100 Genius Tips that Will Make Your Holidays So Much Better
From grocery shopping to cooking to using up the leftovers, we've assembled expert tips to help you through the holiday season.
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Crisp Up Your Turkey
Is your turkey up to temperature but doesn’t have golden-brown skin yet? Stop basting and crank the oven up to 450°F to crisp up the skin. The bird will brown in just a few minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Cook a more flavorful turkey this holiday season with these 15 helpful hints.
Try a New Spin on the Sauce
Add some holiday spirit to your cranberry sauce with a splash or two of orange liqueur, spiced rum, port wine or cran-raspberry juice. Just stir in the liquor or wine at the same time as the juice, sugar and cranberries of your go-to recipe. And don’t worry, cooking the sauce will burn off any harsh alcohol taste, and the alcohol itself, but leave some amazing flavor. Try this tip with one of our favorite cranberry recipes.
Repurpose Cookie Cutter Shapes
Think outside the box with your cutouts. Many shapes can be repurposed to make seasonal designs. Stars can become Santas, diamonds can become elves, gingerbread people get new life as yetis and much more. Get more genius ideas here.
Nix the Gravy Lumps
When the lump won’t dissipate no matter how much whisking you do, transfer your gravy to a blender. Pulse the gravy until it’s nice a smooth. Then, use that gravy to cover these tasty Thanksgiving turkeys.
Build a Double-Decker Carrier
Bringing multiple goodies to the holiday party? Go you! Here’s a great way to transport them all at once. Grab your cooling rack and a storage bin that’s slightly larger in size. Place one of your dishes on the bottom of the bin, set the cooling rack on top, then set another dish on top. Now you can make a double batch of one of our favorite 13×9 dessert recipes.
Stay Away from Mega-Birds
If you’re having lots of people over, it might seem counter-productive to get two smaller turkeys instead of just one huge one. But birds over 18-20 pounds are much more likely to have been treated with chemicals. Plus, massive birds also take quite a bit longer to thaw and cook and tend to cook less evenly.
Bake Golden Brown Stuffing
Add some crunch and texture to your stuffing by spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking at 350°F for 10 minutes. If it’s still too soggy for your tastes, just stir and repeat. Here are 40 stuffing recipes that are so good, you’ll want to make a double batch.
Get Creative with Packaging Goodies
There’s more to gifting food than cookie tins (though there are some really cute ones!). When wrapping up holiday treats this year, get creative. Recycle waxed paper boxes and turn them into cookie containers, fill mason jars with homemade treats, wrap rolls of cookies in parchment and much more. Check out our favorite ideas.
Disguise Cracked Pumpkin Pie
Got a big crack in the top of your pumpkin pie? Don’t worry. You can solve this problem with simple and tasty disguises. You can top with a simple chocolate ganache, a praline pecan topping or even a generous dose of freshly whipped cream. No one will ever be the wiser and your pie will taste delicious.
Make Juicier Ham
Keep your ham nice and juicy with some help from a glaze. You can go with a molasses, sweet mustard, cranberry or bourbon glaze for an extra-special ham. Get the recipes for these glazes here.
Know Exactly How Much to Cook
For a smaller gathering, you’ll want to plan on getting a bird that serves 1 ½ pound per person. For a large dinner, however, grab a turkey that serves 1 pound per person. The extra sides and fixings will help round out the meal. Hosting a big party? We did the math on exactly how much food and drink to serve.
Secure Your Slow Cooker
Nervous to place that steamy slow cooker chili in the passenger seat as you drive to your holiday get-together? We were, too, until we found this genius trick to keeping the lid on tight: Grab a small bungee cord hook each end onto the slow cooker’s side handles then wrap it around (or thread it through) the lid’s top handle. Give it a wiggle to be sure it is good to go. Grab yourself a bungee cord ($5) to keep handy in the kitchen.
