Thanksgiving is without a doubt my FAVORITE holiday! I just love the whole atmosphere it brings with it: family, sometimes friends, good food, thankfulness, etc. It makes my heart so happy! Ever since I was little, I can remember in one way or another either contributing to a dish, making my own dish, or making the whole dang thing and loving every second of it.
It’s just going to be Patrick and I this year #militarylife, but in all honesty, I’m probably going to go just as “all out” as I do every year. Maybe on a smaller scale though, maybe. We can eat leftovers for about a week, right?
Today I am sharing some of my favorite Thanksgiving hacks and tips I’ve learned over the years to make everything extra delicious and the day a breeze!
1. Roast your turkey upside down to keep the breast moist.
We were on vacation out of the country with my family the second time I flew solo cooking Thanksgiving dinner. When I went to cook the turkey, I didn’t realize it, but I stuck it in the roasting pan upside down. It wasn’t until my dad was carving it and he hit bone that we realized we needed to flip the bird over. Now it definitely wasn’t beautifully golden brown on the top, but it was the most delicious turkey any of us had ever eaten.
Roasting the turkey upside down causes the juices from the succulent dark meat to drip down into the white meat and infuse it with moistness and tons and tons and tons of flavor.
If you want it to be super pretty and golden, roast the turkey for three-quarters of the time it needs (depending on the weight) upside down, and flip it over and baste with butter every 15 minutes for the rest of the time.
2. Separate the skin of the turkey from the actual meat to yield a crisp skin.
When you separate the skin from the meat, it will crisp up beautifully and also allows you to pack it with a TON more flavor. The way I like to do this is I mix a little olive oil, softened butter, rosemary, thyme, and some lemon juice in a bowl. Then, rub that mixture under the turkey’s skin and you can thank me later. Seriously though, it’s messy but totally worth it.
I’m really not joking when I say I start cooking Thanksgiving the Monday or Tuesday before. When you do a little prep work here and there in the days leading up to the holiday, it makes the actual day so much more fun and easy. You’ll be able to spend time with your family and less time in the kitchen.
Some good things to prepare in advance are:
- Pie crusts: I usually make my pie crusts on the Tuesday before. I tend to go overboard in the pie department so it for sure helps! Just make sure to cover them with some plastic wrap. You can also make them even further in advance, freeze them, and defrost when you need them!
- Pies and desserts that are typically served cold: Pumpkin pie, chocolate pies, lemon meringue, if you’re a cheesecake on Thanksgiving family, do that too. I would say one to two days before Thanksgiving is the best time to complete this task!
- Salads: Obviously, do not dress the salad or put anything that will get soggy on it. But it’s easy peasy to get that one ready.
- Cheese: I love shredding my own cheese for my macaroni and cheese dish or sometimes potato dishes, doing this the night before is freaking awesome.
- Stuffing/dressing: Quite a bit of work can go into making a stuffing dish. Prep that the day before then the day of, pour the liquid on the dish (according to the recipe) and bake! Side Hack- bake stuffing in muffin tins so everyone gets an individual portion that crisps up nicely.
- Bacon: Growing up with family from South Georgia, we put bacon on EVERYTHING. Not kidding. So if y’all are like us and bacon goes into some of your dishes, crisp that stuff up the night before. Trust me, you and me both don’t like dealing with bacon fat. Save a little bit though. Those things called vegetables that are supposed to be healthy, usually are not for us on this day. I love to put a little bit of leftover bacon grease in a pan with my green beans along with a clove of garlic and some chopped bacon. So. Good.
- Any dish that is easily reheatable: Mashed potatoes, casseroles, etc. Before you carve your turkey, it will probably need to rest on the counter for about thirty minutes. Use that time to reheat the dishes you made the night before. This is also a good time to bake any breads you are making.
4. If you’re not a fan of leftovers, buy some cheap Tupperware or make sure you have some paper plates on hand!
Send Tupperware with family and friends so your refrigerator isn’t packed to the brim. Especially if you have enough leftovers to feed a small army. This is so much better than wasting food!
5. When you do like leftover, but you get sick of them, make a Leftover Casserole!
Sounds disgusting, but a lot of the food on your Thanksgiving plate gets mixed in together anyway.
Last year Patrick and I made one and I believe we layered it like so: mashed potatoes, green beans, shredded turkey tossed in gravy, and then some leftover cheese on top. We served it with leftover rolls and put cranberry sauce and honey butter on them.
There are also tons of recipes you can use Thanksgiving leftovers to make another meal with. There are a ton here.
6. Go easy on your arm and “mash” your potatoes this way:
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer! There will be NO chunks and you’ll have the dreamiest, creamiest mashed potatoes in all the land. It also will take a fraction of the time.
7. Boil the potatoes then throw them in an ice bath to make peeling easier.
This technique is AWESOME if you’re like me and either hate peeling potatoes or always pawn them off on your second cousin twice removed. Just boil them until they are cooked, then dunk them in cold water. After that, follow with hack #6 and mash away!
8. No roasting rack? Alumi–NO problem!
Grab some aluminum foil, crumble it, and shape it into a rope of sorts and then into a coil. Plop the bird on top of that and you’re good to go! If you’re short on the shiny stuff, you can use veggies that complement the flavor of your bird. I’ll usually hoist my turkey upon a bed of onions, garlic, lemons, and herbs.
9. Didn’t follow hack #1 and have a dry turkey?
I’ve got you covered. Warm a little chicken broth and drizzle it over the sliced turkey. Don’t worry, it’ll be our secret. 😉
10. Make breakfast the night before.
I’m talking about doing something like a french toast casserole or cinnamon rolls. Maybe even grab something from the bakery section at your grocery store. Something that you can either throw in the oven or microwave with minimal dishes in the morning. After all, pots and pans, sink space, and stove real estate are HIGHLY prized on this day!
11. Egg wash the entire pie crust to prevent sogginess.
Blind bake the pie crust like normal (425°F for 7-10 minutes, cover with foil and place pie weights or dry beans on top of the foil). Once that is done, make an egg wash (one egg + a splash of water, milk or cream) and brush the bottom portion of the crust with the wash. Return to the oven for about three minutes or until the wash is dry.
Voila! You’ve just sealed your pie crust and are combatting the sogginess! This is really great especially for pies with fruit fillings.
12. Make a list.
That list needs to include every single item and quantity you will be using to make Thanksgiving dinner! Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times me or someone in my family have made a last minute run to a grocery store or gas station hoping they will have the ingredient we forget.
I hope everyone found these hacks helpful and are able to implement them next week! Let me know what your favorite hack is and if you have any to add to the list!