12 Simple Hacks That Will Make Hosting Thanksgiving Easier and Cheaper
If you’re a guest at Thanksgiving dinner, there’s nothing better than showing up with a store-bought pie, putting your feet up, and stuffing your face. But if you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving, you know how stressful preparing for the gluttonous holiday can be.
Luckily, INSIDER has some expert tips and hacks to help make Thanksgiving prep a little easier (and cheaper), from the expertise of celebrity chefs and cookbook authors like Michael Symon and Cat Cora. From keeping your gravy warm in a thermos to free up the stove to making mini stuffing muffins for a time and space saver, these kitchen tricks will ease some of the worries of the Thanksgiving dinner host or hostess.
Buy day-old bread for stuffing it’s cheaper and works better.
When you’re looking to cut financial corners for a Thanksgiving meal, it’s best to look for bread in the clearance section, Alexander says.
“Day-old bread is better than fresh for stuffing anyway,” she said.
Go around your supermarket sales.
When it comes to shopping for the best Thanksgiving meals, always think ahead. If you shop last-minute, you won’t be able to take advantage of sale cycles and store deals.
“Plot your menu as soon as possible and carry the list of non-perishables and frozen foods to the grocery stores during regular visits between now and Thanksgiving,” Alexander said. “A lot of items cycle through sales, so you might be able to snag many more at a discount if you start seeking them out early.”
She also noted that a lot of stores offer free turkeys around Thanksgiving time if you spend enough money.
Make Thanksgiving sangria instead of buying different beers and wines.
Quit with the multiple trips to the liquor store stocking up on beer, wine, and mixers for your guests. Keep it simple with one crowd-pleaser drink.
“Make a Thanksgiving sangria,” chef Donatella Arpaia, Food Network star and New York restaurateur, told INSIDER. “You can buy less expensive red wines and add cranberries for a festive bowl punch. Not only can guests serve themselves, but you have also saved a lot of money by sticking to one type of alcohol.”
Make gravy the week before and freeze it.
Do as much ahead of time as possible, so the day of Thanksgiving is a lot less stressful.
“I make gravy the week before and freeze it so that when my turkey is resting I don’t have to rush to do gravy, I can enjoy my family time instead,” Andrew Zimmern, host of “Bizarre Foods,”told INSIDER
Cook your turkey at room temperature to cut down prep time.
Doesn’t it seem like the turkey always takes forever to cook all the way through, and when it finally does, the bird is super-dry?
“Make sure your turkey is at room temperature before you start cooking it,” chef Michael Symon, Iron Chef and co-host of ABC’s “The Chew,” told INSIDER. “It’ll save you a lot of time in the cooking process. Also make sure to build in enough time to let the turkey rest for 30 to 45 minutes after it comes out of the oven, so the juices redistribute and the turkey stays moist.”
Use a thermos to keep gravy hot and free up stove space.
This genius hack will free up some much-needed space on your stovetop.
“Use thermoses and coffee maker carafes on their burner on warm setting to keep gravy hot and free up one more burner on your stove top,” Zimmern said.
Poach your turkey so dark and light meat cook evenly.
Don’t just stick your raw turkey in the oven. Try poaching it first (simmering the turkey on low heat) for more moist, evenly-cooked meat.
“Poach your bird for 15 minutes sitting backbone-down in one inch of chicken or turkey stock in a roasting pan on your stove top,” Zimmern said. “Remove the bird and cool for 10 minutes before stuffing it, and reserve the stock for later use. This simple trick will allow your dark and light meat to evenly cook in same amount of time once you start roasting it.”
Cook turkey in an oven bag for easy clean-up.
A quick imitation of sous vide that makes clean-up a lot easier:
“Cook the turkey in a plastic oven bag (the kind designed to be in the oven),” Alexander said. “And then you can discard the bones in it. Plus, it makes the turkey super tender.”
Make stuffing muffin cups for a creative and easy side.
Chef Malika Ameen, a former finalist on “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” had this simple (and creative) hack for remixing the typical Thanksgiving stuffing:
“Stuffin Muffin cups,” Ameen told INSIDER. “Bake stuffing in muffin tins and a scoop of sweet potato mash. Top with marshmallows and broil for the finish. Easy clean-up, time and space saver.”
Fabricate and grill your turkey instead of baking.
“When I don’t have hours to prepare, I like to fabricate my turkey the way I would fabricate a chicken, and grill it instead of baking it,” Cat Cora — Iron Chef and Food Network star — suggested.
For those not in the know, “fabricating” a turkey involves cutting up the whole thing before cooking it, and believe it or not — turkey-grilling is actually an easier technique for many than simple roasting (if it’s not too cold to work outside!)
Quarantine your pie-making area to prevent ruined dough.
If you’re making pies from scratch, this is a crucial step that — if missed — could ruin your pie crust dough.
“If you’re making pie, tape an outline on your countertop where no one is allowed to place a single hot item ever,” Gesine Prado, the host of Food Network’s “Baked in Vermont” said. “There are so many dishes going in and out of the oven and so many people working together that it’s easy to lose track of where hot dishes have been and for how long. It’s such a waste of ingredients and time when you unwittingly start rolling out your perfectly rested and cool dough on a blazingly hot countertop. The dough melts and is ruined.”
Click here to read more.