Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday where food, football, family, and friends all converge.
But hosting Thanksgiving can be a nightmare. Between cooking all the sides, roasting your bird, and talking to your guests, it’s almost impossible to remain on schedule.
Luckily there are a few easy hacks for cooking the best Thanksgiving meal of your life — and saving you from a few pitfalls. Keep reading to see our tips.
1. Peel garlic faster by microwaving it. Stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds and then peel the garlic with your hands — the cloves will slip right out of their casings.
2. Peel an entire bucket of potatoes in under 50 seconds. Earlier this summer, a Danish man discovered he could peel an entire bucket of potatoes in less than a minute by using a hose, a clean toilet brush, and a power drill. You can watch the whole video here.
3. Do all your chopping a day before. Carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes can all be pre-chopped and stored in the fridge overnight without losing any of their flavour. Keep the cut potatoes in water so they don’t turn brown and put the rest in Ziploc plastic bags.
4. Make stuffing the night before. You can make and chill stuffing in the fridge for 24 hours before taking it out and baking it the day of.
5. Add baking soda to potatoes for a fluffy texture. Just a pinch will do. The reason it works is because the baking soda reacts to the heat of the potatoes and forms tiny air pockets.
6. Make and freeze your pies ahead of time. Not only is it incredibly convenient to bake your frozen homemade pies, but it also makes for a better, non-soggy crust. Wrap the pie in plastic wrap or foil before freezing and add 20-45 minutes of extra cooking time to your recipe.
Note: This works well for all fruit pies, but for pumpkin pie, freeze the custard mix separately from the crust. Defrost the custard a day before in the fridge and thoroughly whisk it before adding back to the crust and baking.
7. Use a slow cooker for some sides to save oven space. Dressing, stuffing, casseroles, potatoes, and more can all be made in a slow cooker to save room in the oven (and cook to perfection without any oversight). Just search “slow-cooker Thanksgiving side dishes” and you’ll find a lot of good ideas.
8. Keep warm, finished items in a cooler. When you’re done making your sides but want to keep them warm while the turkey cooks, stick them in an empty cooler. You can also warm a brick in an oven, wrap with a dish towel, and stick that in there too to keep everything warm until serving time.
9. Buy a meat thermometer. If you want to cook a turkey perfectly, a meat thermometer is all you need to avoid dry meat. Turkey needs to cook to 170 degrees. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey’s thigh (making sure you don’t hit the bone). When it’s 8 to 10 degrees away from your target temperature, remove the turkey and let it rest for a half an hour. It will keep cooking just enough to make it done without drying out the meat.
10. Get a second turkey, not a bigger turkey. A big turkey takes longer to thaw, longer to cook, and cooks less evenly. You’re more likely to get dry meat with a larger bird and it’s hard to carry, position, and carve a huge turkey. Instead, buy two smaller turkeys — it won’t change the cooking time and they will be much easier to manage.
Rule of thumb says you should have a pound of turkey for each guest. For 15 people, two 10 pound turkeys should do just fine (with ample leftovers).
11. Dry brine your turkey — it will save time and effort. Brining a turkey used to be the classic way to prepare your bird, but it’s a messy, arduous process. The easier method is to dry brine your turkey, which essentially means you just rub it down with all of your herbs, salt, and pepper. Find out how to do it here.
12. Rub butter and herbs over and under the skin. Lift the skin up and slide little pads of butter between the skin and the meat. Rub in some herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage), add a little oil, put some salt on there, and add more butter on top. This will really make the skin crispy on the outside and the meat succulent.
13. Roast the turkey while you sleep. This is perhaps the easiest way to cook the turkey and you barely have to do anything. Season the turkey, drizzle in oil, and then roast at 450 for 45 minutes to an hour, until it becomes a golden brown. Then turn down the heat to 170 and let it roast away to the perfect doneness. At this level, it’s roughly an hour per pound (so a 20 pound turkey would take 20 hours).
14. Spatchcock your turkey. Spatchcocking (essentially butterflying your turkey) will cook the bird faster, more evenly, and is pretty simple to do. You can either have the butcher spatchcock it or you can do it yourself with some poultry scissors and a knife. Learn how to do it here.
It also makes carving a breeze.
15. Forgot to defrost your turkey? You can still roast it.Let’s say you forgot to thaw your turkey in the fridge. It happens, but you should start roasting that turkey immediately. Take the recommended cooking time for a thawed turkey of your size and add 50% more time (so a turkey that should take 5 hours will now take 7.5 hours). You can baste, butter, and salt the turkey as you go along.
16. Make dinner a potluck to save table space. The concept of the Rockwell Thanksgiving table is tempting, but it’s so inconvenient and crowded. Instead, set up a potluck station in the kitchen and have everyone grab their plates before sitting down. This will streamline the entire process.
17. Carve your turkey the right way. Remove the legs and thighs first, then the drumsticks, then the wishbone, then the breasts, then the wings. Then slice up all the meat and transfer to a platter. Add a little bit of gravy to add more moisture and flavour, and serve.
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