8 Tips For Making Your Holidays Hassle-free (In The Kitchen, At Least)

We’re heading into what, for many, is the most intensely social time of the year. Parties, dinners, decorating, baking—it can all be a little overwhelming. But when it comes to hosting holiday dinners and parties, staying organized and doing some pre-planning can make your entertaining easier and more enjoyable for everyone, especially you. Then you can relax and appreciate all the rest of the festivities, too.

  1. Keep it simple. Now isn’t the time to experiment with a bunch of new , complicated recipes. Cook things you’ve made before using as many on-hand ingredients as possible. Keep the beverage list short—beer, wine, and a do-ahead batch cocktail, along with a non-alcoholic choice for those who don’t want to drink.
  2. Make a plan, and don’t wait until the last minute. Whether you’re doing dinner for two or cocktails for 50, advance planning makes the event easier. Develop your menu, gather and read through your recipes, make a shopping list and a timetable. But, stay flexible. In these days of uncertainty, guests get sick at the last minute, an ingredient you need may be in short supply (or really expensive), your oven decides to quit working—any number of situations could put a crimp in your plans. Take a deep breath and shift accordingly. There’s always a solution or alternative.
  3. Inventory your equipment and supplies well in advance. Make sure you have everything you need, like roasting pans, pie plates, and serving pieces. If you have holes to fill, make a stop at your local thrift store. Sometimes you can find what you need without spending a fortune. Make sure all of your table linens, if you’re using them, are clean and ready to go.
  4. Don’t think you have to make everything from scratch. It’s perfectly fine to take some shortcuts when you’re cooking a huge meal. Frozen pie crusts, frozen vegetables, even canned cranberries can all work with a little dressing up. Even Ina Garten doesn’t hesitate to use store-bought ingredients.
  5. Do as many things in advance as you can. Bake the pies, chop the vegetables for the stuffing, set the table, cook the sweet potatoes. Everything you can do ahead of time will make it easier on the day of.
  6. Embrace the principle of mise en place. That means chopping, measuring, and organizing all the ingredients and tools you’ll need for each recipe. It may seem a bit time-consuming at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never go back to your old habits again. It makes the actual cooking way more efficient. Real Simple explains how to do it.
  7. Clean as you go. This is when a helper can make a big difference. While you’re focused on the cooking tasks, someone else can be washing up the pots and pans and measuring cups so they’re ready to go for the next recipe. If you don’t have someone else to pitch in, then take a few minutes to do it yourself. It makes the next cooking task easier when you’re not trying to move around dirty dishes from the last one. And when the avalanche of after-dinner dishes hits the kitchen, you’ll have an empty dishwasher and sink ready for them.
  8. Let go of your expectations and perfectionism. Your guests won’t remember a dry turkey, but they will remember how you made them feel welcome and loved, and that’s the most important part of all. 
Steak on a grill with green peppers and bearnaise sauce

Tips for Grilling Grassfed Steak

When you’re ready to throw that beautiful grass-fed steak on the grill, you’ll want to pay attention and take some care to get the tastiest, most tender results. With its leaner profile, grass-fed beef tends to cook faster, so it’s important to thaw properly, use the right grill temperature, and use a meat thermometer. Don’t skip the last step, which is most important—let it rest after it comes off the grill.

Thawing:  

It’s best to thaw grass-fed beef in the refrigerator for a day, but if you’re in a pinch, you can always place the vacuum-sealed bag in cold water for a few minutes. Never use a microwave to thaw grass-fed beef. Once the steak is thawed, unwrap it and pat it dry, then let it sit at room temperature while the grill heats, for no more than 30 minutes. Don’t cook it cold straight from the refrigerator because it won’t cook evenly. 

Seasoning:

Marinades are great for adding flavor and moisture. Use your favorite or make your own. Place the steak in a glass dish with a cover and then pour the marinade over, making sure the meat is covered completely. Refrigerate for two to six hours, turning several times. Remove from the refrigerator, discard the marinade, and pat dry the steak. Allow it to sit for no more than 30 minutes before brushing with a little olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper, and then put it on the grill.

