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Six things to do now if you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner

Consumer Reports News: November 11, 2011 04:52 PM

With less than two weeks to go until Thanksgiving it’s time to check items off your to-do list. If you’re hosting a crowd and short on plates and platters, make a quick trip to a thrift shop this weekend or borrow from friends. You should also make sure that your cooking gear is clean and in good order. Here are some things you can do beforehand that’ll make your life easier when the guests arrive.

1. Fine tune your menu. Your oven and range top can hold only so much food so choose a few items that can be served at room temperature, reheated or kept warm on an induction burner. Check to make sure your platters and serving bowls fit in the microwave. If you need a new range or microwave you’ll find some of the best deals this time of year, but hurry.

2. Clean out your refrigerator. Make room for the turkey and trimmings by tossing outdated foods and making the week’s meals with whatever is currently in your fridge and freezer. Call it a smorgasbord and you might win over critics.

3. Clean your oven. Nothing clears a room faster than a smoky oven, so check if your oven is dirty and grimy. A good cleaning is especially important if you plan on cooking the turkey or side dishes on very high heat.

4. Test your meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, buy one. The pop-up in the turkey breast is calibrated to pop at 180 degrees F, past the temperature for a moist bird. When roasting your turkey, put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh and wing. The turkey is safe to eat when cooked to at least 165 degrees F, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

5. Sharpen your knives. Dull knives make food prep much harder and if last year’s carving job resulted in a botched bird, it’s time for a sharpening or new knives. Keep in mind that for knives to work their best and last long, you shouldn’t leave them in the sink or put them in the dishwasher.

6. Wash your flatware and dishes. If you haven’t used your good dishes and silverware since the last holiday, run them through the dishwasher. While we’ve heard some complaints about the new low-phosphate detergents, in our most recent tests, Cascade Complete All in 1 ActionPacs cleaned very well and didn’t leave a white film.

Kimberly Janeway

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