Tips for Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

by katerina on November 17, 2009

I love holidays that are centered around food and family but I have never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner before. Always eager to learn, I decided to ask some of my favorite foodie writers what tips they have for cooking a successful thanksgiving dinner.

A common theme was around planning well and sufficiently in advance of the holiday. Kevin from Closet Cooking stresses that your oven space is at a premium so “you don’t want to plan on making two sides that require oven time, unless you have a large oven or a second oven.” He suggests trying to make things ahead of time, even the day before and suggests that dishes like cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie are great candidates.

Ruth from 4 Every Kitchen had the same suggestion, but goes even further to suggest getting organized a week before, including writing out the menu and planning the cooking for the week before. “Make a daily schedule starting a week before that includes shopping for ingredients for ALL the dishes, finding the serving dishes,” and all that is needed to make it festive. Personally, planning isn’t my strong suit, but sometimes it is necessary and I think it would really take the pressure off.

Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen is known for some great crockpot recipes so it is no surprise that she suggests you rely on all the tools at your disposal. “Making use of other appliances to cook or keep things warm can really help.” She suggests getting creative, like using your crockpot to keep your mashed potatoes warm while you deal with the turkey or even to keep cut turkey warm while you pull the gravy together. She says that though the crockpot is her favourite, you could also use pressure cookers, electric frying pans, and toaster ovens. As someone who frequently stresses about timing I think this could really simplify things.

Charmian from Christie’s Corner takes a different approach, make it a “communal meal” she says. The host can do the meat and guests can bring side dishes and dessert. Of course, as host you still need to coordinate so you don’t have “six versions of potatoes” but this does seem to relieve some of the planning stress as well as the last minute cooking.  Similarly Deborah from Taste and Tell suggests everyone do their “part to pitch in.”  If everyone participates then everyone can also enjoy the holiday.

If you have ever read Kalofagas you will know how much Peter loves his food, so it comes as no surprise to me that he has a cooking tip for everyone. Brine the Turkey he says, he has brined his turkey for over a decade and it “always turns out moist…even the leftovers!” There is a link to Peter’s recipe for stuffing and brining his Turkey below.

Have you ever hosted Thanksgiving? What are your tips for cooking a successful, stress free holiday meal?

A few select Thanksgiving Recipes:

Spicy Crockpot Sweet Potatoes from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Crockpot Sweet Potatoes from Kalyn's Kitchen

Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes from Christie’s Corner
Peter’s Greek Turkey with Rice Stuffing from Kalofagas
Roasted Carrots and Beets with Maple Balsamic Dressing from 4 Every Kitchen

Roasted Carrots & Beets with Maple Balsamic Dressing from 4 Every Kitchen

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie from Closet Cooking
Lion House Rolls & Sweet Potato Buttermilk Rolls from Taste and Tell
A Favourite Simple Pumpkin Pie from Christie’s Corner

Did I mention that I think I am going to start celebrating both Canadian and American Thanksgiving?  There is more gravy and pumpkin pie that way.

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