You can also use a dry rub to add flavor. Again, use your favorite or make your own. Once the steak is thawed, pat it dry and then liberally sprinkle all over with the rub. Allow to sit at room temperature for no more than 30 minutes before putting it on the grill.

If simplicity is your thing, just before putting the steak on the grill, brush it with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cooking:

Always preheat the grill. You can sear the steak before or after it’s cooked to get those nice crispy, caramelized grill marks that add so much flavor. If you want to sear first, heat the grill to high, put the steak on until you see the grill marks on both sides. Turn the heat down to 350° and cook until done. For a reverse sear, just reverse the process. 

Never use a fork to turn the beef. Always use tongs. 

Use an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness. Watch the temperature carefully—you can go from perfectly cooked to overdone in less than a minute. The meat will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, so when it reaches a temperature ten degrees LOWER than the desired temperature, it’s done.

For grass-fed steaks, rare (125°) to medium-rare (130°) is perfect. If you go much past medium (140°), your steak is liable to be very chewy.

After you take the steak off the grill, cover it and let it sit in a warm place for five to eight minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you like, add a big pat of grassfed butter to add flavor, moisture, and even more benefits from healthy fat.

Raw ground beef patty with onion, tomato, and lettuce on side on wooden cutting board

Tips for Cooking the Best Grass-fed Burger Ever

We’ve all been to the barbecue where the burgers cooking on the grill smell delicious, but then, when it’s time to eat, you’re faced with a platter of hockey pucks. You pile on all kinds of condiments and vegetables to make it palatable, but still, that gray, tough, dry chunk of meat lurks at the center.

It’s not hard to make a great burger, but it takes a little care, from the time you buy the meat until you take it off the grill. By following a few basic tips, your grass-fed burgers will be the envy of your grilling neighbors.

Choose the right meat.

Start with good meat and the right fat percentage. Panorama Organic’s grass-fed, organic 85/15 blend is the perfect ratio of meat to fat. If you go too lean, your burgers will be dry. Adding an egg to the mix will give you a tad more moisture for the perfect level of juiciness.

Thaw correctly.

If you’re starting with frozen ground beef, never thaw it in the microwave. Ideally, you should defrost it in the refrigerator for a day. In a pinch, you can let the package sit in a bowl of cold (not warm) water until it thaws, changing the water several times.

Don’t overwork the beef.

Blend it gently with your hands just until the seasonings are incorporated. Too much mixing will make the burgers tough. The same rule applies when you’re making the patties. Don’t overhandle them. Also, wet your hands with water so the meat doesn’t stick.

Make a dimple in the middle of each patty with your thumb. This will help keep the shape of the patty as it cooks.

Chill the patties before you start cooking.

Unlike most meats that should be at room temperature before you put them on the heat, burgers should be as cold as you can get them without being frozen. They cook more evenly with less shrinkage and they hold together better.

Use high heat and a meat thermometer.

With grass-fed, it’s easy to overcook because it cooks quickly. Using an instant-read thermometer will help you keep from overdoing it. For medium rare, the perfect combination of pink and warm in the middle, the internal temperature should be 130 degrees F.

Flip as many times as you like.

The burgers cook quicker and more evenly. And don’t press on the patties with a spatula while they’re cooking. That squeezes all the juice out and makes them dry. 

Cook them in a cast iron pan on the stove.

If there’s snow covering your grill, don’t fret. Cast iron holds high heat evenly and the flat surface allows the burgers to cook in their own juices. Just make sure to turn on your exhaust fan.

Give them time to rest after they come off the heat.

Cover the platter with foil and let them sit for at least ten minutes while you toast the buns and get the rest of the condiments ready. That allows the juice from the surface to migrate back into the center of the meat.