These simple prep tips will help get your kitchen in tip-top shape to help ensure a happy and smooth-running holiday entertaining season.
1. Clear Out Old Food
Set aside an afternoon to clear out all old food items from your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Not only will you create more room for all those holiday culinary creations, but you’ll also get rid of all those expired or unwanted things you’ve forgotten about that are now taking up valuable shelf space.
Go through all your boxes, jars, cans, and packages and toss anything and everything that’s expired. Pitch the expired condiments or summer items (pickles, relish, etc.) that you know you won’t use before it goes bad.
While you’re at it….scrub down the produce drawers and wipe the shelves. Your mother-in-law will be impressed.
Make more room in a crowded freezer by taking things out of their bulky boxed packaging and storing food in resealable plastic bags. Discard foods that show signs of freezer burn. Place food items that you’ll need up front and center. If it hasn’t been defrosted in awhile, you can improve efficiency and possibly gain space by taking time to defrost and clean it.
2. Check Your Spices
You can’t make tasty dishes with stale spices! Be sure to check the “best by” dates on all spices you plan to use. When in doubt, throw out all spices over a year old as well as any that don’t have an obvious aroma when opened.
Here are some spices you are likely to need in the coming weeks. Check them and restock as necessary:
- poultry seasoning
- vanilla extract
3. Clean Oven & Dishwasher
Not fun but it is so nice to start with a clean work space when the bounty of baking begins.
Fortunately for US, I have a post detailing how to do EACH of these tasks!
Trust me….You will be glad you took time to do these steps!
4. Inventory Cookware
Keeping cookware organized can go a long way toward creating an efficient holiday meal. First, inventory your pots and pans. Did you loan the large roaster out last Christmas? Do you have dishes, serving platters, and silverware?
To make things easier at crunch time, use Post-it notes to label each piece with the dish that will be served in it. That way your helpers will know what goes where without distracting you while you finish the cooking.
Check the status of your cooking gear and look for cracks, chips, or missing/broken pieces and replace them. Know what you need and check out profusion of sales going on this time of year.
5. Wash Dishes, Flatware, Glasses, and Linens
Since a lot of our holiday pieces only comes out once or twice a year, then they might be a bit dusty. A few days before the bustle of preparations, pull out any special dishes, glassware, flatware and serving pieces and give them a good wash. It’s one preparation that can be done easily ahead of time before the kitchen gets super busy with the hustle and bustle of food prep.
It’s also a good time to wash and iron tablecloths and napkins. If you like to use candles on your holiday table, make sure you have enough on hand.
Once the cooking begins in earnest, you’ll appreciate extra areas to work. Go through your kitchen and remove extra items from countertops, tables and shelves to declutter. Place all these things into temporary storage and plan to get them back out again after the holiday. With a minimalist kitchen, you’ll have the necessary room to prepare and work on the dishes that make up the holiday meal.
7. Sharpen Knives
Don’t settle for hacking up the turkey when you can carve it like a pro.
To use a sharpening steel, hold the steel in your left hand and the knife in your right hand, with the cutting edge toward you. Lay the blade on top of the steel and raise the back of the knife 20 degrees (you’ll want to keep the knife at this angle at all times). Place the heel of the blade at the tip of the steel and using light pressure draw the edge across the steel in a sweeping, curved motion (as if you were shaving off a thin slice of the steel) until the tip of the blade points toward the handle and guard of the steel. Then place the blade under the steel and repeat. Always give each side an equal number of strokes. You can also use a similar procedure with a sharpening stone. Serrated and fine knives should be professionally sharpened.
8. Stock Up On The Basics
Save yourself some time and be sure you have plenty of these things on hand to get you through the next months or two. You don’t want to have just finished a huge meal only to discover you’re out of dishwasher detergent!
Be sure to have everything you need on hand, including:
• Garbage bags
• Plastic bags
• Kitchen string
• Aluminum foil
• Plastic wrap
• A disposable roasting pan
• Containers for leftovers
• Cheese cloth
• Dish soap
• Dishwashing detergent
• Coffee filters
• Paper towels
9. Child-proof Your Kitchen
If you already have young ones at home, you probably won’t have to do much. But empty nesters and newlyweds will want to make sure their kitchen is safe for little ones.
First make sure they can’t get a hold of any potentially harmful objects, such as matches, lighters, sharp utensils and household cleaners, by storing them in upper cabinets or using child-safety latches.
When cooking, unplug appliances not in use and wind up all cords (to prevent tripping and strangulation) and try to use the back burners of the stove as much as possible. If the front burners must be used, always turn pot handles to the back.
Make sure all electrical outlets are covered when not in use.
10. Appliance Check-Up
Appliances need to be prepared and ready to go for holiday dinners. Check each appliance you plan to use – microwave oven, stovetop, oven, refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, crockpots, food processer, mixer and blender – to make sure they work and they’re ready for action. As you assess each appliance, give it a good cleaning so it’s ready to use when you need it. If you find an appliance that doesn’t seem up to the job, either get it fixed or replace it before you need to use it.
It might be a good idea to also check the oven temperature. If need be, adjust the range’s oven temperature using the instructions in the owner’s manual or using a repair manual for the appliance. Sometimes it’s nothing more complicated than adjusting the temperature dial so it points correctly.
Follow these 10 simple steps and you will be good to go for all your holiday entertaining this year.