Slow things down in the kitchen this Thanksgiving with pro tips and advice
Remember last Thanksgiving, when you were relegated to rushing around the kitchen for hours, ensuring the turkey was moist, the cranberry sauce perfect and the stuffing unforgettable?
We’re betting you were too exhausted to eat by the time mealtime came around.
We asked Howie Velie, associate dean of culinary specializations for the Culinary Institute of America, for advice on some tools and tips that will allow for relaxation time around the busy holiday season. His first recommendation? Make sure that knife is sharp. For starters, it will make slicing through everything from butternut squash to roast beef a breeze. And it may save a visit to the emergency room.
“Most people are injured on a dull knife,” he says, adding that while you don’t have to invest a fortune, a good chef’s knife will last you for years. “Good equipment is really key. If you have a good set of pots and pans, they’ll last you forever. If you have a cheap pan, you have a thin, aluminum pan that will give you cheap results.”
Consider a cast-iron pan, or a really fine pan in the $50 to $100 range, an investment that will last a lifetime.
As for really speeding things along in the kitchen, Velie says a pressure cooker is a great investment.
“They were popular in the ’60s, and are becoming more popular again as they’re safer than ever,” he says. “You can’t change time, but you can make time go faster with these things.”
A few other tools he and the gang at the Institute suggest:
A well-made commercial mixer or blender that can do everything from blend a sauce, to mash potatoes.
A slow cooker, so you can start a dish in the morning, go about your festivities during the day, and dinner is served.
A microplane, which is basically a fancy grater that allows you to shred, or even grate things like raw veggies in wide strips. “But at the end of the day, a cheap box grater is also a fine investment,” Velie says.
A food saver will relieve plenty of the stress on those holidays. Take a Saturday and prepare any number of things, from veggies to biscuits to pie filling, that can be prepared in advance. “On that holiday, nobody will know the difference.”
Microwave-proof bowls are a must for things like cooked squash. The quality of many of our favorite foods won’t diminish if we put them in the microwave, he notes.
Finally, he points to one obvious time-saving tip: No matter how much you’d like to emulate Martha Stewart, it’s OK to cheat here and there.
“Take a canned gravy and add to it to make it your own,” he says. “Take canned cranberry jelly, mash it up with grated orange peel and a reduction of bourbon, and nobody will know it’s not yours.”
Good advice, food pro. And now, a few gadgets worth investing in before the holidays are upon us:
- Martha Stewart Collection microplane zester, $14.99, macys.com. This little gizmo will zest that citrus in a snap.
- KitchenAid 5 speed contour silver diamond blender, $179.99, crateandbarrel.com. A good blender or mixer is a life saver, say cooks. Trust KitchenAid to offer the best of both.
- Wusthof Classic 7-piece cutlery set, $575, macys.com. The sharper the knife, the more efficient the job, every chef knows.
- Chef’s Choice 312 Diamond UltraHone electric knife sharpener, $89.95, crateandbarrel.com. Even the best knife needs to be sharpened now and again. This sharpener is worth its weight in—well, knives—as it will ensure every blade is at its best.
- Martha’s Collection Copper Accent 12-piece stainless steel cookware set, $179.99, macys.com. Velie points out that a great set of pots and pans will last for years, and that investment is worth every penny. They’ll save you time and, over the years, money.