Cook the Bird Evenly
Not all areas of a turkey cook at the same time. If you find yourself with legs that aren’t quite done when the rest of the turkey is, there’s an easy fix. Remove the legs and thighs from the bird and place them in a roasting pan. Place the pan back into the oven (at whatever temperature it’s already set at) and let the pieces continue to cook until they reach 170°-175°F when a thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the leg. Not sure at what temperature (or for how long) you should roast a turkey? We have the answer.
Avoid Gluey Mashed Potatoes
Though it’s much quicker to make mashed potatoes in a food processor, overworking potatoes can give them a dense, unappetizing texture. Stick with a potato masher, potato ricer or even just a fork for fluffy mashed potatoes. Here are some ideas for taking your mashed potatoes to the next level.
Build the Sweetest Dessert Tray
This sugar bomb dessert board will add instant fun to your next get-together, and it requires almost zero prep. Raid the candy aisle and load it onto your favorite platter or cheese board. Fill small dipping bowls with caramel dipping sauce, chocolate sprinkles or hazelnut spread. Use it as a sugary centerpiece for your holiday party. Stay up to date on the lastest candies (and other fun treats) worth buying.
Break Out the Ironing Board
The holiday season is when many of us home bakers are in the kitchen nonstop. With so many Christmas cookies and holiday pies coming out of the oven, settling for small cooling racks is out of the question. Instead, grab an ironing board, remove the cover and use it as a cooling rack. You’ll be happy for the extra space and how it leaves your counters and tabletops free for other baking prep.
Make Sure Your Bird Is Moist
If your turkey comes out dry or tough, slice the meat and place it in the pan forming a single even layer. Cover the meat with either turkey or chicken stock, then bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes. This will add moisture to the meat, plus some extra flavor! By the way, here are 10 turkey mistakes almost everyone makes.
Get Silky Smooth Gravy
Sometimes gravy can come out with lots of lumps. Banish them by whisking in a tablespoon of turkey or chicken broth at a time into your simmering gravy. Be sure to whisk until all the broth has mixed in before adding more to prevent the gravy from getting too runny. Here are some of the most common mistakes when making gravy (plus how to fix them!).
Check the Shape of Your Turkey
Look for a turkey with a well-rounded breast—it’s juicier. Beware of flat spots, which can indicate thawing and refreezing. This raises the risk of food-borne illness.
Give Double-Crust Pies Extra Crunch
It’s easy to give double-crusted pies extra texture. Just brush the top crust with water and sprinkle with sanding sugar or turbinado sugar. When baked, it’ll give your crusts an extra crunch.
Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Spice
No need to buy a special jar of pumpkin pie spice just for one or two pies. Instead, you can make up your own spice blend. Just combine four teaspoons of ground cinnamon with two teaspoons of ground ginger, a teaspoon of ground cloves and a half teaspoon of nutmeg. You can always adjust to your taste, too.
Tailor the Turkey to Your Guests’ Tastes
Do you have guests coming that are particular about their turkey? If most or all of the people you’re feeding prefer white meat, consider buying an extra bone-in turkey breast in addition to (or even instead of, if your guests really can’t abide dark meat) a regular turkey. The same goes for lovers of dark meat: Get a smaller turkey and an extra drumstick or two. If you do end up with more than your guests can finish, try one of these delicious recipes for turkey leftovers.
Use Parchment Paper to Transfer Cookies
One of the hardest parts of baking gingerbread men or other holiday cutout cookies is transferring the shapes to the baking sheet without stretching them out. Make your life easier by rolling the dough directly on a piece of confectioners’ sugar-dusted parchment paper. Use the cutter to create the shapes and remove the excess dough. Then, slide the parchment onto the baking sheet and bake away!
Save Over-Dressed Salad
Revive an over-dressed salad by transferring it to a salad spinner or colander and shake the excess moisture off. Add the greens back to the bowl and toss with some undressed greens for crunch. Salads don’t have to be boring, and these holiday salads prove it.
Prep Cookie Dough in Advance
You don’t need to do all your holiday baking the week before the big day. Most cookie doughs—these recipes in particular—can be prepped in advance and stashed in the fridge for two days or the freezer for several weeks. For cutout cookie doughs, form the dough into a log or round and wrap in plastic wrap. For drop cookies, you can either freeze the dough in an airtight container or pre-portion the dough and then freeze. Be sure to label them with the date and cookie type.
