Roasting a turkey can be a challenge for those who don’t get much practice at it. That’s unfortunate for most cooks, who typically only attempt this feat at Thanksgiving… the one day of the year when there’s so much riding on your turkey!
That’s why we thought we’d get some meal prep tips from someone who has not only the know-how, but also plenty of kitchen time under her apron. As experience manager at Kitchens Inspired, a division of Big Sandy Superstore, Cathy Polta definitely has the pedigree. What she ultimately offered up is a list of some of the latest high-tech solutions for getting the job done. Additionally (and somewhat ironically), she’s also provided a low-tech, stress-free method for preparing what is arguably the most important meal of the year.
Cooking Appliance Innovations Get the Job Done
Polta speaks excitedly about how appliance manufacturers having been “adding more conveniences to their products so that the cook is no longer ankle chained to the stove.” This is certainly the case with Dacor’s line of Discovery iQ ranges, which allow a cook with wi-fi access to monitor the baking temperature of their food via smart phone…while comfortably watching the holiday football game from the family room couch.
The “times” they are a-changing as well…as in cooking times. By using the convection fan that’s available with most new electric ovens, baking time can be reduced by 25%. This undoubtedly helps alleviate the hardest part of the meal for some…the waiting! Microwaves have also begun to add convection features that help accelerate the process. While their convection heat cooks from the outside in and browns the outer shell of the food, the microwave simultaneously cooks from the inside out in a concerted one-two punch.
When it finally comes time to clean up, Polta says that the worse thing anyone can do is self-clean their oven. Few homeowners are aware that the self-cleaning function will raise oven temps up to 800°, eventually frying its wiring. More oven manufacturers are beginning to go a more eco-friendly route by adding a steam heating element, thereby allowing the oven to be cleaned in far less time, using less heat and no toxic oven cleansers.
Cathy’s Stress-Free Thanksgiving Meal
Although it’s a surprise admission from an appliance dealer, Polta contends that one doesn’t necessarily need the latest kitchen equipment in order to prepare a stress-free holiday meal. By following a process she’s developed and used over the last 8 years, the cook only needs an oven and crockpot for producing the perfect turkey and fixings. The key is to do the major cooking the day prior, so that the only task remaining on Thanksgiving Day is an hour or so in which to warm everything up. That should leave a lot of time for actually enjoying the day with family and friends.
- Turkey Preparation: On the day before Thanksgiving, cook the turkey in a standard convection oven using a browning bag. Monitor progress with a temperature probe in order to avoid over-roasting it. Once done, allow the turkey to sit for 20 minutes before carving the turkey, placing the meat directly into a crockpot. Pour all carving juices into the crockpot, adding canned chicken or turkey broth in order to cover completely. Refrigerate until the next day. Bring to room temperature for 1 – ½ hours before cooking on low heat for two hours.
- Mashed Potatoes: Prepare the potatoes as you normally would, then place them in a long, flat casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the potatoes to room temperature before baking (covered) in a 350° oven until the potatoes achieve an internal temperature of 165° (about one hour).
- Dressing: Prepare and bake the dressing in a casserole dish at the same time you’re roasting the turkey. Cover and refrigerate once it has cooled. On Thanksgiving Day the dressing can be warmed in the oven at the same time as the potatoes and any other pre-prepared side dishes.
- Clean-Up: If at the end of the day your oven needs cleaning, place in it a bowl containing a cup of water and a tablespoon of vinegar, baking the mixture at 350° for 20 minutes. Leave the oven door closed for an additional 30 minutes before wiping it down.