Holiday meal shortcuts

Cooking ahead can help reduce holiday stress.

It can be overwhelming to prepare a large holiday meal for your family or friends. There are lots of foods to prepare and trying to juggle oven space, refrigerator space and timing everything to be done at the same time can be daunting. Help yourself out by making some of your dishes ahead of time.

Did you know you can roast the turkey the day before? By roasting it one day before (not more than one day ahead of time), you eliminate the guesswork of getting the turkey done on time. Prepare the turkey as usual in the oven or roaster. If you plan to stuff the turkey, always stuff the bird the day you are roasting it. Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. in the thickest part of the breast meat, in the inner most part of the thigh and the inner most part of the wing. Stuffing in the bird should reach an internal temperature of 165 F also.

When the turkey and stuffing have reached the proper temperature, remove the stuffing from the turkey. Store it in a metal pan; the stuffing should be no thicker than 2 inches in the pan. It can be placed in a casserole dish the next day and reheated in the oven or microwave to 165 F. Carve the turkey; breast meat can be sliced and dark meat removed from the bones. Store the turkey in metal pans also for quickest cooing in your refrigerator. Be sure to keep the thickness of the meat in the pan no more than 2 inches.

Reheat the turkey in a shallow pan in the oven until the turkey reaches 165 F. Use broth to moisten the turkey before and during the reheating to prevent it from drying out.

Mashed potatoes can also be prepared the day before your meal. Peel and cook your potatoes by boiling as usual. Drain the potatoes and mash them to the desired consistency. You can add other ingredients to your potatoes such as butter, sour cream or cream cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Place the potatoes in a shallow casserole dish, cover and refrigerate. Take the potatoes out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before reheating. Place in a 350 F oven and bake until the internal temperature is 165 F.

Other items that can be done ahead of time are preparing your cranberry sauce and baking the squash. Michigan State University Extension reminds everyone to always remember to properly refrigerate your foods until it’s time to reheat them for your holiday dinner.

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