With only a few days left until Thanksgiving, it’s crunch time in host kitchens everywhere. Whether you’re hosting a dinner, organizing a “Friendsgiving,” or simply preparing a dish to bring to to dinner, it’s essential to be prepared ahead of time to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Working at a premium kitchen store has really opened my eyes to the idea of creating a “game plan” as a way to prepare for a night of cooking, service and cleaning. Each night before a class begins, the chef and assistants go over a game plan: what is happening when, who is cooking what, and what utensils will be needed and when. Without it, it’s easy to get lost, off-pace, and confused when preparing a large number of dishes.
Below is our recommended game plan for cooking any holiday meal. Account for a few simple elements and your holiday dinner will go off without a hitch.
Work backward from the time you want to eat so that you aren’t faced with a fully cooked turkey and seven side dishes that need oven space. As you prepare, take notes on when recipes should be started, when they can be paused, and when they can be brought to the table.
Some things are given when you’re cooking for a large group, but it’s helpful to get out any special equipment ahead of time. This is the time to dig out the roasting pan or blender you’ll need. It’s also a good opportunity to see what you might be missing and find a viable substitute. No pastry blender? No problem. You can use two knives to cut butter into your pie crust.
This goes without saying, but before you even think about setting foot in the kitchen, make a list of everything you will need. From salt to the meat, writing everything down ensures you won’t be making any last-minute grocery store runs. Those are the worst. If you do forget a specific ingredient, we suggest using a service like Instacart, which
There’s no need to write down every single detail, but it’s helpful to list broad steps: brown meat, add veggies, add garlic, etc etc. It helps to also list any special steps like a temperature change, so you don’t forget.
Too many cooks for one kitchen? Give people jobs to cross off of a list. It’s easy to over look things like setting a table or getting linens if everyone is cooking. Someone can work on prep (chopping, slicing), another as the hot chef (anything on the stove or oven), a cold chef (salads), and, most importantly, a drink manager. Successful kitchens have a role for every person, and they are all essential to making service go smoothly.
By following these step, and adding any other guidelines you find helpful, your Thanksgiving and holiday meals will turn out beautifully. What are your favorite tips for preparing a holiday meal?