Thankgiving is coming, and there’s nothing you can do ahead of time to keep the cat from getting on the counter or prevent grandma from complaining about “kids these days.” But you can get your kitchen completely ready to cook a massive meal and let your day-of cooking be as smooth as humanly possible.
Each of these tasks takes from a few minutes to … well, that depends on the state of your fridge, but likely less than half an hour. And they will save you many hours worth of stress on Thanksgiving Day, when you’re trying to make a meal that pleases the traditionalists while accommodating everyone’s dietary restrictions, and it keeps your whole family speaking to each other, at least until the pie comes out of the oven.
Run Self-Clean On Your Oven
You know how the oven always smells a bit when you first turn it on because of that crumble that overflowed once or that bit of frozen pizza stuck to it? Most home ovens have a solution for that, and it’s the self-clean cycle.
Basically, the oven super-heats and incinerates all the nasty crud that’s been stuck on the inside over the past year (or however long since you last ran it). The process takes a few hours, and it’s a good idea to be around while a large appliance turns itself into a self-contained inferno, so schedule it for a lazy afternoon and head into Thanksgiving with a clean start. Oh, and read the instructions first.
Get Your Knives Sharpened
Dull knives are the easiest to cut yourself with — and that goes double if you’re trying to hurry through Thanksgiving prep and your knife skills, like your knives, are a bit rusty. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution: Bring your knives in for sharpening at your local knife shop.
Some supermarkets and kitchen shops offer this service (sometimes free!), and there are even mobile knife sharpeners who will drive over to your place, sharpen you up and go on their merry way. Try to leave yourself a few meals to cook with the newly sharpened knives before the big day, so you’re used to the awesome power you’ll now wield.
Test Your Oven Temperature
If you’ve ever followed all the instructions on a cookie recipe and still felt like they came out wrong, it could be that your oven temperature is off. This is annoying if your cookies are a bit over-brown but can be a disaster when we’re talking turkey on the big day.
Checking your oven temperature is a quick process, though. You’ll just need a little oven thermometer, which you can pick up at any kitchen store or even supermarket. Stick it in the oven and heat it up (maybe to bake cookies, who knows?), and when your oven says it’s hit the right temperature, check the thermometer and make sure it matches. If it doesn’t, check your oven’s manual to recalibrate. Or just keep adding or subtracting the appropriate number of degrees every time you set the oven.
Wipe Down The Dishes You Use Only Once A Year
Chances are your gravy boat has been in storage since Christmas. Same goes for the big roasting rack, the meat carving tools and the pie plates. But instead of waiting until the night before to pull them all out and discover exactly what a year’s worth of dust looks like or to contemplate the source of the stickiness coating everything in your highest cupboard, pull out all those once-a-year dishes and give them a good wash over the next few days. When it comes time to frantically fling all the pie ingredients together, at least you won’t have to wonder if you also baked a dime-sized piece of cabinet lint into your pie.
Clean Out Your Fridge And Freezer
When you’re stressed out trying to play refrigerator Tetris to make room for one more pan of sweet potatoes, you’re going to face tough questions like: Do I know what this unlabeled jar has in it? And, more important, which decade is it from?
You may also get to play a favorite game, “Are these peas for eating, or have I used them as an ice pack too many times?” Fridges and freezers tend to accumulate a lot of stuff throughout the year, and going through and giving them a quick cleanout before you start loading them up with this year’s big dinner groceries will likely free up a lot more space so you never have to balance a turkey carcass precariously on top of a pan of Brussels sprouts. You can even celebrate National Clean Out Your Fridge Day on Nov. 15.