About 9 out of 10 Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and think it is an important time to spend with family and friends. But in order for the rest of us to enjoy that time together, there’s still many workers clocking in to keep our communities running.
In our UFCW family alone, we have dedicated, hard-working members in places like hospitals, grocery stores, and retail locations who sacrifice time with their loved ones every year to make sure the rest of us still have access to the things we need.
Almost every Thanksgiving cook has a story about some year that they forgot a vital ingredient and had to make an emergency run to the grocery store, and chances are good that it was a UFCW member who helped them at union grocery stores like Safeway or Fred Meyer . Unlike non-union workers, UFCW workers are covered by contracts that spell out what the rules and compensation are for working holidays, and many enjoy the added pay and chance to help others that can come with working on days like Thanksgiving.
Working Thanksgiving also means our members have heard all the horror story cooking fiascos last-minute shoppers come in with. With that, we have a couple of quick tips to keep in mind to avoid unnecessary stress.
Tips for a successful feast
Plan when to defrost your turkey
While you aren’t likely to forget to buy turkey, if you buy frozen, it can be easy to forget to take the turkey out to defrost in time. The safest way to defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator, but this method does take some time, about one day per 4 – 5 pounds of weight. That means if you get a large, heritage turkey, it could take up to 4 days in the refrigerator to thaw.
If T-day comes and your bird is still a bit frosty, according to the USDA, you can still cook a frozen turkey, it’s just going to take longer.
Measure your roasting pan
Is your roasting pan large enough for your turkey? Do you know where it is?
Do you have a meat thermometer?
While it’s possible to cook a turkey without one, it’s way less stressful to know for sure if it’s done cooking and safe to eat.
If you are using an oven safe leave-in thermometer, insert the probe into the thigh so that the tip of the thermometer is at the thickest part, but not touching the bone. Remove the turkey when it reaches 180°F. The breast must reach 170°F. If the turkey is stuffed, check the temperature of the center of the stuffing is at least 165°F.
If you are using an instant read thermometer, check 30-60 minutes before the estimated finish time, then about every 15 minutes thereafter.
Stale bread takes time
Are you making your stuffing from scratch? Soft, fresh bread doesn’t work very well for stuffing, so this is another step to remember about ahead of time. If your bread is too soft, spread it out on a sheet pan and leave it out on the kitchen counter overnight.
You can’t have enough butter
Unsalted butter is best for baking and cooking so you can control how much salt is in your recipe, but salted tastes best melted on dinner rolls, so you’ll probably want to pick up both kinds.
Do you need ice?
Ice is one of the easiest items to forget because it’s difficult to buy ahead of time.
How’s your salt and pepper stash?
It’s easy to take salt and pepper for granted, but difficult to do without them if you find you’re running low.
Do you have enough aluminum foil and plastic zip-top bags?
If you are planning on sending your guests home with leftovers, they’ll need something to put the food in. Foil and zip-top bags can be a big help, or else stockpile yogurt containers, takeout boxes, or other plastic food containers you can reuse and help cut back on waste.
Monitor your pets
Have a safe, quiet place for your animal friends and be sure they can’t reach where the food is being laid out.