A lot can go wrong when you’re hosting Thanksgiving, but we’re here to help.
Whether you’re running out of space, time or sanity, the 25 Thanksgiving hacks below will ensure your holiday goes off without a hitch.
The problem: You have a small oven.
1. Use your dishwasher to bake potatoes.
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2. Use it to steam veggies for a healthy side dish too.
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Save time, space and calories by cooking your veggies in the dishwasher too.
3. Don’t be afraid to use the microwave.
4. The Crock-Pot is your friend.
5. And yes, you can use your rice cooker too.
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Use it to make a decadent side like mac ‘n’ cheese. Or change things up, and make a sweet and creamy rice pudding for dessert.
6. Make a no-bake dessert.
The problem: You aren’t usually known for your cooking.
7. Get your potatoes nice and fluffy.
Adding baking powder to your potatoes can make them fluffier thanks to a chemical reaction. Try this recipe to start, and add just a pinch of baking powder while mashing. Another key to fuffy potatoes? Use russet or Yukon Gold varietals, and make sure you don’t overmix them, or they’ll get dense and gluey.
8. Save your flavorless mashed potatoes.
9. Make stuffin’ muffins.
Photo credit: A Spicy Perspective
Does your stuffing always come out too soggy or super dry? Baking it in a muffin tin shortens the cooking time and ensures stuffing that’s crispy outside and moist within. Try this cornbread, apple and pancetta version.
10. Plan ahead.
If you’re not used to cooking a big meal, then figuring out how to get everything done in one day can be really overwhelming. Try taking your time with these make-ahead dishes in the weeks before Thanksgiving, and freeze them before the big day (stuffing works well for this). All you’ll have to do is reheat them.
The problem: The only pie you’ve ever made was frozen and came out of a box.
11. Make a lattice-top pie using a cooling rack.
You can still have a fancy-looking pie without the frustration of trying to eyeball perfect strips of pie dough.
12. Put away the rolling pin.
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Try this no-roll version of a classic pie crust. Or try pies that use a press-in crumb crust made of crushed cookies, graham crackers or nuts.
13. Freeze it, and then grate it.
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If you’re sick of trying to guess what “pea-sized” lumps of butter cut into flour look like, then try this hack. Freeze your butter, and then grate it into the flour. You’ll never have to fight with two forks or a pastry cutter again.
14. Use rice as a pie crust weight.
Photo credit: 101 Sweet Pastry
If you don’t bake often, then you probably don’t have a set of pie weights hanging around. Instead, lay a sheet of parchment over your pie dough, and weigh it down with rice or beans.
15. Make your own crust shield out of foil.
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Save your pie from burnt edges by crafting a crust shield out of aluminum foil.
The problem: You’re running out of time.
16. Put away the peeler.
Sweet or regular roasted potatoes, wedges of acorn, delicata and kabocha squash — these veggies really don’t need to be peeled before you cook them. Best of all, leaving the skin on gives them an additional nutrition boost too. Test it out with these marshmallow-stuffed hasselback sweet potatoes with brown sugar butter.
17. Keep chopped potatoes and apples in cold water until ready to use.
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If you have extra time in the morning to chop up apples for a pie or potatoes for roasting, you can keep them fresh in a bowl of cold water in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
18. Serve buffet style.
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Have everyone serve themselves. Not having to figure out how to fit everything on the table will save you loads of stress, and if everyone’s serving themselves, there’s a chance you may actually get to sit down with a plate of food at some point.
19. Host a potluck.
It’s nontraditional, sure. But if you’ve been tasked with hosting and aren’t sure you can swing it, then a potluck is a fun way to make sure the whole group can still get together for some tasty food.
The problem: Your gravy is always a disaster.
20. Add flavor boosters to fix bland gravy.
Try adding a tablespoon of soy sauce to your gravy. The salty, umami flavor will help bring out the savory flavors in your gravy. Or you can try a recipe that adds depth with wine.
21. Get rid of lumps before they start.
Photo credit: Simply Recipes
Using flour to make a roux is traditional, but if you aren’t diligent with your whisk, then lumps can form. Try making cornstarch gravy instead — just make sure you mix the starch with cold water until lump-free before you add it to your drippings.
22. The strainer and blender are your friends.
If you’ve done everything you can and the gravy is still lumpy, there’s hope for you yet. Pour it through a strainer or give it a whiz in the blender before serving. Your guests will never know the difference.
The problem: You have no idea how to decorate.
23. Get the kids to help.
Thanksgiving crafts are a fun way to keep kids busy while you cook, and everyone will “awww” when they see the masterpieces adorning your table.
24. Get help from nature.
Photo credit: This Silly Girl’s Life
While you’re at the grocery store or farmers market, stock up on gourds, apples and other fall produce. Then, cluster them on your table for a unique, elegant Thanksgiving look.
25. Keep it simple.
Photo credit: Mandi Being Crafty
A few candles, a tablecloth and one or two accent pieces are all a Thanksgiving table really needs. After all your hard work, the food should be the star.