Now that fall is officially here, it’s time to start planning for Thanksgiving, the food lover’s favorite holiday! I adore Thanksgiving, and I go all out to prepare the best possible meal for my family. But there’s just not enough time to prep the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, side dishes and desserts 100 percent from scratch. Every year I rely on a few tried and true Thanksgiving shortcuts to make the holiday simpler and more enjoyable. You may not want to use all of these Thanksgiving shortcuts, but choosing just a few of them can reduce stress and make Thanksgiving easier.
1. Get everyone to pitch in
Guests are usually happy to bring a special dish to show off at Thanksgiving. Ask guests to bring veggies, appetizers, desserts, and sides. I usually create a private Facebook event to coordinate what people will be bringing. Ask one or two people to come over an hour before dinner and help you with final preparations. When dinner is over, don’t be afraid to ask for help with cleanup!
2. Consider an electric turkey roaster
An electric roaster oven is a convenient and reliable way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. With the electric roaster, you can free up space in your regular oven for rolls, pies, green bean casserole, or whatever else you need to bake. If you want detailed instructions for cooking turkey in an electric roaster you can find them here:
Having an electric roaster is like having an inexpensive second oven. The only downside is you have to store it when you’re not using it.
3. Use store-bought pie crust
Buttery, flaky homemade pie crust is superior, but ready-made crust is a close second. To tell the truth, once the filling and toppings are added to the pie, it’s hard to taste the difference. Not all store-bought crusts are worth eating, so before Thanksgiving, you might want to test-test the one you’re planning to use. I recommend Pillsbury and Trader Joe’s pie crusts. Check out these detailed reviews for more about the best ready-made pie crust:
4. Use whipped cream from a can
When Thanksgiving dinner is over and it’s time for dessert, I never feel like going back into the kitchen to make a fresh batch of whipped cream. This is where spray-type canned whipped cream comes to the rescue! The main ingredients in spray whipped cream are milk, cream, sugar, thickeners, and vanilla flavoring. It’s pretty close to the real thing. Everybody loves the stuff, and it’s fun to spray a huge pile of it onto your pumpkin pie.
Another option is making stabilized whipped cream, which stays fluffy for up to 24 hours, so you can make it in advance. My favorite method for making stabilized whipped cream is with gelatin. You can find full instructions for making stabilized whipped cream here:
5. Rely on stuffing mix
You don’t have to cube, dry, and season your own bread for stuffing. Pre-seasoned stuffing mix is a perfectly tasty alternative. You can prepare stuffing mix according to the package directions, or doctor it up with your own recipe.
Every year for Thanksgiving, I make not one but two stuffing recipes based on Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix:
I make two kinds of stuffing, because I love them both, and my family are stuffing fanatics! The great thing about having a few Thanksgiving shortcuts is that you can save time to focus on the dishes that are important to your family.
6. “Stock up” on boxed chicken broth
For most of the year, I like to make my own chicken stock using this easy Instant Pot method. But for Thanksgiving, I rely on time-saving boxed chicken broth. I usually get a case of boxed chicken broth from Costco, and it’s a lifesaver.
Chicken broth is an important ingredient in my stuffing and gravy recipes. One advantage boxed chicken broth has over homemade stock is that its flavor is always consistent.
7. Create a simple homemade cranberry sauce
Canned cranberry sauce is one Thanksgiving shortcut I wouldn’t recommend, because creating your own homemade cranberry sauce is ultra simple. You can make cranberry sauce several days or even a week in advance, and store it in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving Day.
Bags of fresh cranberries are easy to find in grocery stores around Thanksgiving. You can make plain cranberry sauce using the recipe on the bag with only three ingredients: cranberries, sugar, and water. If you like a hint of citrus in your cranberry sauce, add a little orange juice and zest using this recipe:
8. Decide what you want to focus on
Decide ahead of time what you really want to focus on this holiday. Maybe it’s mastering your grandmother’s dinner roll recipe, perfecting your pumpkin cheesecake, or going all out with your table decor. Make a few things from scratch, and use shortcuts to help you with the rest. Preparing Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be a stressful or fussy project.
I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Please comment below to share your favorite Thanksgiving shortcuts.
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Photos by Marsha Maxwell, Brent Hofacker, Elena Veselova, Liudmyla Chuhunova, Olga Miltsova, and Irina Meliukh.