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The Puzzle: A Cooking Quandry

Oh no! You wake up and see it’s almost 12pm on Thanksgiving day. You were supposed to help Aunt Edna and Uncle Earl prepare dinner, which starts at 5pm. You knew you shouldn’t have started that new TV series the night before...

You head downstairs and see a note on the table.

 

Shoot! Couldn’t they have provided more details for which dish to get started on first? You need to re-create the cooking schedule so that you can finish on time. Then, you can also figure out what the secret ingredient is…

Time is ticking, and before you know it, you’ll be surrounded by your hungry relatives!

 

Hints and the Solution

The turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and bread rolls all need to use the oven. From the note, you know that each dish must go in the oven by itself. The amount of total time they all need in the oven (added together) is 4.5 hours. Since you only have 5 hours total to cook (from 12-5pm), that means that for only 30 minutes (or less), the oven is not in use.

Based on this information, can you figure out which dish you must get started preparing first?

Note: “prep” is a common term used in food recipes that means you need to prepare the ingredients before they can be cooked (e.g. cutting vegetables, seasoning the turkey, etc). You cannot “prep” more than one dish at a time.

The stuffing and bread rolls cannot be worked on first, because their prep times are each 1 hour. That means the oven wouldn’t be in use until 1 hour later.

The other two options are the green bean casserole and the turkey. If you try the green bean casserole first, you will notice that the turkey’s long baking time and bread’s long proofing time alone would not be able to fit in by 5PM.

Therefore, the first dish to go in must be the turkey. Since it has to be in the oven for 3.5 hours, it will be possible to prep other dishes while it’s baking.

Current schedule
12-12:30PM Prep turkey, then put in oven

After prepping the turkey and putting it in the oven, there are 4.5 hours remaining. The bread rolls have 1 hour of prep time, 3-4 hours of proof, and 15 minutes of baking time in the oven. That means that they must get worked on within the next 15 minutes. Because there are no other dishes that can be done within 15 minutes, the bread rolls must be the next dish to work on.

Current schedule
12-12:30PM Prep turkey, then put in oven
12:30-1:30PM Prep bread, then begin rest

At this point, it is 1:30PM and the turkey still has 2.5 hours left to bake in the oven. That means that it’s too early to start preparing the other dishes that require the oven, since steps for a dish should be followed without breaks in between them. That leaves starting the gravy or the mashed potatoes. The gravy can’t be started until the turkey is done though, so the next dish to start working on are the mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes can be fully done while the turkey is baking.

Current schedule
12-12:30PM Prep turkey, then put in oven
12:30-1:30PM Prep bread, then begin rest
1:30-3PM Make creamy mashed potatoes [mashed potatoes done at 3pm]

It’s now 3PM, and the turkey will be out of the oven in 1 hour. The bread rolls still need another 1-2 hours to proof, so that leaves the green bean casserole and the stuffing. The stuffing requires 1 hour of prep. Other than right now while the turkey is baking, there are no other pockets of time for the oven to be in use for 1 hour or more. So, the next step is to prep the stuffing and then put it in the oven.

Current schedule
12-12:30PM Prep turkey, then put in oven
12:30-1:30PM Prep bread, then begin rest
1:30-3PM Make creamy mashed potatoes [mashed potatoes done at 3pm]
3-4PM Prep stuffing, then take out the turkey and put the stuffing in the oven [turkey done at 4pm]

It is now 4PM. There is one hour left to make the gravy, green bean casserole, and bread rolls. The stuffing will be in the oven for 20 minutes, and you need to put another dish in the oven immediately after. Which dish should you work on next?

The bread rolls started proofing at 1:30PM, so they can’t be baked until 4:30PM at the earliest. Since the stuffing is done at 4:20PM, that rules out the bread rolls as the next dish.

However, you can prep the green bean casserole now and finish as soon as the stuffing is ready to leave the oven. So, the green bean casserole is the next dish.

Current schedule
12-12:30PM Prep turkey, then put in oven
12:30-1:30PM Prep bread, then begin rest
1:30-3PM Make creamy mashed potatoes
3-4PM Prep stuffing, then take out the turkey and put the stuffing in the oven [turkey done at 4pm]
4-4:20pm Prep green bean casserole, then take stuffing out of the oven, and put green bean casserole into the oven [stuffing done at 4:20pm]

It is now 4:20PM. The green bean casserole will be done in 25 minutes at 4:45PM, after which you’ll need to put in the bread rolls immediately to finish baking right at 5PM. That works well since the rolls will have proofed for slightly over 3 hours at that point.

You have 25 minutes until then and one more dish to think about: the gravy. It takes 20 minutes total, so you have 5 minutes to spare until you put the bread rolls in the oven!

Final schedule
12-12:30PM Prep turkey, then put in oven
12:30-1:30PM Prep bread, then begin rest
1:30-3PM Make creamy mashed potatoes
3-4PM Prep stuffing, then take out the turkey and put the stuffing in the oven [turkey done at 4pm]
4-4:20pm Prep green bean casserole, then take stuffing out of the oven, and put green bean casserole into the oven [stuffing done at 4:20pm]
4:20-4:40pm Make the gravy [gravy done at 4:40pm]
4:45pm Take out the green bean casserole, and put in the bread rolls [casserole done at 4:45pm]
5pm Take out the bread rolls, turn off the oven, and feast! [bread rolls done at 5pm]

From the order each dish is done, you’ll need to figure out what the secret ingredient is. There are 6 lines, which might each represent a letter. You made 6 dishes. There are also 6 bolded numbers under each line (numbers 1-6). What might the unbolded numbers after the dash represent?

The order each dish is done is:

  1. MASHED POTATOES
  2. TURKEY
  3. STUFFING
  4. GRAVY
  5. GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
  6. BREAD ROLLS

 

For each line, the first bolded number represents the order the dish was done (see above). The second unbolded number is an index into each word to get a letter (e.g. the nth letter, not counting spaces).

So, the first letter is represented by 3-2. The 3rd dish is STUFFING, and the 2nd letter in STUFFING is T.

After doing this for all 6, you get the secret ingredient: THANKS.

Happy Puzzling!

Written by Puzzling Pursuits