Southern Mom Loves: 17 Thanksgiving Dinner Hacks to Save Time (and Sanity)

17 Thanksgiving Dinner Hacks to Save Time (and Sanity)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest cooking days of the year. It can also be one of the most stressful days of the year. Trying to get everything done at the same time can be a nightmare. If you want to have a wonderful Thanksgiving without all the stress, try some of these 17 time-saving Thanksgiving dinner hacks!

Thanksgiving Dinner Hacks

1. Plan Ahead

Make your menu as far in advance as you can, then make your grocery list based on that menu and you're all ready to hit the store before the Thanksgiving crowds descend.

2. Delegate Responsibility

If you're having guests for the big day and you have way too many dishes to make, tell Uncle Bob to bring along a dessert or Cousin Ann to bring her "famous" macaroni salad. It will take some of the pressure off of you and your guests will feel more a part of the meal.

3. Work Ahead

There are so many things you can do ahead of time. For example, you can peel and chop vegetables the day before and save yourself a ton of time. Chop the veggies you'll need for each dish and stick them in a labeled zipper bag. You can even bake the cornbread for your cornbread dressing a couple days in advance. Do as much as possible ahead of time so that you're not trying to do it all on Thanksgiving Day.

4. Make Sides the Day Before

I make a few dishes like green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole the day before. Just remember to chill them completely while uncovered before covering (to eliminate condensation) and leave off any toppings, like frenched onions or marshmallows, until you're ready to bake.

5. Freeze Dishes Ahead

You can also make and freeze some of your dishes ahead of time, like a pan of stuffing. You can then leave it out the night before to thaw before baking. You can also make pie crusts up to a month ahead of time and freeze them in throw-away aluminum pans.

6. Prep Breakfast and Lunch Ahead

You don't want to have to make breakfast or lunch for your guests while making Thanksgiving dinner too, so either send them out for those meals or prepare a meal ahead of time and stick it in the fridge, like these Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Rolls, and have sandwich fixings ready for lunch.

7. Grate Your Butter

If your crusts and biscuits call for cutting cold butter into flour, skip it. Grate a frozen stick of butter into your mix and you can avoid the Thanksgiving carpel-tunnel.

8. Skip the Peeling

A great timesaver on mashed potato prep is to boil your potatoes whole and unpeeled. Dunk them in an ice water bath afterward and the skin slides right off.

9. Keep Mashed Potatoes Warm in the Slow Cooker

One of the biggest problems with making a large meal is that nothing seems to be done at the same time. Don't stress it. Make your mashed potatoes and then pop them in your slow cooker. Set the cooker  to warm and your mashed potatoes will be nice and hot when you're ready to eat.

10. Skip the Basting

Basting your turkey in its own juices doesn't keep it from drying out. Rub and stuff pats of butter underneath the skin. The butterfats will help keep the meat moist while it's cooking.

11. Use an Electric Roaster Oven for the Perfect Turkey

Roasting a turkey in the oven is far from foolproof. It also takes up all your much-needed oven space. Instead of trying to fit everything around your turkey, use an electric roaster oven. These are so easy to use and you always have a juicy, delicious turkey without any fuss. Best of all, you can find them on sale throughout the holiday season.

12. Cook Your Turkey Upside Down

If you are going to cook your turkey in the oven, cook your turkey upside down. Flip the bird right side up for the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. The breast meat will stay juicy and you'll still get that wonderful crispy skin that everyone loves.

13. Use Stale Bread

Get less mush in by using stale or toasted bread in your stuffing (less moisture to begin with.)

14. Stir Your Stuffing

I make a large pan of stuffing because it's one of the most popular dishes at our Thanksgiving table, but how to you get more of the crunchy bits that everyone loves? Once your stuffing is cooked through, stir it and put it under the broiler to crisp for a few minutes. Repeat this 2-3 more times for more crispy stuffing bits throughout.

15. Transfer Store-Bought Pies to Pie Pans

Can't bake? No one needs to know. Get pies from the freezer section and carefully transfer them to a glass pie pan before baking them. You can do this with thaw-and-eat pies as well. Remember, the less decorative the pie, the better. You don't want people to be too suspicious. ;)

16. Try My Semi-Homemade Orange Cranberry Chutney This Year Instead of the Canned Jelly.

17. Tape Recipes to Your Cabinets

Last, but not least, instead of taking up countertop space with cookbooks, scan and print the recipe and then tape it to your cabinet. This not only frees up counter space but also ensures you don't get stains on your cookbooks.


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These Thanksgiving dinner hacks will make cooking a large meal much, much easier. What's your favorite tip? I love to read your comments!

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