Andrew Zimmern: A Guide To All The Thanksgiving Dishes You Can Cook In Advance

Chefs share which dishes will still taste great even after a bit of freezer or fridge time.

Let your refrigerator be your new best friend.

I come from a family that viewed cooking Thanksgiving dinner as a last-minute chore instead of a long-term strategy. No matter which relative was hosting, the hour before the meal was a study in angry Irish women cramming their bodies into a small kitchen, offering unsolicited advice and demanding to know where the gravy boat had gotten off to.

Mashed potatoes, especially, were the ultimate à la minute dish (not that my family would have been familiar with that fancy term). The spuds were timed to be prepared in the brief minutes leading up to “go time” for eating, and the whir of the hand mixer, accompanied by the gnashing of anxious teeth, was the soundtrack to every holiday meal.

One year, my sister called us all with a revelation: She had a friend who made her potatoes in advance. Like, a couple days ahead, then chilled in the fridge and warmed in the oven. Initially skeptical, we became make-ahead converts, at least as far as potatoes were concerned. Part of me missed that specific moment of pre-meal chaos, but my family happily provided plenty more chaos throughout the rest of the day, so we were good to go.

Advance prep has many fans and some detractors

These days, many people have gotten smarter about which dishes will do best being made in advance — whether they’re frozen months ahead or made a few days out and stored in the fridge. Andrew Zimmern, host of “Andrew Zimmern’s Wild Game Kitchen” and author of the Spilled Milk newsletter, says that advance cooking is done all the time in restaurants: “Even in the best professional kitchens, vegetables are partially cooked, sauces are made and held, and meats are partially roasted,” he explained. “As orders come in, food is finished and plated.”