17 Stress-Reducing and Time-Saving Thanksgiving Dinner Hacks

Oct 4, 2016

Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday when you’re charged with taking care of dinner — or even if you’re just contributing to it. With so many courses, there are inevitably hurdles to overcome. So here are a few troubleshooting and time-saving tips that will help you get the meal on the table while reducing food waste.

Roasting-Rack Hack

If you don’t have a roasting rack, roll up some tin foil and coil it to nestle under your bird, or set it on a layer of roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery, which will add flavour to the drippings for your gravy.

Slow-Cooked Turkey Wins The Race

Cook smaller turkeys in a 6-quart oval slow cooker — it won’t have the deep golden skin you might associate with roasted turkey, but will be incredibly moist and juicy, and there is no stressing over the timing! Tuck herbs and a halved lemon into the cavity, season with salt and pepper, cover (no need to add liquid), seal with foil if there are any gaps in the lid, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

A photo of an un-cooked turkey in a slow-cooker

Prevent Boil-Over Mayhem

A wooden spoon set over your pot will keep it from boiling over.

a photo of a pot with a wooden spoon laid across the top

Lumps Be Gone

Fix lumpy gravy by pouring it through a sieve.

Get Saucy

Add a small amount of soy sauce to your gravy (instead of salt) to season it while adding colour.

Dried, Tested, and True

Too many fresh herbs? Lay them out on a baking sheet and bake for a few hours at your oven’s lowest setting. Once completely dry, crumble into airtight containers or ziplock baggies for storage.

a photo of fresh herbs lying on the counter

Grate Your Butter

Grate cold butter into your pastry or biscuits. Mark the measurement off on the side with a knife–it’s faster and easier than cutting it into bits and blending it in. This is also a great way to soften butter quickly and easily for baking.

butter being grated with a hand held grater

Peeling is so Passé

Use thin-skinned potatoes and don’t bother peeling them; quarter and roughly mash with butter, cream, salt and pepper. It’s less work, you’ll get more nutrients from the potato skins, and no pressure to make them lump-free and smooth.

a photo of rustic mashed potatoes on a plate beside a piece of steak

Get Thrifty

If you don’t have enough dishes to serve a crowd, visit the thrift store — mismatched plates are in.

Vintage plates from a second hand store

Muffin Tin For The Win

Bake extra stuffing in muffin tins — it cooks through more quickly and is easy to serve, especially to kids.

Whip Up a New Flavour

Flavour your whipped cream by sweetening it with maple syrup — or infuse the cream with fresh herbs, ginger, vanilla, tea leaves or lavender, then strain before you whip it.

A photo of a pie with whipped cream on top

Pack Some Pumpkin Punch

If your recipe doesn’t call for a whole can of pumpkin, freeze leftovers in large spoonfuls to add a boost of beta-carotene to muffins, waffles, pancakes, soup, stew, smoothies or chili.

a photo of leftover pumpkin pie filling spooned out onto parchment paper

Creative With Crans

Get creative with your cranberries. Add frozen chopped rhubarb or raspberries for a new dimension, and simmer with OJ instead of water.

a photo of cranberry sauce in a bowl

Bottoms Up

Pour ends of the red wine bottles into a pitcher and add apple and orange slices, a couple of cinnamon sticks and a spoonful of brown sugar, and voila: sangria!

a photo of wine bottles lining the shelf

Sharing is Caring

Pick up inexpensive plastic take-out containers at a restaurant supply store to send home leftovers in.

DIY Ganache: It's In The Bag

Melt chocolate chips in a ziplock baggie in a bowl of warm water or make a quick ganache: Warm cream on the stovetop or in the microwave, remove from the heat and add the same quantity of chocolate chips. Let sit for a minute or two, then whisk until smooth. Spoon into a ziplock baggie, snip off a corner and drizzle over cake, ice cream, pie and whipped cream, or anything you want to fancy up a bit.

a photo of cupcakes with ganache drizzled on top

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Skipping a step with a frozen pie shell? Press down around the edges with the tines of a fork to make it look more homemade.

a photo of a pie shell with the edges pressed down with a fork

Hopefully these hacks help you enjoy your Thanksgiving with a little less stress! 

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


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