Jazz Up Your Platter
Add some pizzaz to your turkey platter with some lovely roasted veggies. Simply toss a pound of small carrots and two halved lemons with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them for 20 minutes at 475°F, stirring at the halfway mark. Then, arrange the carrots and lemon around the sliced turkey for a pretty presentation. While you’re at it, take a look at these gorgeous Thanksgiving table ideas.
Sweeten Up the Sauce
You don’t have to turn to sugar to sweeten up homemade cranberry sauce. Alternately, stir in some maple syrup, sweet wine or sweetened fruit juice (like apple or orange) and a pinch of salt. The salt will intensify the flavor so you don’t have to add too much sweetener. If cranberry sauce isn’t your jam, make these tart cranberry desserts, instead.
Dress Up Frozen Meatballs
This last-minute holiday appetizer couldn’t be easier to put together. Simply cook frozen meatballs according to the package directions and toss with a homemade sauce. A jar of grape jelly and chili sauce come together for this fantastic Chili and Jelly Meatball Sauce recipe. Or try heating up a jar of orange marmalade, 1/4 cup orange juice, chopped green onions and chopped jalapeno for these delectable Orange-Glaze Meatballs. Guests won’t believe their tastebuds.
Send Guests Home With Leftovers
Stock up on special (yet disposable) to-go containers so guests can take leftovers home so you’re not stuck eating the same thing weeks after the big day. Here are 10 adorable food packaging ideas for inspiration.
Season Under the Skin
Don’t lose a single sprinkle of seasonings by adding your seasoning under the turkey skin. Gently lift the skin and rub the butter or oil, spices and herbs all over the bird. That way, the flavors can get even deeper into the meat and those who don’t like skin can simply peel it off. This cranberry-orange turkey recipe will help if you’re new to this technique.
Use Corn Syrup for Decorating
If you’re decorating cutout cookies or even spritz, you can use corn syrup to keep your sprinkles in place after baking. Just brush the cookie with a bit of warmed up syrup and sprinkle away. The sprinkles will stay in place once cooled.
Host an Easy Bagel Brunch
When you’ve stressed over dinner for weeks, the last thing you want to do is wake up the next morning and fuss over breakfast. Luckily, this fancy bagel brekky comes together super quick, and can totally be prepped in advance (kind of like these genius 30-minute breakfast recipes). To make your “gourmet” bagel spreads, simply soften cream cheese and add favorite ingredients. Here are a few of our fave combos:
- Raspberry chipotle sauce and honey
- Cinnamon and sliced apples
- Blue cheese crumbles, butter and garlic salt
Garnish with nuts, fruits or olives for an Instagram-worthy look. Have someone pick up bagels and you’re ready to host!
Editor’s Tip: If you want a sauce to stay on top of a block of cream cheese, pull the tines of a fork lengthwise on top. The ridges will keep the jam in place and look oh-so-fancy.
Experiment with Green Bean Casserole Fixin’s
Rather than sticking to cream of mushroom soup for your green bean casserole, switch things up by mixing and matching the condensed soup. Consider cream of chicken, cheddar, celery or broccoli for some added flavor. Once your flavorful green bean casserole is ready, serve it with these quick holiday sides.
Every 4 pounds of turkey needs 24 hours to thaw, so make sure you’re planning ahead of time. For example, a 14-pound turkey should be transferred to your fridge 5 days before you want to cook it. If you forgot to take your turkey out of the freezer until the day of, here are some tips for roasting a frozen bird.
Keep Pie Crust from Burning
Sometimes pie crusts bake more quickly than their fillings. To prevent the crust from over-browning (or burning) while the filling cooks. make yourself an easy pie crust shield with foil. We’ve got a simple DIY that ensures you get the right fit for your pie pans.
Buy the Bird Early
Purchase your turkey far enough in advance to allow it to thaw properly: One day for every four pounds. But try to avoid shopping on the worst day of the year to buy your Thanksgiving groceries.
