23 Genius Hacks to Make Your Thanksgiving Even Better
SUPER CREAMY MASHED POTATOES
Instead of boiling your spuds in water, simmer them gently in milk — then mash directly in the pot. Get our recipe here.
3 THANKSGIVING PIES IN 1
We give you...the Pecapplekin Pie. Instead of having to make that all-too-difficult decision between pumpkin, apple and pecan pie, have all of them stacked on top of each other. Get the recipe here.
TURN PIE INTO MILKSHAKES
Leftover pie may seem like an oxymoron, but it does happen. And while you could certainly eat it cold and call it breakfast, it's even better whizzed up in the blender with some ice cream. The buttery crust running throughout makes for a truly blissful experience. Get our 3 favorite flavor combos here.
USE A COOLING RACK FOR LATTICE CRUST
TOAST NUTS IN THE MICROWAVE
If a recipe like a pie or casserole calls for toasted nuts, take a shortcut by microwaving them in 1 minute intervals for about 5-7 minutes, stirring after each. You'll know they're done when they're very fragrant and taste toasty. If you want to make them an appetizer all on their own, simply toss with some brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt before microwaving for a savory-sweet snack.
USE A CHEESECLOTH FOR HANDS-FREE BASTING
Basting a turkey can a messy and arduous task, and ultimately will just mess with your oven temperature if you keep opening and closing the door. To accomplish the same goal, simply soak a cheesecloth in melted butter and drape it over the turkey before roasting. It will result in the flavorful, crispy skin you've always wanted.
BOOZE UP YOUR PIE CRUST
There's an old trick from Cook's Illustrated where you replace half of the called-for water in pie crust with vodka. The idea is that the alcohol prohibits gluten formation and makes for a tender, flaky dough (without imparting alcohol flavor, which cooks off). Not a vodka drinker? Any liquor will work. Try using bourbon for your pecan pie.
USE YOUR SLOW COOKER
The oven is prime real estate during Thanksgiving and, between the turkey and all the sides, space can run out fast. The solution: Let your slow cooker take over one of the dishes. Sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole can all be made (and served!) from your slow cooker.
GIVE GRAVY AN UMAMI KICK
Want your gravy to have that extra something special your guests can't put their finger on? Umami is the answer. Stirring in a splash of soy sauce, some grated parmesan cheese, or dried ground mushrooms at the end will turn your gravy from good to totally addictive in an instant.
BUY PRE-PEELED GARLIC
There are plenty of peeling tips out there for garlic cloves – microwave them, put them between two metal bowls and shake, etc. Regardless, it's still a pain. Here's a realistic tip: Buy them already pre-peeled. Most grocery stores carry them this way, and it's a perfectly acceptable shortcut that will yield no flavor difference (just don't buy the pre-minced stuff, it's no good).
TOSS ICE CUBES IN YOUR PAN DRIPPINGS
So you want to use all those delicious juices from your turkey in your gravy, but don't want any of the fat. If you don't own a fat separator, simply transfer the drippings to a measuring cup and throw a couple ice cubes in. The fat will stick to the ice and then you can just scoop them out.
FIX LUMPY MASHED POTATOES
Bumps in the (mashed spuds) road? As long as you've got an extra half hour you can make things right by spreading them into a gratin dish, topping them with cheese or breadcrumbs (or both!) and baking them into a beautiful casserole, like this one from The Kitchn.
PUT STICKIE NOTES ON SERVING PLATTERS
During the (literal) heat of Thanksgiving day, it's easy to forget which dishes go into which serving containers. Here's a strategy pros swear by: A few days before Turkey Day, pull out all platters you intend to use. Then put a stickie note inside each one with the name of the dish that's supposed to go there. This will also help guide guests who need to transfer their potluck contribution into one of your containers.
HIDE AN UNSIGHTLY PIE CRACK
If a custard-based pie comes out of the oven with a giant crack down the center, simply cover the top with whipped cream and, if you like, add a drizzle of salted caramel or maple syrup. This luscious pumpkin cream pie from Cooking with Beer proves that this would be a smart way to go even without a mini baking disaster.
BLANCH POTATOES SO THEY PEEL EASILY
Stripping the skin off spuds with a peeler is a thankless job, but this video from The Presurfer explains that if you parboil them and shock them with ice water, that outer layer will slide off as easily as a winter jacket.
ICE THE TURKEY BREAST
Your ice pack isn't just good for soothing ailing muscles. As Chef Justin Wrangler of the Partake by K-J restaurant demonstrates, if you put a cool pack on your turkey breast before cooking, it should be ready at the same time as the slower-cooking dark meat, thus saving you from the expected dried-out white meat syndrome.
CRIMP PIE CRUST WITH JEWELRY
In this fast video, cookbook author Libbie Summers shows some smart, why-didn't-we-think-of-that-first ways to juj up your pie crust border, including this clever method of using a pearl necklace.
ADD BAKING POWDER TO MASHED POTATOES
Baking powder is a leavening agent, so it makes sense that adding it to mashed potatoes will make them fluffier. Some cooks use only a pinch, although The Gluten-Free Homemaker suggests a full teaspoon.
QUICKLY THAW A FROZEN TURKEY
It's the night before Thanksgiving and you realize you've forgotten to defrost your turkey. Never fear, The Mayo Clinic is here, with a handy explanation for cooking your bird safely. You will likely have to adjust your meal timing somewhat, since it takes fifty percent longer to roast a frozen turkey than a thawed one of the same weight.
MAKE BREAD FROM CRANBERRY SAUCE
Here's a genius use for all that leftover cranberry sauce that inevitably remains after Thanksgiving dinner: This delectable-looking bread from Oh My Veggies, which will make an ideal Black Friday breakfast.
TURN PIE INTO PARFAIT
Sometimes the pastry gods get angry and for whatever reason, your pie turns into a soupy mess that doesn't hang together. But don't dump it: As long as you aren't dealing with uncooked egg, you can give the filling a new life by spooning it over ice cream or, even better, serving elegant parfaits. For inspiration, check out these layered pumpkin beauties from The Cozy Apron.
PUT LUMPY GRAVY IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR
Bill Marken, author of How to Fix Just About Everything, says that if your gravy lumps are fairly "small and stubborn," you can smooth them out in the food processor. Just be sure the lid is tightly closed so you don't burn yourself.
USE A COOLER TO KEEP FOOD WARM
Even experienced home cooks struggle with keeping finished items at the optimal temperature while the rest of Thanksgiving dinner is still cooking. If you're running out of space in the oven, cover your finished dishes and let your cooler's insulation help keep the food warm.