The 7 Deadly Sins of Holiday Cooking
With coronavirus cases on the upswing this winter, you might find yourself cooking the holiday meal yourself for the first time ever. Don't panic, though--a little preparation, forethought, and good old-fashioned advice goes a long way. Here are seven bad cooking behaviors you need to avoid so that your holiday meal will be a delight instead of a disaster.
#1: Not Buying Enough Turkey
First off, don't scrimp on the turkey. If you have turkey leftovers, you can transform those leftovers into new and tasty dishes. A good rule of thumb is to buy 1 pound of turkey per person to allow for seconds and leftovers. So if you're having 8 guests for Thanksgiving, you'll need an 8-pound bird. For even smaller groups, a bone-in turkey breast can be a good option--but make sure you stick to the 1 pound per person guideline.
#2: Not Thawing the Turkey in Time
You need to start thinking about thawing that turkey several days before you're ready to cook it. The best – and safest – defrosting method is to set the bird in a shallow pan in the refrigerator for 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey. Save room in the refrigerator as this will take several days. The turkey is fully thawed when the thick part of the turkey registers 40 degrees.
#3: Not Using A Meat Thermometer
Small and inexpensive, the meat thermometer is one of the most valuable kitchen tools you can own. Using one is the surefire way to make sure that your turkey, beef tenderloin, or pork loin is not overcooked and dry or undercooked and unacceptable.
#4: Burning the Rolls (Or Anything Else)
Before you start cooking for the holidays, check your oven to make sure it's calibrated so that you'll be baking at the correct temperatures. Then follow the time and temperature given in the recipe, but check a few minutes early just in case. Use a kitchen timer so you won't forget that you've got something in the oven.
#5: Making Dressing That is Too Dry or Too Gummy
Dressing preferences are highly personal and people feel quite strongly about which type they prefer. The best recommendation is to follow the recipe exactly, especially in terms of the amount of liquid that's added. However, if you follow the recipe and think it's too dry, you can always add a little more warm chicken broth and bake just a little bit longer to incorporate the broth. If the dressing is too gummy, you can bake it longer, uncovered, to dry it out a bit.
#6: Serving Lumpy Gravy
One cause of lumpy gravy is directly dumping flour or other thickener into the hot stock or broth. Another is adding broth too quickly into the flour-fat mixture, which can cause clumping or a gluey layer on the bottom of the pan. Hot spots in a large pan can also cause lumps.In any starch-based sauce, the thickener needs to be gradually introduced to the hot liquid. The easiest way involves whisking a flour slurry into the broth mixture, then stirring until the gravy comes together. If you get lumps, pour the gravy through a sieve or strainer, or puree it with an immersion blender or, very carefully, in a regular blender.
#7: Serving Foods at the Wrong Temperature
So that you can serve the dressing and green bean casserole hot and the ambrosia chilled, make a game plan and stick to it. Starting a week ahead, make a list of dishes that can be made ahead and frozen or chilled until the big day. Keep writing until every dish is listed leading right up until serving. Use your microwave for reheating some dishes or prepare some menu items in the slow cooker to free up some oven space.