Clip and Keep Holiday Hotlines
Here's the insider's list of toll-free telephone numbers and Web sites for quick answers to last-minute questions about roasting turkeys, baking, and food safety issues.
- USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline: 1-800-535-4555
- FDA Center for Food Safety: 1-888-723-3366
- Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-288-8372 or www.butterball.com
- The Reynolds Kitchen Tips Line: 1-800-745-4000 or www.reynoldskitchens.com
- Fleischmann's Yeast: 1-800-777-4959 or www.fleischmanns.com
- Betty Crocker (General Mills): 1-888-275-2388 or www.bettycrocker.com
- Nestlé Baking: 1-800-637-8537 or www.verybestbaking.com
- Ocean Spray: 1-800-662-3263 or www.oceanspray.com
If your oven can't accommodate everything on your menu, consider replacing some recipes with ones that rely on a slow cooker, microwave, or cooktop. Steam vegetables or cook potatoes in the microwave, or sauté fresh vegetables on the cooktop. You can also microwave hard squashes such as acorns and butternut. Make casseroles ahead of time in microwave-safe dishes (make sure they fit your microwave), and reheat them just prior to serving.
When using the slow cooker, set it on a cutting board to protect your countertop from heat fluctuations that might cause it to crack. Also, make cleanup easy with new slow-cooker liners (like a plastic bag inside your slow cooker) available at the supermarket. Just lift the bag out of the slow cooker after the food is removed, and toss it. For smart slow-cooker recipes, see our Slow-Cooker Cornbread Dressing or check out how we use the slow cooker to hold mashed sweet potatoes until it's time to eat.
Good cooks take several approaches. The first is to offer selections that can be made ahead of time, such as cakes, some pies, and chilled desserts. Other dessert items, such as cobblers and bread puddings, go into the oven just before you sit down to eat and come out hot just as you finish the meal. Either approach works.
If you prefer something more showy such as a crème brûlée or soufflé, do as much prep work beforehand as possible, leaving the final mixing, stirring, broiling, or blow-torching until the last minute. Invite your guests to help you; they'll love being a part of the show.
"How To Organize Holiday Meal Preparation" is from the November 2005 issue of Southern Living.