Meadville Tribune

Lifestyles

November 21, 2013

How to survive cooking for a large group at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year to celebrate family and friends while enjoying a delicious meal. But for some, it can easily turn into a high-stress situation when it comes to preparing a meal for a large group.

This Turkey Day, leave the stress behind with some helpful tips and resources for pulling off dinner for a crowd.

Prepare in advance

Procrastinators, beware. The last thing you want to do is put off planning your Thanksgiving meal.

"The absolute key to a successful Thanksgiving meal is advance preparation," says David Dial, a New York food blogger at SpicedBlog.com. "Make a list of everything that needs to be done, and then put that list in order by date. I recommend starting about two to three weeks early, although most of the tasks can't be completed until closer to Thanksgiving."

Use the extra time to select which dishes you want to include, the recipes that you will use, and how much food you will need to prepare. Confirm the number of attendees as early as possible to determine food quantities.

"The number of dishes to make is purely based on personal preference," Dial says. "Part of the fun with Thanksgiving is the leftovers, so I always err on the side of making too much food rather than running out."

When it comes to selecting a turkey, a good estimate is eight ounces per person, according to Julie Jones, a catering manager at Hy-Vee supermarket. She estimates a group of 25 to 30 will consume a gallon each of sides like potatoes, gravy, stuffing and a vegetable. Dinner rolls are estimated at one and a half per person and since not everyone likes cranberry sauce, Jones says a quart will serve 25 to 30.

Starting early will also help to ensure that nothing gets forgotten, including seemingly smaller things like drinks and decorations.

Make a meal plan

Once you know how many guests you will be feeding and what types of dishes you want to prepare, map out your offerings in a detailed plan. List what you will be making and when--including recipes and cooking times and temperatures--organized by date.

"With a list prioritized by date, the Turkey Day chef can at least maintain some sense of sanity," states Dial. "There will be a lot of work to do to plan a large meal for friends and family, but breaking the meal preparation into many smaller tasks will make the job seem less daunting."

In addition, Dial says the list should take into consideration food allergies and the dietary needs of your guests. 

Some items can be prepared well in advance, depending on your personal preference.

"To save stress, when I've cooked Thanksgiving for my family, I've prepared all the dishes 24 hours in advance and reheated them Thanksgiving day," says Jones. "And it tasted better than doing it the day-of."

Dial also encourages preparing items well in advance, like pie dough, which can be frozen until it is needed.

Recruit helpers

Unless you're determined to be a one-person show, recruiting others to help with the meal prep will also save stress.

An arsenal of helpers is invaluable to Claude Williams, an Iowa City, Iowa, resident who helps organize an annual Thanksgiving meal that his church provides to the community. For nearly 30 years, River Community Church has sought to reach a community need during the holiday and now feeds over 500 people a free Thanksgiving meal.

"We have quite a network of volunteers from the church and the community that come over and help," says Williams. "We have six to 12 people who participate in actually preparing the food, then sometimes between 80-90 people who help by serving, bringing people in or taking meals out."

Granted, you may not be serving guests in the triple digits, but you can't go wrong with getting as much help as possible. Assign different portions of your meal plan to your helpers, or ask guests to bring specific items to share. If you're serving up more than one turkey but only have one oven, find a guest who is willing to prepare a turkey at their home.

If multiple people are helping with your meal plan, you may want to post an electronic copy online where everyone can access it. The app Evernote can help as it can be accessed by smartphone, tablet or computer and makes sharing a document easy. Helpers will be able to instantly see any changes you make to the plan.

Stay organized

As Turkey Day approaches, remember to stay organized. It will help you save money, eliminate stress, and make sure everything gets done.

Before heading to the store, make a complete shopping list of all the items you will need to purchase to avoid unnecessary repeat trips.

"Make sure you have collected all of your recipes in one place, and then compile a list of all of the groceries you will need," adds Dial. "Nothing is worse than having to stop and go to the store in the middle of making a recipe."

1
Text Only
Lifestyles
  • Which foods are the worst for the environment?

    As with most arguments about our food supply, though, it's not that simple. Although beef is always climatically costly, pork or chicken can be a better choice than broccoli, calorie for calorie.

    March 12, 2014

  • Old Spice attracting women in gender-bending win for P&G

    Young women are embracing Old Spice - long known as the brand dad kept in the medicine cabinet - even as P&G's marketing continues to focus on their male peers.

    March 12, 2014

  • news_planesearch.jpg Missing Malaysian jetliner confuses a world that's online 24/7

    The disappearance five days ago of a Malaysian Airline Systems Bhd. aircraft with 239 people on board is confounding search teams and a global audience used to around-the-clock connectivity and real-time updates.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_nycexplosion.jpg VIDEO: Aftermath of NYC building collapse

    Footage from the New York Daily News shows firefighters responding to a building collapse at East 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem. At least 11 minor injuries had been reported late Wednesday morning.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_google.jpg First Apple, now Google hit with kids' app lawsuit

    Last month, 4- and 5-year-old brothers in New York quickly spent $65.95 in real money to buy virtual goods in Marvel's Run Jump Splash game on the family tablet. They were able to rack up the charges without entering a password. And for that, the boys' mother has joined a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against Google, accusing the company of deceiving consumers about its in-app purchase system, which critics say makes it too easy for kids to spend money on their Android devices.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • If you were a crustacean, would you feel pain?

    A scientist and a seafood chef walk into a bar. "We have a mutual interest," says the scientist. "I study crustaceans and you cook them." But the chef wanted to know just one thing: Do the animals feel pain?

    March 12, 2014

  • 20140309-AMX-SNAKES094.jpg Researchers tackle mystery of how some snakes can fly

    Flying snakes sound like creatures from a bad B-movie, but these serpents are elegant gliders that have evolved a special skill that sets them apart. In two new studies, engineers have used simulations to try to decipher how the wingless reptile manages to remain airborne despite its lack of flight appendages.

    March 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • missing-plane.jpg In this tech age, how can a plane go missing?

    Call 911 from the side of the road, and GPS satellites can tell dispatchers exactly where to send help. Airline passengers have access to detailed maps that show exactly where they are during their journey. Hop onto WiFi, and somehow Google knows whether you're logging on from Lima or London, and will give you detailed suggestions about what to eat.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • plane-skydiver.jpg VIDEO: Skydiver, pilot treated after midair collision

    A pilot practicing take-offs and landings got tangled up with a skydiver in Polk County, Fla., but amazingly, no one was seriously hurt.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 11.21.46 AM.png VIDEO: Chrysler orders community college to crush rare Dodge Viper

    Students at a community college in Washington are fighting to save a rare Dodge Viper given to them by the Chrysler Corporation. The company now says it must be destroyed for legal reasons.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo