Do you love holiday food, but HATE spending the day in the kitchen instead of enjoying time taking part in the celebration?
Festive days mean family, food, and fun… but they also mean a ton of work for the chef.
Wouldn’t it be great to find a way to enjoy MORE time with your loved ones and spend less time in the kitchen?
In this article, you’ll find out how that’s entirely possible – IF you plan ahead.
How to Cook Smart, Clean Less, and Have MORE Holiday Fun
Liya Swift has seen it all. As a pro chef, she’s spent daylight to dark in the kitchen on a holiday, cooking for a crowd that just won’t quit.
Writing for the RFF Culinary Arts blog, Chef Swift outlined her field-tested strategy for cutting down on stress while keeping the hot dishes flowing.
She agreed to share those tips with us.
Chef Swift's tips for stress-free meal planning and preparation
1. Collect recipes that can be prepared in advance
Some foods actually taste better a day or two AFTER they’ve been prepared than they do freshly-made. Examples are stews, soups, and sauces. Other foods don’t really care whether you eat them on the spot or wait a while: pie crusts and breads, for instance. As much as you can, spread the work out over several days, rather than piling it all into one.
2. Use a good blender – especially an immersion blender
Blenders are excellent tools for getting jobs done quickly. Use the Vitamix when you must, but keep a handheld immersion blender handy for those times when you just need a quick blend and don’t want to make a mess. Swift says both Breville and KitchenAid make models that won’t break the bank, but still do the job reliably.
3. Get your storage act together
Take an early inventory of your food containers. Make sure you have lids to match and an assortment of sizes. Proper storage gear will make life a whole lot easier – on the holidays and in-between. The chef’s recommendations are to use glass storage sets that are stackable. While you’re at it, check your baking sheets and miscellaneous accessories. A well-equipped kitchen makes things oh so much easier.
4. Don’t forget the prep work
Here’s a chance to get the family involved in early preparation. Peeling potatoes, chopping carrots, cleaning cranberries… there’s plenty of pre-cooking work that needs done. Use those storage containers to hold the prepped foods, then use them again to store the leftovers. Make sure you have a good set of sharp knives and that you instruct the crew on proper safety procedures before the chopping begins.
5. Plan it all out beforehand
Once you have the meal plan and recipes determined, make your shopping list and head to the grocery store. You may need to make two trips – one for the early prep ingredients and one for the rest.
Chunk up your time to avoid burn-out. A couple of hours of chopping and baking is plenty. You don’t need to get everything done in one swoop when you plan ahead. Moreover, when you chunk up the prep and cooking, you can chunk up the cleaning as well!
Remember: Holidays are for fun and relaxation. Nobody (not even the cook) should get worked to the bone. With a bit of planning and organization, you can make the meal a pleasant time of gathering for the entire family.
One more thought: those children, aunts, and grandmothers who want to help – put them to work. When you’re organized, it’s easy to assign special tasks!
Happy holidays from Chef Liya Swift and the team at RFF Culinary Arts!
Do you have tips to add? We’d love to hear them!
- License: Creative Commons image source
The author loves to cook -- but hates the cleanup. Chef Swift's advice has helped him become more efficient at both. Get more information at BraineeBook.com or via Twitter @BraineeBook.