How to make your oven the multitasker it needs to be

Oct 21, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Image: Becca Wohlwinder Photography/Getty Images

A turkey, five sides, two desserts, a dozen rolls and just one oven. How are you going to do it all on Thanksgiving Day? With careful planning, that's how — plus some clever hacks. Here's how you can make Thanksgiving happen with that one oven of yours and earn an extra slice of pie for your ingenuity.

1. Make a day-of cooking schedule

Working backward, figure out when each dish needs to be in the oven and for how long. For instance, if you want to eat turkey at 4 p.m., and it needs a half-hour to rest and about 13 minutes per pound to cook, you can calculate when exactly you need to pop the bird in the oven.

Decide which side dishes you're going to make the day of Thanksgiving, how and when you are going to cook them, and what temperature they're supposed to be cooked at — that will help you figure out which dishes can be placed in the oven at the same time.

More: Your adulting guide to planning a proper Thanksgiving dinner

2. Bake what you can ahead of schedule

Don't forget that many dishes, especially sides and pies, can be cooked the day before your Thanksgiving feast.

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams and sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, pie — all of these can be made the day before. Then, while your turkey is resting, you can reheat your side dishes in the oven.

3. Stack your pans

When reheating side dishes, you can actually stack your pans. Put a 9 x 11-inch pan or two square dishes on the oven rack, then place a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan on top and add a second layer of baking dishes. If you want to brown the tops of your dishes, broil for a few minutes in a single layer after reheating.

More: 21 simple last-minute recipes that will save your Thanksgiving

4. Get an extra rack

My oven, somewhat mysteriously, is very wide and came with only one rack. Which is great when I want to cook one very wide thing (so, never), less so when I have five or six different dishes to heat up.

Well guess what? You can actually buy a replacement oven rack at Sears or on Amazon. Just measure the interior of your oven, width and depth, to get the right fit. If, even more mysteriously, your oven has slats for just one rack, you can buy tiered oven racks that stand on the one you already have. You can fit three racks in most ovens with enough space on each one for a standard baking dish or pie plate.

5. Psst, you don't have to get the temperature exactly the way the recipe has it

It's a Thanksgiving nightmare — five side dishes to bake, all of them at different temperatures. Or not, if you're cool with challenging authority.

Most Thanksgiving dishes can be comfortably reheated at about 350 degrees F. If your dish calls for a higher temp, just leave it in longer; for a lower temp, just take it out sooner.

The exceptions are dishes that call for very high heat, like certain roasted veggies or baked goods that need a specific temperature in order to cook evenly, like rolls.

More: 21 slow cooker recipes for the easiest Thanksgiving dinner ever

6. Maybe it doesn't need to be baked?

So you've always cooked your stuffing in the oven. Maybe this should be the year you try cooking stuffing in the pressure cooker? Of course, you could choose an alternate method of cooking your turkey to free up the oven, but you can also switch to stovetop versions of some of your favorite side dishes and utilize your slow cooker. You can even use the microwave to reheat sides or try firing up the grill.

So, there you have it. Thanksgiving with one oven is possible. Maybe it's time to consider taking that kitchen-remodeling fund and putting it toward a vacation instead, eh?

oven multitasker
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