Genius Thanksgiving Hacks You Should Bookmark Now — Really, Right Now
Justin Chapple is a senior editor in Food & Wine’s Test Kitchen and host of their James Beard Award-nominated video series Mad Genius Tips. His new cookbook, Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes, is available now. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @justinchapple.
Hi, I’m Food & Wine’s resident ham and Mad Genius! I’m known for singing show tunes around the office and playing pranks on my unsuspecting coworkers. I also spend much of my time developing and discovering brilliant cooking hacks for my video series, Mad Genius Tips.
Aside from all that, I wrote a new cookbook that’s filled with insanely fun cooking hacks that’ll help shape the way you cook at home. Now that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, it means it’s time to start planning your menus—everything from cocktails to dessert. Here, my favorite cooking hacks to help you make an effortless Thanksgiving meal.
1. Cheesecloth is the secret to a no-baste turkey.
For many, the biggest fear when roasting a turkey is that it’s going to be bland and dry. This tip is guaranteed to deliver a juicy, delicious bird every time. You drape the breast and legs with a cheesecloth that’s soaked in flavored butter. Once the bird is in the oven, you don’t even have to touch it. All the butter and flavorings in the cloth will seep down into the bird and baste it. (For Chapple’s Citrus and Butter Turkey recipe, scroll down to the bottom of this story.)
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2. Make a giant ice ring to keep your holiday punch cool all night.
The last thing you want to do when hosting Thanksgiving is get stuck fixing drinks all day. Instead, make a big batch of sangria or punch. And since little ice cubes are going to melt quickly, freeze an oversize ice ring filled with seasonal fruit in a bundt pan. It keeps the punch chilled while also looking gorgeous in the bowl. Just layer fruit in a bundt pan and and just enough distilled water to cover, then freeze. Dip the bottom of the pan in a bowl of hot water to loosen the ring. Invert it onto a plate, then add to any sangria or punch.
RELATED VIDEO: Here’s Why You Don’t Deep Fry a Frozen Turkey
3. Use dental floss to lift fragile cookies from the baking sheet.
Little cakes and cookies, like whoopie pies and snickerdoodles, have a tendency to stick to the pans after baking. Have no fear, a little dental floss will save the day. Slide unflavored dental floss under the baked cookies or cakes to loosen them from the baking sheet without breaking.
4. Make lacy cheese snacks to serve with cocktails.
Frico are lacy, thin Italian cheese crisps that are awesome with cocktails. You usually melt them in a skillet, but they can burn easily. This cheater’s version is foolproof: Mix finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with chopped thyme and black pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a 3-inch round on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high power for about 45 seconds, until the cheese is melted and lacy. Using a thin spatula, transfer to a rack to cool.
5. Make post-Thanksgiving brunch for a crowd in a flash.
Serving brunch the day after Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be stressful. You can easily poach a dozen eggs at once using a muffin pan. Pour a little water into the cups of a muffin pan. Crack an egg into each cup and bake at 350 degrees until the whites are just firm and the yolks are still runny, 13 to 15 minutes. Use this time-saving hack to make eggs florentine, eggs Benedict or even egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches.
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Citrus and Butter Turkey Recipe
One 12- to 14-lb. turkey, rinsed and patted dry
Kosher salt and pepper
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ½ tbsp. finely grated grapefruit zest plus ¼ cup fresh grapefruit juice
1½ tbsp. finely grated orange zest plus ¼ cup fresh orange juice
1½ tbsp. finely grated lemon zest plus 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tbsp. minced thyme plus 5 sprigs
½ grapefruit, cut into wedges
½ orange, cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut into wedges
3 cups chicken stock
1. Season the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Transfer to a rack set in a roasting pan; bring to room temperature.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the citrus zests and juices, garlic and minced thyme; let cool slightly. Transfer half of the citrus butter to a small bowl and refrigerate until spreadable, 20 minutes.
3. Run your fingers under the breast and thigh skin to loosen it, then spread the chilled butter under the skin and over the breast and thighs. Stuff the turkey cavity with the thyme sprigs and citrus wedges. Dampen an 18-by-18-inch double layer of cheesecloth with water and squeeze dry. Soak the cheesecloth in the remaining citrus butter and drape it over the breast and legs; pour any remaining butter on top.
4. Roast the turkey for about 30 minutes. Add the stock to the roasting pan and continue to roast for about 1 hour and 45 minutes longer, rotating the pan a few times, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in an inner thigh registers 165°.
5. Carefully peel the cheesecloth off the turkey. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes. Skim the fat off the pan juices and transfer to a gravy bowl. Carve the turkey and serve with the pan juices.
Active time: 40 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 30 minutes