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First time cooking for the holidays? Tips and tricks for a great meal

First time cooking for Thanksgiving? Tips and tricks for a great holiday meal - The Hot Mess Press

The holiday season is one of the best times of the year when it comes to food. But, if you’re the person responsible for cooking all that food, it can be intimidating. Roasting a whole turkey for the first time is a challenge. Ham, another holiday favorite, is much easier but costlier by the pound. You also have to worry about all those side dishes and desserts. The pandemic has caused a lot of people to change their regular holiday plans. This means that many people will be cooking their holiday meals at home. If this is your first time cooking for the holidays, the following ideas can help you prepare for the big day.

Time-saving tips

When you’re cooking a large holiday meal it’s always helpful to do as much ahead as possible. Most desserts can be made 1-2 days before. Some sides can be assembled and refrigerated to be baked or heated up right before mealtime. Make a list of the dishes you want to prepare and how long they take for prepping and cooking. Anyone who is not experienced in the kitchen may want to choose some pre-made foods. If you don’t feel confident in your dessert or bread-making skills, there’s no shame in buying those items from the store. Baking is time-consuming. Your time can be better spent elsewhere, especially with such a large meal.

Use your kitchen appliances wisely

If you have a slow cooker, this is the time to use it. Slow cookers can be turned to the warm setting to keep vegetables and sides warm until mealtime. This works especially well for mashed potatoes. Just add a little extra cream or milk before serving. Ham can also be heated up in your slow cooker. Some ovens come with a warming drawer that also works well to keep foods warm until you’re ready to eat. If you have a bread machine, you can use the dough setting to make homemade dinner rolls. The dough can be made the day before and refrigerated. Then you can shape the rolls, let them rise, and bake them fresh right before your meal. Homemade rolls can also be parbaked the day before so you just have to heat them up.

Plan ahead when roasting a turkey

Frozen turkeys need to be entirely thawed before baking. In my experience, it can take anywhere from 5-6 days in the refrigerator to thaw a whole turkey. Plus, if you want to brine your turkey, it needs to be thawed at least a day before your meal.  Your turkey needs some time out of the oven to rest before you carve it, so be sure to add around 45 minutes to your cooking time. Turkeys usually need 20 minutes per pound which means you need to get your bird in the oven several hours before your meal. After you take the turkey out to rest, you have room and time to bake your sides and bread.

Your first time cooking for the holidays can be stressful. There are so many elements that go into preparing a large-scale meal, even if you’re cooking for a small group. Stick to fewer side dishes and desserts so you don’t get overwhelmed. Use your kitchen wisely and prep ahead in the days before your meal. If you take some time to plan ahead, you can have a great holiday meal without the stress.

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