary skills with the ones you love, and create new memories with family and friends.

However, creating a successful holiday meal requires a lot of planning and coordination – otherwise, you risk a chaotic day with over or undercooked dishes, hungry and impatient guests, and a frazzled cook.

Have no fear. Follow these helpful tips below for a delicious and (relatively) easy meal that is sure to impress.

Let’s Talk Turkey

We’ve all been to a Thanksgiving meal where the turkey is holding up the rest of the meal or the turkey is overdone and dry. It can take two to three days to thaw a frozen turkey, so buy it well in advance (while you still have a good selection) and set a reminder to start thawing. If you want to brine your turkey, that adds another 12-24 hours to your timeline. To calculate roasting time, most experts recommend planning for 13 minutes per pound at 350oF. Additionally, you’ll want to let your turkey rest for about 45 minutes or so after roasting and before carving so it reabsorbs the juices and doesn’t dry out. Use those 45 minutes to cook other casseroles or side dishes in your oven.

Bonus tip: don’t tent foil over the turkey as it rests – the steam will soften the nice crispy skin. Don’t worry, the turkey will stay warm for a long time.

Coordinate Cooking Times & Temps

When you’re planning your holiday menu, try to select dishes that cook at the same temperature. Even better, choose ones that also take the same amount of cooking time. This enables you to cook several dishes in your oven at one time (make sure your dishes will actually fit in the oven together), and prevents you from setting multiple timers and having to worry about keeping one dish warm while the other still cooks.

Explore Oven Alternatives

If you don’t have enough room for all your dishes in the oven, or need to cook things simultaneously at different temperatures, consider alternative ways of cooking. Whether this means baking rolls in the toaster oven, sautéing vegetables on the stovetop, or reheating pre-made casseroles in the microwave, use the various tools in your kitchen to help save the day. If you have a crockpot, air fryer or Instant Pot, you may be able to put them to work too!

Find Dishes to Make Ahead of Time

While some things are best made on the day of the meal, don’t hesitate to do what you can ahead of time. Desserts – such as cakes, pies, cheesecakes and cookies – are a good choice to make a day or two before your gathering. Also, as mentioned, casseroles are ideal for being made ahead and then just warmed up in the microwave. You can even make your mashed potatoes ahead of time and reheat them on the stovetop with a little milk. Prep what you can to take the stress out of your holiday meal.

If you’re a home cook who is passionate about the art of cooking and baking, Park City Culinary Institute offers fun courses that are open to anyone who wants to learn. Convenient to all of the Salt Lake City area, our award-winning culinary school can help you up your game at home, or prepare you for a rewarding career. To learn more, visit our website, give us a call at 801-413-2800, or email us today!

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