7 Kitchen Hacks to Avoid Holiday Dinner Disasters


Roasted Chicken or Turkey - Unsplash

1. Avoid Overcooked Dried Out Meat

Keep your roasted meat from drying out (whether it’s ham, beef, turkey, or pork) by keeping it tightly covered during most of the cooking process (so the juices will stay close to the meat instead of evaporating). (Above photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash)

Additionally, when you have the dish uncovered in order to allow for a little browning, use a marinade (broth with seasoning or melted butter with seasonings) and drizzle or brush a little bit over the meat every 20-30 minutes while it’s uncovered. These two easy steps will keep your main dish moist and full of amazing flavor.

2. No Lumps in this Gravy

Worry about that homemade gravy having lumps in it?  Be sure to thoroughly stir the flour into the pan drippings or melted butter or fat you’re using for the base of the gravy, so there are no lumps in that initial mixture.

Then when adding the broth or water, be sure to use hot liquid, and stir it in slowly with a whisk (as opposed to dumping the whole bowl full into the pan and then stirring with a spoon).  Using hot liquid and adding it slowly with a whisk pretty much guarantees a lump-free gravy or sauce every time.

3. Make-Ahead Desserts and Dishes

Start your preparation a day or two ahead of time by making desserts (cookies, brownies, pies, or cakes) and storing them in the fridge until the day of your gathering.  If you make dressing (as opposed to stuffing), this too can be made a day ahead; just remove from the fridge the morning of your gathering and bring to room temp (45 minutes or so) before putting in the oven to reheat for 20-30 minutes (test temperature in middle of dish to make sure it’s heated through).

Santa Pudding M&M Cookies

4. What’s in the Oven?

It’s always frustrating to realize that you need to put one more thing in the oven, but you’re already using it at a temperature or setting that will not work for the dish you want to add in there.  If you don’t have a double oven, you need to make a list of the items that will need to go in the oven along with the temperature and cooking time for each, so you can plan out the day successfully (see which ones you can bake/cook the day before and only reheat if your oven will be on overload).

It only takes a few minutes to make out your list and decide on a plan, and this greatly reduces the stress of the day! Remember you can also use your crockpot or toaster oven, if needed, either to reheat or to keep dishes warm until ready to serve (reheating dinner rolls, keeping mashed potatoes warm in crockpot, or even cooking up your side dishes of sweet potatoes or green beans).


Fruit, Cheese and Crackers Tray - Unsplash


5. Delayed Dinner Time – No Problem

In case dinner takes a little longer to get ready and out on the table than you had anticipated, be prepared with a few light finger snacks that guests or family members can munch on while they wait (so they don’t get hangry – who needs that?)! Keep it simple – a couple of things you can have in the pantry or fridge and pull out to dump into a bowl or onto a plate (some diced cheese and crackers, peeled and separated fruit wedges, nuts or snack mix). (Above photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash)

6. Awkward Conversation Zappers

Worried that table conversation might get a little awkward or uncomfortable? Politely lay some ground rules when bringing everyone to the table (a couple of specific topics to avoid or just some easy guidelines about acceptable subjects).  Depending on the group, you could even laughingly lay out some “consequences” or punishment for anyone who breaks the rules (i.e. washing dishes, limited to one piece of pie, sweeping the porch, wearing the dunce hat, etc.)

From a positive perspective, lay out some printable conversation starters on the holiday table, to encourage fun topics and stories, things like sharing a favorite funny story or memory from childhood, sharing one thing they appreciate about someone else at the table, completing a madlibs story around the holiday, sharing something they were really glad to have accomplished or overcome this past year, and other similar ideas.

7. Spilled Cranberry Sauce or Red Wine?

Inevitably, if a group has gathered, there will be a mess to clean up afterwards.  Hopefully, it doesn’t include spilled red cranberry sauce or red wine on your light colored table cloth, clothes, carpet or rug.  However, if this should occur, some quick simple steps with club soda or warm water and a little dish soap can take care of the problem in short order.  Check out these and other ideas on quickly getting messes cleaned up and preventing stains.  For fabric, mix 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon laundry soap in a quart of water and allow item to soak before washing; for carpet, mix one tablespoon of dish soap with 2 cups cool water, and use a white rag dipped in this mixture to blot the area until residue is removed. (Get more hacks for cleaning your house in no time).

Most of all – take a deep breath, let it go, remember that even holiday “disasters” are often later remembered with laughing and humor, providing all of us with funny stories and memories to share for years to come.

We hope you enjoy your holiday dinner with family and friends.  Please leave us a comment with your ideas or suggestions to share, or questions about other dinner disasters and ways to avoid them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Choose the Best Wok for Mastering Thai Food

Choose the Best Work for Mastering Thai Food


Should I Own a Wok?

If you enjoy occasionally cooking some Chinese or Thai food and have enough storage space in your kitchen, owning a wok is a great investment and will make your dishes easier to prepare and enjoy.

While using a skillet is an acceptable fallback and will usually work all right for stir-fry recipes, using a wok can improve your Asian cooking experience and dishes, making the meal much more enjoyable.

Benefits of using a wok:

1. A wok makes it easier to move food closer to or away from the high heat zone

2. The wok requires less oil than a traditional skillet or fry pan

3. A good wok will distribute heat more evenly than most skillets

Choose the Best Wok

In order to choose the best wok for your kitchen, be sure to pay attention to the shape of the wok (flat bottom or round bottom – flat bottom is a better fit for most modern ranges).

Choose whether you would like two small handles on either side of the wok, or if you would prefer one long handle and a short handle on the other side (so you can move it around similar to a frying pan).

Remember that you will need to season a good wok, too, coating in a light coat of food-safe oil to keep it from rusting and to make it effortlessly non-stick over time.

While you can find woks in a variety of materials – aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, copper, and carbon steel – most cooks seem to prefer the carbon steel version for the combination of good construction, lighter weight, and its handling of quick temperature changes.

Cooking with Your Wok

Now that you have chosen your wok and are ready to cook, let’s dish up some Basil Thai Minced Pork for a quick dinner this week, giving you the chance to master a Thai dish for your family and friends.

Start by heating a little cooking oil in your wok (about 2 tablespoons).  Stir in a couple of pinches of chili flakes and a few minced cloves of garlic, then add 1/2 pound of ground pork to the wok; stir-fry to cook until cooked through, breaking the pork into crumbs while cooking.

Remove the pork from the wok and set aside.

Stir a chopped onion and some chopped mushrooms into the work, adding a couple heads of chopped bok choy after the onion and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes.

Add in equal parts (about 3 tablespoons each) of fish sauce, oyster sauce, low-sodium soy sauce, and just a dash of honey, stirring well to combine with vegetables.

Stir in the set aside pork and allow to heat for another minute or two.

Just before serving, use scissors to cut some fresh basil leaves into pieces and sprinkle over the wok.  Serve hot with rice and a sunny-side-up egg.

(See entire detailed printable Thai recipe)

Related Posts:

1. Thai Curry Turkey and Cabbage Stir-Fry

2. Thai Chili Herb Paste

3. Farmers’ Market Fried Rice

4. 8 Quick One-Pot Meals