Are You Ready for Christmas Dinner?


Cooking the annual feast is easier if you have the right equipment and tableware.

By FamilyTime

 

Christmas dinner may be the only big family meal you cook all year -- or more likely, it's one in a succession of meals that begins with Thanksgiving. Even for the most seasoned cook, it's bound to be fraught with anxiety.

Before you roast the turkey or beef, mash the potatoes, or bake the Christmas cake, stock the kitchen with the right equipment for the culinary tasks ahead. During the next few weeks, take inventory and buy what you need. You'll be happy when you actually find yourself in the kitchen and ready to cook.    

Pots and Pans
If you've been meaning to buy a good roasting pan, now is the time. Otherwise, grab a large aluminum one at the supermarket  -- don't wait too long or they may be sold out.

Roasting pans are pricey but one with solid construction, sturdy handles, and a roasting rack will last a lifetime.

Make sure you have a pot large enough to boil the potatoes or an ovenproof dish for roasting them. If you plan to make some vegetable casseroles, stock up on the appropriate sized dishes with lids to keep the food hot.

If you will bake pies, bread, or cakes, buy glass or metal pie plates and metal bread pans. For cheesecake, you will need a nine- or ten-inch springform pan.

For cookies, baking sheets are required. Buy quality sheets; the less expensive ones warp with time. A Silicone baking pad, such as a Silpat, reduces the need to grease the baking sheets and often speeds the baking process.

Thermometers
A meat thermometer is invaluable when roasting a turkey or roast beef. We suggest a standard meat thermometer, which you insert in the meaty part of the breast or roast at the beginning of cooking. Make sure the gauge faces out so it's easy to read.

An instant-read thermometer is great for other tasks. Insert it in the stuffing to make sure it's hot enough, or use it to tell if a small turkey breast or beef tenderloin is done.

An oven thermometer lets you know if your oven is accurate. If not, you can adjust the temperature dial up or down. This will promote even and timely roasting and baking.

A refrigerator thermometer gauges the interior of the refrigerator. We tend to overload our 'fridges during the holidays, which puts undue stress on them. An inexpensive thermometer will let you know if you need to turn the temperature down to keep the refrigerator at the desired 40°F.

Other Kitchen Equipment
If you don't have a turkey baster or potato masher, buy these relatively inexpensive items now. Check your supply of wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, and whisks. Make sure you have a long-handled fork and a good set of tongs.

Stock up on kitchen twine (for trussing the turkey,if you're roasting one), cheesecloth, aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic wrap and garbage bags.

Buy plastic storage containers for food you can cook ahead of time (relish, mashed potatoes) and for leftovers.

Finally, make sure you have dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquid, ample sponges and scouring pads, and a good supply of paper towels and washable dishtowels.

Tableware and Stemware
Count your plates, wine glasses, platters, and serving bowls. If you haven't enough, either buy some, rent them, or ask a relative to supply extras.

Inspect your tablecloth and napkins. Wash and iron them if necessary.

Don't forget candles, if you like to set the table with tall tapers or chunky pillars.

The more you plan ahead for the big day, the more smoothly it will go. You may remember that last year you didn't have a platter large enough for the roast, your knives were dull, or you neglected to iron the tablecloth. Don't be caught off guard this year.

Merry Christmas!