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Cooking and serving Thanksgiving dinner ranks up there as one of *the* most stressful holidays to host, so that’s why we’re bringing you time-saving Thanksgiving dinner hacks to make your life easier.
I know we’re breaking down food hacks, but there are some tried-and-true tips that just make sense when it comes to managing a major project — like planning a Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s some bonus time-saving tips for you:
- Stick to a firm menu checklist, timeline, and dinner schedule.
- Ask friends and family for help.
- Buy some items and make others. No one will notice if you didn’t make the dinner rolls.
- Use store-bought shortcuts like crispy onions, frozen green beans, and canned pumpkin.
- Set your table the day before.
- Use a slow cooker to save oven space.
Need to know when to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey? No more guessing — KCL has you covered.
Try these sanity-saving Thanksgiving dinner hacks for your next gathering:
Thanksgiving Hack 1: Chop all vegetables in advance.
Dice your vegetables for your stuffing, gravy, and side dishes a day ahead. Put them in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator. Pull out what you need and refrigerate the rest.
Thanksgiving Hack 2: Spatchcock (or butterfly) your turkey so it cooks faster.
Spatchcocking isn’t some strange language or new dance move, it’s a culinary term that means splitting open and grilling (aka butterflying). And — as a Thanksgiving hack — you should consider it instead of occupying your oven for a 20-pound turkey. The average turkey can take four to six hours to cook versus 90 minutes cooking it butterflied.
The spatchock method results in a bird that’s cooked faster, more evenly, and just as juicy. The skin is super crispy, too. Prep it with a seasoning blend or brine mix like you would a regular turkey.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Grab a large cutting board and with the breast-side down, remove the backbone with a knife or kitchen shears. Firmly push down on both sides to flatten. If that’s too much work for you, ask your butcher to do it.
- On a large, rimmed baking sheet, create a “bed” of chopped celery, carrots, and onions. Lay your butterflied turkey on top.
- Bake for 90 minutes or until the temperature reaches 155 degrees for the breast and 165 degrees for the legs. Rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Fun fact: you can spatchcock whole chicken as well.
Thanksgiving Hack 3: Skip baking homemade bread and make compound butter to boost flavor instead.
Making compound butter is a lot easier than baking your own bread. And it’s not just a plain stick of butter — it’s butter on the next level. Prep it a few days ahead by chopping your herbs or dried fruit. Just mix whatever ingredients you want along with one stick of softened butter in a food processor and voila!
Either refrigerate in a covered container or form into a log, wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze. I like to keep a log in the freezer and cut a few tablespoons whenever I need an elevated flavor (think herbed butter for your steak!).
Need some inspiration?
- Cranberry cinnamon butter
- Orange honey butter
- Garlic herb butter
- Jalapeno lime butter
Thanksgiving Hack 4: Peel garlic easily by microwaving the cloves for 15 seconds.
In just 15 seconds, you can have multiple garlic cloves or the whole bulb peeled, courtesy of your microwave oven. Place them on a microwave safe plate and handle carefully when handling, as the skins will be hot.
The microwave’s heat steams the skin, helping it separate from the clove. For an entire bulb, cut off bend ends and microwave. Then just squeeze the bulb until the cloves ooze out.
Thanksgiving Hack 5. Keep gravy warm in an insulated carafe or Thermos.
You can always make your gravy ahead of time and freeze it. But then you have to thaw it out and reheat it. How about keeping it warm while you move on to your next to-do item? After your gravy is done, pour it into a Thermos or insulated carafe.
Here’s a thought – Stanley tumblers keep liquids hot for seven hours! Obviously don’t use the straw.
Thanksgiving Hack 6: Use a cooling rack to make the perfect no-weave lattice top for a pie.
Once your pastry dough is all rolled out, take a wire cooling rack and press it into the dough. Remove the rack and cut along the indented lines with a pizza cutter. Instant lattice style without the hassle of figuring out the weaving method.
Related: Make-Ahead Freezer Meals
Thanksgiving Hack 7: Keep mashed potatoes warm in a slow cooker.
Butter the inside of your crockpot, then pour a bit of heavy cream into your slow cooker. After adding in your mashed potatoes, set your slow cooker on low and remind yourself to stir the potatoes every hour until you’re ready to serve them.
Thanksgiving Hack 8: Tape recipes and to-dos to your cabinets to save counter space.
No matter how good you think your memory is, you’re bound to forget some things on big cooking days like Thanksgiving. A few days leading up, print your recipes and to-do lists and tape them to a cabinet in your kitchen. By taping them, you won’t get stains on your papers and you’ll always know where they are.
Bonus Tip: Stay super organized by arranging your measured and cut ingredients for each recipe in the fridge or counter. Professional chefs call it “mise en place,” meaning “putting in place.” No more searching for your ingredients when you have them all laid out.
Thanksgiving Hack 9: Soften butter quickly with the heat of a hot glass.
Need a stick of softened butter but you forgot to leave it out? Fill a tall glass with hot water and pour it out. Place the glass over the stick of butter and wait five minutes.
Bonus Tip: Pre-grate or dice butter to use in your pie dough. Keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Grated butter distributes easier than cubed and creates a flakier pastry.
Thanksgiving Hack 10: Peel potatoes easily by boiling them whole.
Make a slight cut around the middle of a potato — just deep enough to penetrate the skin. Boil in salted water until tender, drain, then run potatoes under cool water. Like magic, your potato skins should slip right off! This is my mom’s go-to hack.
Thanksgiving Hack 11: Hydrate overcooked turkey with chicken broth.
Dried turkey happens, but what’s most important is finding a juicy solution. You can either dip slices of dried-out turkey directly in the broth or pour broth over. Use the broth in combination with any pan juices to add more flavor.
Thanksgiving Hack 12: Use quartered onions, celery, and carrots as a roasting rack.
There’s no need to buy a roasting rack when you can make one from chopped vegetables. Not only will these vegetables keep your turkey elevated, they add flavor to drippings.