There is a dire cliche about how a ton of cooking – and subsequently, a ton of dishes – must be generated to cook a holiday meal. Not so. Following simple practices, you can cook up a feast for many by learning to organize your kitchen for holiday cooking.
Plan ahead – How many people will you be feeding? What can others bring? Even having someone bring wine, dessert, or a salad will free you from extra shopping and cooking. What will you be serving? What can be prepared in advance and frozen? All these questions will help you to be more organized the day you serve the meal and perhaps even to be able to spend more time enjoying your guests.
Shopping in advance – Now that you have decided what you will be serving, pull out the recipes, and make a list of what you need in order to make the dish. What items do you need for your menu? With lists in hand, you can order online using a service like Instacart to eliminate spending your precious time in the grocery store. Schedule a time for pick up, and you will avoid crowds and, these days, social distancing yourself even more.
Start with a clean kitchen – Make sure before you even start cooking that the dishwasher has been run and is empty. There should be no dirty dishes in your sink. If so, wash them before you even begin. This includes drying and putting the items away. The open surface space gained provides a fresh start.
Prep in advance – Just as restaurants use sous chefs, have your ingredients prepped in advance so that your prep time for each special recipe/dish is greatly reduced. Have a bowl handy to dispose of food scraps and garbage as you cook. Reuse the knives and other utensils after washing them. Keep a towel handy to wipe your hand as you move along.
Wash pots and pans as you go – Making a meal for many people using lots of pots and pans doesn’t have to be complicated. As you are done using a pot/pan, decide if you will need that size for another item on your menu. If not, wash it when you are done or, do a quick wash and use it again for another item. If you try to clean up as you go along, either by having a sink or container full of soapy water, you will make the final clean up a snap.
Cover or spray for faster cleanup – If you use parchment paper or tin foil on your cooking sheets, it will speed up your cleaning time. Instead of scrubbing the sheet, you can simply remove your food and throw away the paper/foil. Spraying something like Pam on the paper/foil before placing your food on it will make any sticking after cooking a non-issue.
Ask for help – Whether it be in advance or after the main meal, don’t be a hero thinking you are capable of doing it all yourself. Ask others, specifically, for help. Assign washing, drying, clearing the table duties to your family or guests. Most people really do want to help and giving them a specific task, helps both of you quickly move on to the final clean up so that everyone can more quickly get back to the merriment.
Our holiday tables may be less crowded this year due to COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be cooking for the holidays. Continuing to make the big meal has the added benefit of leftover meals to freeze! That is quite a tasty and time-saving reward after all.
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