With Thanksgiving here and potentially one of the biggest meals of the year being served, a lot of pre-planning needs to be done. Cooking for Thanksgiving is like conducting an orchestra, with the menu items all needing to work together harmoniously and falling into place, at just the right time.
Time has to be given to thaw out the bird safely in the fridge rather than risk it being left out overnight. Also, because oven time may be at a premium on Thanksgiving day with all the side dishes, some people may choose to cook the turkey the day before, refrigerate it and reheat it the day of. Make sure your fridge has lots of room to accommodate the large bird! If you are cooking the turkey on the actual day and finishing it several hours before your guests arrive, the best way to keep it hot and moist is in an insulated carrier. Cambro’s UPC400 carrier can nicely accommodate a good sized turkey. To use, simply pre-heat the carrier by placing a pan of hot water in there for 20 minutes and closing the door. Loosely tent your roast turkey and place it inside until guests arrive. The thick insulation of the carrier’s body, together with the rubber gasket on the door will keep your turkey at safe temperature for 4+ hours with no worries!
For side dishes, try to pre-plan as many of them as possible. Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie can all be pre-made and kept refrigerated or frozen and baked in the oven on the actual day. IF you have no room in your oven and need to keep the side dishes warm, a small carrier such as the 1318MTC would be ideal—holding food pans as well as sheet pans. It can accommodate four 2 ½” deep full size food pans or eight 2 ½” deep half-sized food pans. If you have several main entrees such as a turkey and a ham, a larger cart such as the UPC1200 may be ideal for your task. The cart has two separate compartments, allowing you to place the proteins in the top compartment and the side dishes in the bottom one. This cart offers good width and depth to accommodate several main dishes and will hold food safely until it’s time to serve your guests.
The Danger Zone
But no matter what you decide to cook, the rule of thumb to ensure that your guests leave happy, rather than sick, is to keep hot food hot and cold food cold at the dinner table. Stay out of the danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F)! Chafing dishes are recommended for hot food, and cold food should ideally remain on ice, since as we know, the Thanksgiving feast usually stretches on to become an entire day’s event. Cambro’s Round Pebbled Bowls are ideal for keeping your salads nicely chilled. They are available in 3 sizes, allowing the salad to remain in the smaller bowl, nested on ice in the larger bowl. Showfest display bowls can also turn your Thanksgiving spread into a feast for the eyes—ovals, rectangles, triangles and octagonals are great for displaying various side dishes.
Tips for Post Thanksgiving
Pack up leftovers using shallow containers rather than deep ones so that cold air in the fridge can circulate within. Also do not stack warm containers on top of each other as this can also trap in heat. The more surface area that’s exposed to cold air, the faster your food will cool. Avoid opening and closing the door of your fridge to let the food have time to cool down completely. If you need to cool down hot soups or sauces, use an ice bath so that your hot food will not raise the temperature inside your fridge, affecting other foods.
Leftover food can be safely stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. When reheating, try to reheat by portions rather than heating up an entire container if you don’t intend to consume it all. Doing so will keep food from losing flavor and moisture. Always make sure to temp all reheated food so that it is brought back to at least 165°F. Makes sure any gravy is brought back up to a boil.
If you have too much leftover, the safest way to hold it would be to freeze it. Freezing inhibits the growth of bacteria, allowing you to slowly consume it over time. Wrap the turkey meat in foil then place in an airtight container.
And don’t forget Cambro’s Storesafe labels to label and date all your leftovers! (The best part is that they rinse off in less than 30 seconds under water.) Labeling ensures food stays safe and identifies content so there will never be any doubt weeks or months down the road as you relive the wonderful feast and memories of Thanksgiving 2014.