Are you trying to create the perfect Thanksgiving recipes for your guests? When we reflect on past holidays, it’s the bloopers and mishaps that we tend to remember the most (and often hold dear). At the time, we’re frazzled when we realize we forgot to thaw the turkey or your toddler puts his fist in your in-law’s perfect pumpkin pie, but it’s those memories that make our time with friends and family, well, memorable.

Whether you’re a first-time host, a veteran entertainer, or just a helper in someone else’s kitchen, it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are 10 of our favorite Thanksgiving recipe hacks that we hope will do the following:

  1. Save you time So you spend your holiday connecting, not cooking all day (unless you are purposely trying to avoid certain guests)
  2. Save you precious kitchen space for important dishes like pies and bourbon
  3. Impress your friends/family who doesn’t love a little praise from the in-laws?
  4. Correct mis-haps your mom will love you when you revive her overcooked turkey with hack #9

Hack #1: Brine the bird

Brining your turkey creates a juicier and more tenderized meat. Here is a recipe on how to brine. If your fridge isn’t big enough, check out this tip on how to use your cooler!

Hack #2: Have your soup pot ready

Instead of pitching the turkey carcass, add it to a large soup pot. Cover the bones with water and add vegetables + herbs like celery, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley. Simmer until the veggies are tender and the bones are falling apart. Strain and add salt and pepper. Once your broth has cooled, you can store it in ziploc baggies and freeze it. If you often use smaller quantities of broth (such as 1 or 2 cups at a time), you may want to measure and freeze in smaller bags. Look at you…making your own trendy bone broth! 😉

Hack #3: Grate the Butter

In any recipe that calls for folding in butter (i.e., pie crusts, dressing, biscuits), grate the stick of butter – it will save time and more evenly disperse the fat.

Hack #4: Use stale or toasted bread for your stuffing

Toast bread first, or tear bread into pieces and leave out on sheet pans to “stale” a couple of days prior to making your stuffing. This ensures the bread has less moisture and creates a better (less sticky) dressing.

Hack #5: Make ahead on Monday! 

Sides like homemade cranberry sauce will last for weeks in the fridge. Similarly, pies can be assembled ahead of time and frozen. Just bake them a little longer on turkey day.

Hack #6: Use your slow cooker

Make at least one Thanksgiving side in your slow cooker (i.e. green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn). We made our best dressing ever in the slow cooker last year!

Hack #7: Use your cooler to save space

Clear out those space-hogging condiments like pickles, ketchup, and hot sauces and store them in the garage in a cooler filled with ice packs.

Hack #8: Use your Yeti

(Or any other thermos) as a way to keep your gravy warm.

Hack #9: Overcooked bird?

Before you present your dried-out bird to your guests, bring it back to life with warm chicken broth. It’ll help moisten the meat and add flavor.

Hack #10 Don’t forget the kids

I love this post on ways to involve kids in the Thanksgiving celebrations. Allowing kiddos to help plan the celebration is a great way to build holiday memories and traditions! Our kids still laugh about the time a relative set the sweet potatoes on fire a couple of years ago. 😉

In addition, to being grateful for our families, we are grateful for YOU: our clients, members of our Nutritious Family Eats community, and our social media friends. We wouldn’t be here without your support.

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS: Want more time- and sanity-saving kitchen tips like these (plus a healthy meal plan each week)? Sign up and join our Nutritious Family Eats community! 

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.