Thanksgiving Cooking Hacks

Publish Date September 28, 2022 5 Minute Read

It’s no secret that hosting Thanksgiving takes a lot of preparation. You’ve got to plan the menu, set up a schedule and bring it all together. But what happens if your food prep goes awry?

We’ve prepared a list of Thanksgiving recipe hacks for many common issues to help you keep your feast on track.

How to Fix Common Thanksgiving Meal Mistakes

Turkey Talk

One common problem is that the turkey is still partially frozen when it’s time to cook. So, it’s important to remember that defrosting any meat is key, and it needs to be done at a safe temperature. You can submerge the turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed. Keep in mind that this can take a few hours.

You can also cook it from partially frozen. It will take about 25% longer to cook than a fully thawed turkey. To partially thaw, set your oven to 325°F. Check the turkey’s internal temperature in several spots, especially in the thick breast meat closest to the bone. You want a reading of at least 165°F throughout. If the outside is getting too browned before the inside is up to temperature, cover the bird with foil and continue cooking.

Another potential hazard is dry turkey, which can result from overcooking or not allowing enough resting time. Place the carved pieces in a baking dish with some chicken broth and melted butter. Cover the pan tightly with foil and allow it to warm in a 250°F oven for about 15 minutes. When all else fails, serve with plenty of gravy.

Perfecting the Gravy

Gravy occasionally ends up being too lumpy or too thin. If it’s lumpy, simply strain it through a fine mesh sieve. This will separate the lumpy flour bits from the rest of the liquid.

If it’s thin, you have a few options:

• Allow the gravy to reduce. This is a good option if the gravy isn’t as flavorful as you’d like. If the gravy is already perfectly seasoned and salted, further reduction isn’t recommended.

• Use a cornstarch slurry. Mix 1 part cornstarch and 2 parts cold water. Pour the slurry into simmering gravy while stirring. Cook for a few minutes until thickened.

• Use the French technique of beurre manié: mix together equal parts softened butter and flour, then add to the gravy and whisk until the sauce has thickened.

Learn more in our article about how to prepare gravy.

Mastering Mashed Potatoes

Lumpy mashed potatoes most commonly occur due to undercooking. Avoid overmixing in an attempt to smooth out the lumps; this can result in potatoes with a gluey texture. Instead, push the potatoes through a sieve and break up the lumps with a spatula.

Another option is to add some extra milk, cream or broth and return the potatoes to a pot. Cover and cook over low heat, adding more liquid as needed, until the last of the lumps cook out.

Runny mashed potatoes can happen when there’s too much liquid in the mix, either from not draining well enough after boiling or being overly generous with the milk. Simply place the potatoes in a pan over low heat to cook off some of the excess liquid. Stir gently and occasionally to avoid burning on the bottom of the pot.

Alternatively, if you have instant mashed potato flakes on hand, a sprinkle can be stirred into the potatoes to absorb the excess liquid for a creamier mash.

Stuffing Solutions

If stuffing is dry, melt a few tablespoons of butter into a cup or so of stock and pour over the stuffing. Cover with foil and allow to sit in a warm oven for 8-10 minutes. You could also give the stuffing a soak with the pan drippings from the turkey.

If stuffing is soggy, spread it onto a larger baking sheet to increase the surface area. Continue baking, checking every 5 minutes or so, until it reaches your desired mix of moist interior and crispy edges.

Thanksgiving Cooking Hacks

Perfecting Pumpkin Pie

A crack on the surface of a pumpkin pie or even a cheesecake is most often due to overbaking. To avoid this, remove the pie from the oven when the edges are slightly puffed. If the center 4" jiggles, it’s ready. Cool the pie on a baking rack. The filling will finish cooking as it cools. Or, after baking time is complete, turn off the oven and leave the pie inside for 60 minutes with the door ajar.

Still no luck? Hide the surface cracks with a delicious layer of whipped cream.

Get Cooking

Find Thanksgiving dinner inspiration, hosting tips and other holiday needs at our Turkey Shop. Then put your holiday plan in motion with these tasty Thanksgiving recipes.