Countdown to Turkey Day 2011: November 15

Heather says:

There are two items on today’s Turkey To-Do List.

It’s time to clean out the refrigerator and start making room for the extra produce and the turkey. Get rid of all the science projects, expired food, and condiments that have been open since before Obama took office. Stop feeling guilty, just get rid of them.

Next, it’s time to start looking at your Thanksgiving Day schedule.

When will you purchase or thaw your turkey? If you are getting a fresh turkey, have you placed your order?

Fresh turkeys will need to purchased no earlier than the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Fresh turkeys are highly perishable and should be stored in a home fridge for no longer than 2 days before cooking.

To thaw frozen turkeys safely you need to ensure there is plenty of room on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and make sure you put your turkey on a tray or in a pan of some sort to catch any condensation or leakage.

Frozen turkeys need 24 hours for every four pounds and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (Have I mentioned I got to go to Butterball University this year?)

If you are brining your turkey, you need to make sure you’re prepared for this, too. We’re lucky enough to have a hand-me-down fridge in our garage which makes thawing easier. If you are really short on space, load up a cooler with ice and use that to store some items while your turkey thaws in the refrigerator (it’s important that it thaws at a regulated 40°F.) Excuse the less than perfect phone pic, but it illustrates proper thawing and brining.

Turkey on the left - Thawing, Turkey in the Bucket - Brining

Now for the second half of today’s to-dos.

Get out your menu.

It’s time to figure out which side dishes can be made ahead of time.

Can any be made this week and frozen? What are the directions for reheating?

What time will Thanksgiving Dinner be served?

Remember when planning  that a cooked turkey should rest for fifteen to thirty minutes before carving.

Don’t forget to have some kind of munchies set out to keep the vultures I mean guests from circling the kitchen and adding to the stress in the home stretch. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a plate of raw vegetables with ranch dip will do or maybe some fancy crackers and sliced cheese or check out The Motherload for 7 Make Ahead Appetizers.

Don’t put a lot of thought into it, it’s just to keep people’s blood sugar from dropping and tempers from rising¹. If alcohol is served, it’s never a good idea to mix relatives, alcohol, and empty stomachs. You may as well have a marquee sign highlighting offenses of years’ past.

Go through your entire menu and figure out what time each dish should be started and completed.

If dinner is to be served at 4pm, work backwards from 3:30pm to decide when the turkey should go into the oven. The thirty minutes after the turkey comes out of the oven is a good time to finish off side dishes that just need to be heated, but don’t over estimate your oven’s capacity. Seriously, take a moment and grab the baking dishes you plan on using at the same time and make sure they all fit. If not, you’re going to have to come up with an alternate plan.

Do you have a roaster oven? A toaster oven? Can it be heated on the grill? For the last one, can you be both in the kitchen and outside? I didn’t think so. Do you have someone you trust who can keep an eye on the grill? If you have a very shy guest, they may actually enjoy this role as it is an excuse to get away from a crowded kitchen.

Finally, when figuring out your time table, don’t forget to include some buffer time for extra prep. Minor setbacks always occur, having the extra time built into the schedule keeps a bump in the flow from become a train wreck of epic culinary proportions.

You want to eat turkey? Today?

If you are new to Home-Ec 101 (hi!) and need to play catch up check out the rest of the Countdown to Turkey Day Series.

¹I mean, my temper never flares when I’m hungry. Nope, not guilty of that one, not one bit.

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