Few if any holidays revolve more around cooking and food than Thanksgiving. Though the holiday is a glorious celebration of community, connection, and, of course, delicious food, it can be…shall we say…stressful for the cook. Managing everything from the turkey to gravy to mashed potatoes to vegetables to pies and beyond can be like a game of Tetris (and we’re talking about the moment just before the screen fills up blocks). Instead of heading towards GAME OVER, we’re here to help you strategize so that precious stovetop real estate is organized.Here are 6 tips to help maximize your stovetop space on Thanksgiving:
- Plan ahead: It might be the most stereotypical advice of all, but start by planning ahead. If you don’t know what you’re cooking, then you can’t clear the decks day of. At least two weeks before Thanksgiving, figure out what you’re going to cook. Buy any dry ingredients as soon as you have time, and buy the fresh ingredients 2 to 3 days in advance. Once you have the menu set and know what you’re going to make in advance versus day-of, make a game plan for Thanksgiving day. Prioritize which dishes can be made and kept warm versus those that need to be done right before the meal.
- Make as much as you can in advance: Once you’ve got your roadmap, assess which recipes can be made ahead. Pie crust can be made, rolled out and fitted to the pie dish, then frozen before baking. Stuffing can be fully baked ahead and defrosted/warmed on the day. But what about things that take up vital stovetop real estate? Most mashed potatoes are best when made fresh, but mashed potato casserole (which has other ingredients like cream cheese and/or eggs to balance the starch) actually tastes even better when made a day ahead.
- If you can make non-stovetop versions of dishes, do it: If no one’s fussed about mashed potatoes, go for roasted ones. Instead of steamed broccoli, opt for a heart greens salad. Some pie recipes call for cooked fillings—if you can find ones that only require a whisk and a bowl, choose those instead. Some of the most delicious hors d’oeuvres and appetizers are best cold or at room temperature (think: sour cream dips, charcuterie boards, stuffed endive, spiced nuts, and deviled eggs).
- Mise en place: The French term mise en place just might be your turkey day savior. It means “put in place” and refers to the process of getting the required ingredients ready before beginning to cook. Since part of what clogs up the stovetop is cooking multiple time-consuming ingredients or dishes. For things that can’t be cooked ahead, do the chopping and measuring ahead of time so that you can move through the dishes as efficiently as possible, getting them cooked and off the stove.
- Make use of space-expanding tools: Yes, we know you might need your roasting pan for your turkey, but if you happen to have a second roasting pan or a double-burner griddle, then you can maximize your stovetop cooking space. A roasting pan or double-burner griddle allows you extra surface area. Use it as you would a very big skillet.
- After cooking dishes on the stovetop, keep them warm in the oven: Many dishes need to stay warm before the big meal, but keeping them simmering or steaming on the burner isn’t practical. Instead, set your oven to 150ºF, cover the dishes with foil, and keep warm in the oven until it’s time to serve. If your oven is packed with turkey and more, then cover the dishes with foil and warm over medium-low heat before it’s time to serve. Of course, the microwave is essential, if you have one. Braised dishes, long-cooked vegetables, or liquids do well reheated in the microwave.
Remember: Thanksgiving is about delicious food shared with friends and family. No one will mind if things are a little cold or the meal doesn’t happen exactly when planned. Pour yourself your favorite drink, set the appetizers out, and cue up your favorite holiday tunes. The meal is sure to go smoothly and your stovetop will never be more efficient.