The holidays are a time for family, friends and feasting. You can add fun and freedom from stress to the list by getting prepared early. While the dining room and bathroom are typical areas that receive a lot of attention in the days before the holiday, don't forget about the hub of it all: the kitchen. We share eight things to get in tip-top shape before the turkey arrives.
1. Get Your Oven Ready
If it’s your turn to host Thanksgiving this year, self-clean your oven in October. Yes, about six weeks in advance. The cleaning cycle on your oven can cause issues with your appliance and if you leave it to the last minute, you might end up with an oven that’s not working when you need it most. A week before Thanksgiving, go back and remove any other residue with a warm wet cloth.
Check that your oven is heating at optimal performance levels to ensure your meal is cooked to perfection. Place a thermometer in the oven on the middle rack. Turn your oven temperature to 350 degrees. When it reaches the set temperature, remove the thermometer from the oven and check to be sure it also reads the same degree level.
2. Check Your Refrigerator
Two weeks before your celebration, go through your entire refrigerator and clean out every nook and cranny. Remove everything from the shelves and drawers. Remove the shelves and drawers as well. Use a warm damp cloth to wipe out the entire interior of your appliance. Fill your kitchen sink with warm water.
Add five tablespoons of baking soda to the water. Immerse your cloth into the water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Rinse the walls with clean, clear water. Wash your shelves and drawers while they are on the counter and then place them back into the refrigerator. Finally, go through all of your food items and check the expiration dates. Throw away any expired products.
Here's an expert organizing tip: Sort the remaining food items into two groups: those you will use in the next week and all the others. Place the items that will not be consumed in the next week in first so that they are further back on the shelves. Place the items will you be able to use up in the next at the front. This way you have the items you will need for the meal front and center, saving you time when cooking.
3. Clean Your Dishwasher
Even though hot water and detergent regularly run through it, your dishwasher can actually become dirty over time. Clean your dishwasher a week before Thanksgiving to make sure it’s ready to handle all of your messy dishes. Empty your appliance and run it for about 20 minutes on the pots and pans cycle. Carefully open the dishwasher door and let the steam out. Then add two cups of vinegar. Close the dishwasher door and allow the appliance to finish the cycle. The vinegar will not only clean but will deodorize the appliance.
4. Clean Your Microwave
Get the microwave ready for last-minute heating and all those leftovers. Food can become stuck to the inside of a microwave, making it difficult to remove the residue. You can get these sticky substances off the interior walls of your microwave with a simple cup of lemon water.
Pour one cup of water into a microwaveable dish. Add two squirts of lemon juice to the water. Place the dish into the microwave and heat it on high for about three minutes. Wait five minutes before removing the dish and wiping down the interior walls. You'll find that the residue is loosened and wipes off easily.
5. Organize Your Pantry
About a week or two before Thanksgiving, take an afternoon to organize your pantry items. You will be able to get rid of things that may have expired, use up items that are close to expiring, and create space for the food you will need for the big day.
6. Check Through Your Spices
While you are organizing your pantry, check through your spices. Expired spices should be thrown away. Spices that are not expired should be checked for freshness.
Stale spices can ruin flavor, so be sure all of your spice products are at optimal freshness levels.
7. Check Your Container Supply
Thanksgiving dinner usually brings with it a great deal of leftovers. Check to be sure you have enough containers to store your leftover food. If you typically send leftovers home with friends and family members, consider getting some disposable containers that they won’t have to send back to you.
8. Sharpen Your Knives
Dull knives are not only difficult to use, but they can become a dangerous tool to have in your kitchen. Knives can become dull over time so it’s important to have them sharpened before you beginning prepping food for your Thanksgiving dinner. If you don’t already have one, purchase a knife sharpener from your local hardware store. Hold the sharpener in one hand, or if possible, place it on the counter. Hold the knife carefully in the other hand and place the knife blade between the sharpening steel ridges.
Draw the blade through the ridges, using some pressure as you move the knife through them. Repeat the process of placing the blade into the sharpener and drawing it through the steel ridges. Do not run the blade back and forth through the sharpener and do not use the sharpener on serrated knives. If your serrated knives are dull, they will need professional sharpening.