Create a timeline and master grocery list
Cooking a meal for a lot of people can be quite the challenge. To help make the process easier, you can spread out parts of the meal and cook it throughout the days leading up to it. By the time your Thanksgiving guests arrive, you’ll have everything ready sans the extra stress and clean up.
Start by making yourself a cooking timeline and a master grocery list several days before the big day. Not only will this allow you more time to enjoy your family and friends, but it also gives you wiggle room for mistakes and ensures that you won’t be making last minute grocery trips because you forgot an essential ingredient.
Prep ahead of time
One of the biggest challenges on Thanksgiving Day is juggling multiple dishes at the same time. Instead of trying to do everything at once, take a look at your menu and see what can be done ahead of time including:
Pie dough. Make your dough days ahead of time and freeze it. That way all you have to do is thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and you have homemade pie crusts to impress everyone the next day.
Turkey stock and gravy. You can easily go to the butcher and get all the turkey extras you need (necks, wings, etc.) to make your homemade stock that you will use for stuffing and side dishes and freeze it weeks in advance. The same goes for gravy, which is usually the most stressful part to make with everyone breathing down your neck anyway. Making gravy ahead of time gives you plenty of time to pay complete attention to the process (we all know that stepping away from constantly stirring the gravy can mean disaster) and give you time to strain it so that you don’t have bits of anything in it. Plus, gravy freezes well, so all you have to do is reheat it Thanksgiving day.
Casseroles, soups, and roasted vegetables. When creating your menu, consider items that can be done a day or two ahead of time then reheated just prior to the big meal including corn, green bean, and/or sweet potato casseroles; creamy squash or carrot soups; and roasted root vegetables and/or Brussels sprouts. And if refrigerator space is limited, simply store them in an ice filled cooler until they are ready to be reheated.
Prepping vegetables. Cut down on the prep time Thanksgiving Day by chopping all of your vegetables, peeling all of the potatoes, and sauté the stuffing ingredients ahead of time.
Cook your turkey outdoors
We all know how precious stovetop and oven space is before holiday meals. This year, consider cooking your turkey on the grill (you can find a recipe for a grilled turkey with citrus-herb salt and sage butter here). Not only does this free up a large amount of room in the oven for side dishes and desserts, the smoky flavor from the grill will be a welcomed surprise for all of your guests.
Tape all your recipes to your cabinet doors
Printing out all of your recipes and taping them to your cabinet doors not only gives you a visual of what still need to be done, it’ll save precious minutes as you won’t be searching for recipes online, in cookbooks, and elsewhere. Plus, this makes it easier for others to jump in the kitchen and help.
Adding butter to the dough
Adding cold butter to your pastry or biscuit dough rather than melting it or softening it to make it easier to mix in is what makes the end result deliciously soft and flaky. However, “cutting in” cold butter is the ultimate pain. Instead, use a cheese grater to grate frozen butter into your flour.
Ran out of butter but have heavy cream?
It’s crunch time and you suddenly realize that you’re out of butter. No need to panic, however, as you can make your own as long as you have a jar, heavy cream and salt. Watch this video to learn how.
Skip peeling the potatoes
One of the most tedious tasks that usually ends up with peels flying all over the kitchen no matter how careful you are, peeling the Thanksgiving potatoes is not necessary. Boil your potatoes with the peels on, then once they’re cooked, “shock” them by dunking them in ice-cold water and the peels will slide right off when you rub your hands over them.
Get fluffier mashed potatoes
Simply add a little bit of baking powder while you’re mashing the potatoes (one teaspoon per 6 potatoes is fine). The heat from the potatoes triggers the chemical activity in the baking powder for instant fluff. Then, doctor them up with butter, sour cream, and herbs as you please.
Have your emergency contacts ready
Okay so Thanksgiving is rarely an absolute disaster, but there are definitely moments of panic and second-guessing throughout the day. Have this list of holiday hotlines on hand if you need a quick answer about your Thanksgiving dinner preparations. From turkey preparations to how to store and what to do with leftovers, these hotlines can help you out in a pinch (especially if you’re the stubborn kind who doesn’t like to ask family for help).
Don’t forget about your slow cooker
Your oven will be getting a workout and you might be panicking about getting all your dishes heated in time for dinner. Slow cookers are an excellent and out-of-the-way cooking option for veggies, mashed potatoes, or cranberries. There are plenty of Thanksgiving recipes for slow cooker casseroles, so don’t let this space-saver go to waste!