Holiday Cooking Crash Course: 8 Tips to Get You through the Holidays
Enjoying delicious homemade meals with loved ones is one of the best parts of the holiday season. Not only do the holidays give you a chance to spend time with family and friends, but they’re also a great opportunity to show off your cooking skills to an appreciating crowd.
Are you eagerly awaiting this upcoming holiday season so that you can try out some new recipes? Prepare for the holiday cooking frenzy with the following seven tips:
1. No, you shouldn’t wash your turkey.
Washing a Thanksgiving turkey before cooking it is a big holiday cooking mistake that many people make. It’s not necessary to wash a turkey before cooking because the cooking process itself should kill any bacteria present in the meat.
According to the USDA, washing a turkey typically has only negative results because it spreads bacteria around the kitchen. Washing a turkey can actually aerosolize bacteria so that it can be breathed in and spread to surfaces that weren’t even directly in contact with the meat. So, what’s a safe internal temperature to ensure bacteria is destroyed? The USDA recommends cooking to a minimum of 165°F, so get your meat thermometer ready and keep that bird out of the sink!
2. Be courteous to vegan and vegetarian diners.
Statistics show that veganism and preferences for vegetarian meals are becoming increasingly common in the United States, especially among young people. Make sure you’re aware of any vegetarians in your family so you can make adjustments to accommodate them if you are hosting the holiday meal this year.
Preparing a vegetarian food item gives you the chance to try out a new recipe and sample some exotic foods that might turn out to be among your favorite dishes. When you’re cooking for vegetarian diners, you need to look for alternative sources of protein like nuts and legumes. We recommend trying out some of these holiday recipes from Food & Wine.
3. Offer both red and white wine options.
Holiday meals should include numerous meat options, and having both a red and white wine available is a good idea. If you’re looking for a red wine that will work with a wide variety of different red meats, try a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot.
A white wine is, of course, preferable for lighter meats like turkey, and a Riesling is a good option that tends to have wide appeal.
4. Find recipes you can prepare ahead of time.
The holidays are great, but everyone knows that they can be as stressful as they are enjoyable. You can cut back on stress with careful planning. When it comes to completing holiday cooking tasks, you should plan your cooking out so that you take advantage of the days before the holiday by getting some prep work out of the way.
Don’t be afraid to use your freezer. With some dishes, it won’t make a difference in terms of taste and quality whether you freeze them beforehand or not.
5. Offer a holiday cocktail, even if only to yourself.
Inviting guests in from the cold with a festive holiday cocktail can be a great idea. Preparing a creative new cocktail option makes for the perfect conversation starter, so try to offer something a little more unique than a run-of-the-mill eggnog or Cosmo.
Try The Pfeffernüsse if you’re looking for a drink that’s unique but still holiday-themed (and pretty fun to say!). This drink combines the sweet yet hearty tastes of syrup, honey, and molasses with Vino Amaro liqueur and orange juice. And hey, nobody’s going to judge if you want to keep the deliciousness all to yourself (another holiday stress-saver)!
6. Clean cloudy-looking glassware with lemon juice.
If you’re going to be hosting your family members for a Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day meal this year, you’ll want to make sure your dishes and glasses are up to the task. If your glassware is looking a little cloudy, you can cut through residue by soaking it in hot water with a little lemon juice thrown in for a few hours. This will help your glassware to achieve that new looking sparkle that will perfect the appearance of holiday place settings in your home.
7. Don’t overlook basic seasonings.
It’s easy to overlook simple seasonings like salt and pepper when you’re focused on accomplishing challenging holiday cooking tasks. However, these seasoning staples can make or break a recipe. If you’re working on a holiday recipe and it tastes a bit flat, put some thought into basic seasonings that will go well and spice things up. Some of our basic holiday favorites are ginger, cinnamon, garlic, paprika, basil, and thyme (no, no, not together!).
8. Take a holiday cooking class.
If you’re looking for ways to sharpen your skills in the kitchen before the holiday rush begins, you might want to take a cooking class in the coming weeks. Check out the course offerings from Casual Gourmet to learn more.
Chocolate pasta! Dessert by Chef Troy Camacho of @CasualGourmet1 #thehamptonroadsshow pic.twitter.com/E6zJKY4Gii
— Ariane Aramburo (@ArianeAramburo) April 21, 2014
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