Cooking For Crowds For Dummies
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Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a big endeavor, but you can take a lot of the stress out of the holiday by preparing some foods in advance. Take some time to go over your menu and determine which dishes you can make ahead of time. Read on to see suggestions for tasks you can perform before the big day arrives.

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Thanksgiving preparation tips

Cooking for a crowd is much more time-consuming than cooking a typical meal, so considering your time is really important. As you’re thinking ahead, take a close look at your Thanksgiving recipes and all the tasks you must accomplish and keep the following points in mind:
  • Wash, dry, and cut up all the vegetables ahead of schedule. You can store them in individual plastic bags in the refrigerator to keep these foods fresh.

  • Make dips, spreads, and sauces ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator.

  • If the recipe allows it, make desserts ahead of schedule and store them properly.

  • If refrigerator space allows, make anything that can keep overnight the day before the event.

  • Box up all nonperishable items that you don’t need until Thanksgiving.

Make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes

Some foods actually taste much better if they’re prepared ahead and all the flavors are allowed enough time to thoroughly blend together. Here are a few examples of foodstuffs that benefit from early preparation:
  • Vegetable platters

  • Salad dressings

  • Dips

  • Most soups

  • Punch bases

  • Beans and some other side dishes

  • Minicasseroles

  • Some cold desserts

  • Cookies

  • Cheesecake

Keep pre-made meals fresh

Much of what you’ll prepare ahead of time will probably need to stay cold or frozen. Because foods absorb odors, make sure your refrigerator, freezer, or ice chest is thoroughly clean.

Baking soda helps absorb odors that may be lurking around your refrigerator or freezer. After all, nothing is worse than chocolate cake that tastes like an onion. Just open the baking soda box, pull back the lid slightly, and let the sodium bicarbonate do its job.

Here are some tips for keeping foods fresh:
  • Avoid overloading your refrigerator. Be careful not to block the air vent in your refrigerator. The more the air can circulate around the food, the more even the temperature will be, and the fresher the food will stay.

  • Good quality plastic bags are very versatile and are rather inexpensive.

  • Reusable plastic storage containers are also very versatile and affordable. These storage containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be reused for a period of time and then discarded. Many of them are microwavable, which is also a big help.

  • Heavy-duty foil is better than a less expensive, lighter weight foil. The lighter weight foil tends to tear easier, which lets freshness escape.

  • Plastic wrap is useful, but make sure it actually clings.

If you use plastic bags or plastic containers, make sure you always press out the air before sealing the bag or container. The less air you have in the bag or container, the longer the food will stay fresh.

Don’t forget about nonperishable food items. When you cook for a crowd, money is usually a concern; therefore, looking for sales on the items you need is always wise. As you’re shopping, make sure you pay close attention to the expiration date or the sell-by date on the package.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Dawn Simmons is a professional caterer and teaches online catering courses.

Curt Simmons is the author of more than 50 books, including iPhoto For Dummies.

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