Depending on your skill level in the kitchen, the prospect of cooking Thanksgiving dinner will conjure up one of two words in your mind: family or stress.
We can guarantee you'll be thinking of the former this year, because we've found 21 handy kitchen hacks that will make cooking your turkey (and everything else) a total breeze.
1. Store chopped potatoes in water
Mastering "prep" work is the easiest way to simplify your Thanksgiving cooking, You can store chopped spuds in a bowl of cold water in the fridge for hours. This trick also works for apples, or other kinds of chopped fruit.
2. Turn your stuffin' into muffins
3. Make dessert in your rice or slow cooker
When your stove and oven are all occupied, you can still make a tasty dessert ahead of time. There's no shortage of slow cooker desserts to try, and you can even make tasty rice dishes in your cooker.
4. Peel potatoes in a snap
Someone in your family is bound to look like Beetle Bailey on Thanksgiving, stuck peeling a giant pile of potatoes. Make it easier on them this year by boiling them whole. Then, dunk the potatoes in ice water. That will let you peel them with just your fingers.
5. Cut biscuit dough using a wine glass
Home cooks trying to make biscuits on Thanksgiving often find they don't have a plain, round cookie cutter. In a pinch, you can use a wine glass. Just keep flouring the rim so it won't stick, and make sure you only push down, don't twist the glass.
6. Cool your pie crust
When you're making a single crust pie (as in pecan, pumpkin, any kind without a top) you should consider popping your crust in the freezer while you make the filling.
Letting the crust cool for 20 minutes to an hour relaxes the gluten in your dough, keeping it from "shrinking" as it bakes.
7. Tape your recipes to the cabinet door
Let's be honest, counter space is at a premium today, and you don't want to struggle to read a recipe after you've spilled cranberry sauce on it. Tape them up somewhere safe, where you can easily check them as you need to.
8. Make a shield for your pie crust
Here's another handy baking tip: your crust tends to cook faster than your filling, resulting in those unsightly burnt edges. Keep your crust nice and golden brown by wrapping it in a tin foil shield.
Just make sure you cut out a space in the middle of the foil, so the rest of your pie can bake properly. Also, don't press the foil too snugly around the crust, give it a little space.
9. Guarantee a juicy turkey
There are a few schools of thought on how to keep your turkey from drying out, but these are the most popular methods.
- Soak a cheesecloth in melted butter and lay it over your turkey's breasts as it bakes. This way the bird will soak up the butter and stay juicy.
- Ice the breasts of your turkey for 15 minutes (using an ice pack or a bag of ice) before you throw it in the oven. White meat cooks a little faster than dark, but this should slow things down.
- If you're feeling daring, lattice-wrapping your bird in bacon strips keeps it very juicy, plus your turkey will have a smoky bacon flavor.
10. Don't forget to decorate
If you need a few ideas to make your home look fabulous for the holidays we have all the crafts you could ever need. But before the big day gets too close pick up some of these handy Thanksgiving accessories.
More advice, including how to make the perfect mashed potatoes, lies ahead...
11. Clean potatoes in the dishwasher (yes, really)
It sounds a little absurd, but lots of people swear by this trick for quickly washing a dinner's worth of spuds. Just remember to NOT use soap or detergent during the cycle. If you're feeling adventurous, some people even cook their potatoes and steam veggies using this appliance.
12. Separate pan drippings in a measuring cup
We have lots of gravy tips to share, but the best recipes start with pan drippings. Getting rid of the fat guarantees the best flavor. Simply pour your drippings into a heat-proof measuring cup and set it in your freezer.
After a few minutes, the fat will rise to the top of the cup, and you can skim it off with a spoon.
13. Make your mashed potatoes extra fluffy
It's this simple: add in a pinch of baking powder while you mash them. The powder reacts with the heat, making tiny air pockets that keep the potatoes light. You should also avoid mixing your potatoes too much, and use Russets or Yukon Gold spuds for best results.
14. Grate butter while it's frozen
Instead of trying to chop up butter for desserts, you can grate it with almost no effort. Keeping the butter cold will actually make the final product flakier and more tender.
15. Use a cooling rack to make your lattice-top pies
Trying to cut out lattice-top strips for your amazing dessert free-hand is bound to make a mess. You can keep things simple by rolling out a round crust and laying a cooling rack over top. Then, just follow the lines using a pizza cutter. Easy as pie!
16. Cook your turkey overnight
It might sound stressful, but it's actually pretty easy to slowly bake your turkey at a lower temperature. It's just one less thing for you to worry about on the big day.
17. Make the perfect gravy
If you didn't keep your pan drippings, a spoonful of soy sauce adds the perfect shot of flavor to instant gravy. If your gravy is often lumpy, remember to use cold water, and try a cornstarch recipe.
In a pinch, you can always strain your gravy to remove lumps, or blend it for a few seconds to break them up.
18. Make a DIY roasting rack
A roasting rack guarantees your turkey bakes perfectly, but if you don't have one you can pull one together in a few minutes like a household MacGyver. Either roll up some tin foil for this twisty one, or lay a bed of veggies in a pan to soak up your turkey drippings.
19. Break out the coolers
The last thing you need to deal with on Thanksgiving is a cluttered fridge. Make some space by moving ice, drinks and other non-essentials into your spare coolers. This way guests don't need to step into the kitchen to grab a soda.
20. Got a thermos? Fill it with gravy
Another way to make a dinnertime staple early in the day and save it until you need it. The thermos keeps your gravy warm, but also stops it from congealing and clumping before it's served.
21. Use a crock-pot as a buffet tray
Everything is cooked, but your turkey needs another half hour or so in the oven? Set your cooker to 'Low' and pop in your potatoes or other warm dishes in here until it's time to eat.
Share these tips with someone you know! We hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!