A holiday meal is more than just a regular meal sized up. The increased number of dishes means some meal planning is needed to make sure everything has a place to cook and finishes at the same time. Of course you don’t want the turkey to sit around cooling while the potatoes boil, or vice versa! Either could wreck your holiday dinner -- but they don’t have to, because we have a plan for that.
Map Out Your Holiday Meal
When first trying this exercise you may want to use an actual piece of paper and several different color markers. Either mentally or on paper, you’re going to make a graph. The X axis (horizontal) is a list of your dishes, one by one. The Y axis (vertical) is the time you have to cook. At the top should be the earliest time you plan to start; at the bottom should be time to serve dinner. Mark off the time between by half hour segments.
Now you have your graph ready to fill in with your meal planning.
Meal Planning Hour by Hour
How to map out cooking the holiday meal: Take each dish, one by one. First decide where it will cook -- in the oven at 450, on the back right burner, or elsewhere. Write the location beneath the dish name. Next determine how long it takes to cook, and starting at dinner time (at the bottom), use a marker to draw that span of time upwards. Finally, consider how long the recipe takes to prepare and assemble: how long to peel ingredients, cut them up, boil them, and so on. Add that span to the top of the cooking span. Then repeat these steps for each dish, using a different color marker to help keep track. You’ll end up with a visual chart of what times to begin prepping and cooking each recipe relative to the others.
Arrive Together at the Dinner Finish Line
Once you have your chart, you can turn it into a list of tasks by time, if you like. For example:
- 2:15 PM peel potatoes
- 2:30 PM: put potatoes to boil on back right burner
- 2:45 PM: stir reserved roux into turkey stock and bring to boil on back left burner. Turn heat down and leave simmering for gravy.
- 3 PM: remove turkey from oven. Cover with foil and let rest. Pour pan juices into fat separator. Place prepared pan of dressing in oven.
- 3:15 PM: Pour pan juices off into gravy pot. Stir well. Allow to keep simmering.
- 3:30 PM: drain and mash potatoes. Cover loosely with lid and leave on turned-off burner.
- 3:45 PM: quickly saute green beans in a little turkey fat on front left burner. Place in serving dish.
- 4 PM: spoon potatoes into serving bowl. Strain gravy into gravy boat. Remove roasted Brussels Sprouts from Cinder Grill. Bring all side dishes to table. Bring turkey to table for presentation and carving.
With this plan you’ll avoid burned dishes, undercooking, cooled-off food, and other mishaps that could damage your dinner. Best of all, the cook won’t ever have to try to do two or three things at once, a recipe for getting none done. So enjoy cooking your holiday meal as much as you enjoy serving and sharing it, with our plan for festive meal planning!