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30 Top Tips for a Fab Feast

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When it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner -- especially if it's your first time -- everyone can use a few kitchen tips.

Are you cooking your first Thanksgiving this year? If you are, or even if you're a seasoned host, here are some great tips to help you in the kitchen so you can spend time with your guests the day of the big feast.

How to saute vegetables

1. Saute, you say?

Add oil to the pan and heat it before adding peppers and onions (say, for an awesome stuffing recipe!). Adding the veggies first and then the oil can result in some serious scrapin'.

2. Poma lift

Gettin' all trendy and putting some pomegranate seeds on your salad? Get those little red gems out of their rind by cutting the pom in half and whacking the rind with a wooden spoon, aiming the cut side down into a bowl. Or, do it my way and buy 'em jarred!

3. Wilt goes with Chamberlain -- not with salad

Keep greens from wilting by storing them with a dry paper towel to absorb any extra moisture.

Learn More > How to Make a Simple Ceasar Salad

How to peel garlic

4. Undress the garlic

A quick way to peel a whole head of garlic is to smash the bulb with the palm or your hand (or a frying pan, for the petite among us) and put all of the individual cloves into a metal bowl. Then, place the same size bowl upside down over the top, so you've got a globe shape, and shake it hard. When you uncover the bowl, you should find perfectly peeled cloves.

Learn More > How to Roast Garlic

5. An egg likes its shell

So you're not a perfect egg cracker. No worries...grab that li'l piece of wayward eggshell in your bowl with a larger piece of shell. Rumor has it the larger shell acts kinda like a magnet for the little shell fragment. Go figure.

6. Restore your honey, Honey

Wuh-oh. You need some honey for your fancy-pants Thanksgiving buns, but it's gone all crystallized on your shelf. To fix this, place the jar in a bowl of very hot water until the honey returns to its fluid state.

7. The peel spiel

Don't waste precious minutes peeling hard-boiled eggs. Just cut them in half with the shell on, and scoop out the egg with a spoon.

Learn More > How to Peel Hardboiled Eggs

8. Whipped cream ... for realz

For perfect homemade whipped cream (you know...the kind that doesn't come in a plastic tub or spray can), start with very cold cream, just a bit of sugar, and chilled bowl and beaters. Check often to get it just to the stiff stage. Don't beat it to the point of killing it!

How to peel a potato

9. Potato peeling 1-2-3

Here's an easy way to peel your 'taters for creamy mashed potatoes. Boil 'em whole 'til they're cooked, drain them in a colander and let them cool until you can handle them, then grab each potato with both hands and twist. The skin should come right off. This method also works well for peeling tomatoes.

Learn More > The Secret to Creamy Mashed Potatoes

10. Bacon bits

Add an upscale touch of bacon bits to appetizers and salads. To make your own, fry up some fresh bacon on a waffle iron or panini maker. The indents catch all the fat and turn out some mighty crisp pork strips. Do this ahead of time, cool and crumble it, and refrigerate it in an airtight container until adding it to your recipe before serving time.

11. Do the math

If you're using an oven that's seen better days, add an oven-safe thermometer inside to make sure your faithful friend is still on its mark.

12. Cut the (soft) cheese

When cutting soft items like brie, goat cheese or even pastry dough, try using new, non-flavored dental floss instead of a knife.

13. Squeeze your cakes

Guests staying overnight? Make easy pancakes or waffles in the morning by putting batter into a squeeze bottle for less mess and easier placement on the griddle.

Learn More > Double Rainbow Pancakes and Rainbow Waffles

14. It's all chemistry

Did ya blow that vinaigrette recipe with too much vinegar? A pinch of sugar can mellow out dishes that are too acidic - like tomato sauce or vinaigrette.

Learn More > How to Make Salad Dressings

Taste as you cook

15. The taste test

Season your ingredients as you cook to avoid a bland end product, keeping in mind that you can, of course, add more salt later.

16. It's my onion and I'll cry if I want to

Onions making you weepy? Try placing the bulb in the freezer for 10 minutes before cutting to inhibit those tear-inducing compounds.

Learn More > How Not to Cry When Cutting Onions

17. Juice, juicy, juiciest

Pop citrus fruits in the microwave for 15 seconds to get more juice out of them.

18. Stock up on stock

The next time you have chicken for dinner, simmer the bones with onion, celery, carrot and seasonings for an hour or so and - voila! - a stock you can call your own. Strain the broth, discarding the components, and freeze it or refrigerate it for later use in recipes or soup.

Learn More > How to Make Chicken Stock in a Slow Cooker

19. Peeling ginger

To get the most out of fresh ginger root, peel it by scraping with the edge of a teaspoon rather than cutting it with a knife.

20. Grind yourself silly

Freshly ground spices can really boost a dish, and all you need is a mortar and pestle or a clean coffee grinder.

Learn More > How to Grind and Store your Own Spices

How to debone fish

21. Go fish

Serving somethin' fishy this Thanksgiving? (Hey, some of us are non-traditionalists!) Remove bones from fish easily using a clean pair of tweezers or a small pliers.

22. Just the good stuff

For an easy way to remove the woody stems from hearty greens like kale, just hold onto the end of the stem and zip your fingers toward the leafy end so that you're only left with the good stuff.

23. Chop chop

Don't bother snapping off the ends of each individual green bean -- just line 'em up and cut them all at once.

24. Soften that sugar, Sugar

Did the brown sugar turn rock hard on you? Just put the block of sugar in a bowl, wet it with a teaspoon of water, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave at 20-second intervals until it's soft again.

25. Crumble your own crumbs

Make your own breadcrumbs by pulsing stale bread in a food processor until you get the consistency you want.

26. Tom got a fever?

Take your turkey's temperature when cooking by sliding a thermometer horizontally through the thigh meat until it hits the bone, then take it out a little before taking a reading. Remember that taking the temperature too near the bone may yield an inaccurate reading.

Learn More > How to Cook a Turkey

27. Crumby tip

When breading items with crumbs, keep one hand completely dry to avoid a messy situation.

28. Perfect pie

To get a fully cooked pie without burned edges, place foil around the outer edges of the crust during the last 15 minutes of baking, or when they seem to be brown enough.

29. Grate...just great

If you need to shred a soft cheese like fresh mozzarella or fontina, pop it in the freezer for about an hour beforehand to harden it up, which will allow for easier grating.

How to carve a turkey

30. Carve like a pro

Yes, there IS a best practice for carving turkey, so listen up. Be sure to let the bird rest before carving so you don't lose its juiciness. Then follow our simple guide below and you'll have the table drooling.

Learn More > How to Carve a Turkey

There you have it -- lots of helpful hints to get you through the prep. Just take it one step at a time, and have some fun -- then your guests will too!

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