Keys to Low Stress Holiday Cooking

Kendall Oberto Tips

Preparing for and cooking holiday meals can be daunting.  But as is true with all entertaining, good preparation can significantly reduce the stress on the day.  Here’s some tips to make your holiday meal a huge success.

1.  Do all you can ahead of the big day.  Besides the obvious tasks of planning your menu and doing your grocery shopping, you can also use the days ahead of the holiday to take care of preparations that are not time sensitive.  For me, I tend to start about three to four days in advance and begin with validating my supplies and making a list of any last minute groceries I will need to pick up fresh.  I then design and set my table, polish my silver, and select my serving vessels and implements for all the dishes on my menu. This is also when you should be thinking of the time needed to defrost your turkey and get it brined.  

2. Next, I turn to making whatever of my food I can freeze or will hold nicely.  Among them are cranberry sauce, cookies, mashed potatoes (see related tip below), dried bread for stuffing, etc.  These can all be prepared several days ahead.  You can then use the day before to prepare pies, gravy, sauté vegetables for stuffing, make dough for bread / rolls, etc.

3. Get creative with your cooking methods and try to limit last minute items as much as possible.  I do this in a variety of ways including using all possible appliances – my two ovens, my air fryer, my sous vide machines, my outdoor grill and my crock pot.  Here a couple of my favorite hacks:

  • I always prepare and freeze my mashed potatoes, then put them frozen into my crock pot the morning of the holiday.  As they reheat they will turn to liquid but then magically come together as good as if they were freshly made
  • I prepare gravy the day before with roux, stock and seasoning and make it extra thick using enough roux to absorb an additional 2 cups of liquid.  When the turkey comes out of the oven to rest, simply reheat and add the turkey drippings and you are done.

4. Make yourself a comprehensive timeline that you can follow on the holiday.  Below is an example of mine from this Thanksgiving.  It’s important to list all the dishes you will be making, the timing for when it needs to go into what cooking apparatus, and when it will need to come out.  I generally start this process from when I want to serve and work backwards.  Once I have an outline, I rewrite the list starting morning until service.  I would say this is the #1 tip for success because having this list means you can just work through it without any guesswork or irritation that you don’t have an oven open at the appropriate time.

I hope you find these tips not only useful but that they will also position you to enjoy your friends and family while your delicious holiday meals come together.

Happy Eating!!

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