Tips for a Happy Thanksgiving in the Kitchen


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You’ve planned the menu, braved the stores, cleaned the house,…now you’re ready to cook right? Jessica and I have compiled a list of tips for a happier day in the kitchen. This list comes from owr own Thanksgiving day cooking experiences as well as some friends, moms and grandmas.

I’ve also included some handy references at the bottom of the page including, conversions, alternative or substitute ingredients, etc.

So here we go….

1. Let go of the control, a little. 

If you’re like me, you like to be in control of what happens where and when in your kitchen, especially on a big cooking day like Thanksgiving. However, on Thanksgiving you are going to be busy busy busy. If your Aunt Patty wants to do all the dishes and puts them away in the wrong place, LET HER. She is being super helpful and you can rearrange it all on Friday if you just can’t stand it! Let your cousin Laurie chop the onions, even if she doesn’t know how or complains about the tears. If your family is doesn’t mind, you can even assign tasks. Just don’t fuss at people if they do things differently than the way you would or want them to. The day is supposed to be a fun and happy time with friends and family. Also, if you planned to eat at 2, don’t stress out if you aren’t ready until 3:30. It’s not a huge deal!

2. Prep Prep Prep

Spend some time the day before chopping. If you pre-chop the onions, celery, carrots, etc you will save a lot of time. Use zip top bags or air tight containers to store these in the fridge overnight. You can even pre-portion them for recipes. Also, try to have a timeline for cooking for the day. Of course the turkey will be the focus but you’ll need to make sure you have enough oven space in the 375 oven and the 425 oven for the recipes that need them.  Also, some of your recipes can be made ahead of time and chilled in the fridge or freezer until Thanksgiving morning. I.e cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, etc. Just be sure not to put the crispy toppings on until just before cooking.

3. Be prepared for leftovers

Left overs are one of the best things about Thanksgiving. Be prepared with lots of clean, airtight containers of all sizes. Some general storage tips include;

  • Use the right sized container – Be sure you have various sizes so you can appropriately store the food. Food is less likely to contaminate and will store better if it’s stored with the least amount of air possible. So, don’t use the gallon zip top bag for a little cup of left over stuffing. According to the Institute of Food Technologies (IFT), containers that are no more than 2 inches deep are ideal for storage. Here at My Clean Kitchen, we try to use only glass storage containers when we can, to avoid any chemicals in the plastic. However, when we do have to use plastic, we NEVER re-heat the food in the plastic. Click here for some more information about food storage and reheating from IFT.
  • Don’t let food sit out more than 2 hours before putting into a container for storage.
  • When reheating, be sure to let it get hot enough. Reheated food should reach 165 F in the center in order to be safe for consumption.
  • Don’t keep it too long! – Here is a great reference tool to bookmark that includes information on how long you should keep certain foods before throwing them away. (Click here)

4. Miss Manners, whether you’re the host or a guest. 

Emily Post has some tips for how to be a good Thanksgiving guest as well as host.

  • Some general tips for guests include; RSVP! – be sure the host knows you’re coming, put your cell phone away, avoid controversial topics, leave on time, and say thank you.
  • If you’re the host, you should; invite at least a month in advance, have a flexible menu plan for special diets, assign tasks, turn off the TV, and say thank you.
  • Click here for the full list of Emily Post’s tips for a happy Thanksgiving.


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