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H&W Column: Prepare for Thanksgiving

The holidays always approach incredibly fast and we feel like the year barely started. Family begins to come into town and having to prepare a large meal is on your shoulders. Whether you have been cooking a Thanksgiving meal for 20 years or this is your first time, it is always nerve-wracking because you want everything to be perfect. The thought of having to start a sweet potato casserole over because it burnt is terrifying enough let alone forgetting to take the turkey out in time to defrost. It is a large meal with a lot of moving pieces.

Let’s start by making a list. Make a list of all the people coming to the dinner you’re preparing and all of the ingredients you need to complete the dinner. Gather up all the recipes you may need so that you know where they are. Be sure to ask people attending about food allergies or preferences. This will help with surprises later. When making your list, write out the items needed by the menu to be sure nothing is forgotten. After your food and materials are purchased, you will want to write out a cooking schedule. This will help delegate what dishes will be cooked first and those that can be done closer to the time of the meal.

Once you are sure you have the tools and space needed for the meal such as a roasting pan, meat thermometer, etc. you can begin the cooking process. The average amount of turkey bought for each individual is 1-1.5 pounds if leftovers are desired. If you are wanting to defrost a frozen turkey (meaning it was kept below 0 degrees Fahrenheit), start by defrosting the turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator which is usually located in the back. Never defrost a frozen turkey at room temperature. The general rule of thumb is that for every 5 pounds of turkey, it will require 24 hours of thaw time in the refrigerator. It is usually a several-day process to dethaw a turkey in time for Thanksgiving dinner preparation.

When it comes to further preparation, try to buy non-perishables early and then buy perishables a day or two before Thanksgiving so they remain fresh. If needing to emergency thaw your turkey, place the frozen turkey in original wrapping in cold water. Leave it in the cold water for 30 minutes per pound of turkey. This could take a whole day depending on the weight of the turkey. Once you have your food prepped and ready to begin, ensure your space is clean and ready to be cooked on. Get any decorating or cleaning done ahead of time so you don’t have to stress about it after cooking a huge meal. Last but not least, enjoy the holiday with your friends and family. Relax as much as you can and enjoy the time together.

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