Grab a Bag of Frozen Veg
Remember that bag of frozen peas that’s been sitting in the back of the freezer since who knows when? Turn that bad boy into a stunning last-minute party appetizer. Thaw the peas, then give them a whirl in the food processor along with garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, Parmesan cheese and S&P. Schmear the spread on toast for easy (and healthy!) crostini dish everyone will enjoy. Get the full recipe here.
Craft an Easy Turkey Treat
This kid-friendly appetizer might just be the cutest snack of the season. All you need are crackers, cured meats, cheese and a little handiwork to make this cheery gobbler come to life. Get more kid-friendly snack ideas here.
Liven Up the Gravy
Pump up the flavor of your gravy by seasoning it with a bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon of white wine (or a splash of vinegar, if you want to keep it alcohol-free) and let the gravy simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the gravy into a holder to be served.
Create a Design with Cardstock
You don’t need to break out the piping bags to create a pretty finish on cakes and brownies. With just a sheet of card stock—or even a doily—you can create an impactful visual. Simply trace and cut out the design of your choice. Press this onto the top of your bake and then dust with powdered sugar. Carefully remove your template to reveal a gorgeous finish.
Chill the Bubbly Quickly
You can chill a bottled beverage in a mere 20 minutes by filling a pitcher with ice water and a handful of salt. Fully immerse the bottle, turning it 2-3 times. This tip works well with wine or soda. Here are more kitchen hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.
Thicken Your Gravy
Sometimes, gravy turns out a bit too soupy. Thicken it by mixing some cornstarch with cold turkey or chicken broth. Stir the slurry into your simmering gravy, whisking until it reaches your desired consistency. Make sure your gravy comes out perfectly every time with these tips from grandmas across the country.
Freeze Baked Cookies
Pro tip: You can freeze baked Christmas cookies. Once your cookies are cooled, place them on a cooling rack or sheet pan and pop in the freezer until cold. You can then stack them and arrange them in an airtight plastic storage container with layers of parchment or waxed paper between the layers. Thaw as normal. You can always refresh them in a low oven (300-325ºF) for a few minutes. All of these recipes freeze particularly well.
Make Shortcut Gravy
Shave a few minutes off your cooking time by making the roux beforehand. It’ll give you a jump start on your dinner and ensure your gravy is nice and smooth. Get our full guide here. Don’t stop there! These recipes will let you make your entire Thanksgiving meal ahead of time.
Keep Food Warm
We all have that family member who tends to show up fashionably late. Anticipate tardy arrivals by keeping your prepared dishes warm in an oven set to 200°F. This temp won’t dry your dinner but will still keep it piping hot. Throw the perfect holiday party, or a regular ol’ dinner party, with some advice from Ina Garten.
Dip It Good
Chocolate dipped fruit may sound time-consuming, but it’s way quicker than baking that decadent layer cake. Pop a bowl of melting chocolate chips in the microwave for 20 seconds and stir until smooth. Dip fruit (we love apples, but strawberries, pears and pineapples work) and garnish with odds and ends you can find in the pantry. Hello, crushed pretzels! These delish treats will be ready by dessert.
Heat Up the Spuds
If you made your mashed potatoes ahead of time, keep them warm in a slow cooker or in a covered heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. When you’re ready to serve, stir in a little warm cream to get the potatoes extra fluffy. Here’s our step-by-step guide to perfect mashed potatoes.
Use Up French Fried Onions
Don’t throw those extra French fried onions away! Pull them out of your pantry and add them to a Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich or pizza. Here are some more ideas for repurposing your holiday dinner leftovers.
Soften Butter Quickly
Every baker’s been there: You’re ready to start baking a batch of cookies and realize you forgot to take out the butter in advance. The good news is you don’t need to delay your baking. You can easily soften butter a handful of ways. Our favorite way to do this is just by cutting the butter into small cubes and letting it sit for just a short time. In about 15 minutes your butter will be ready.
Go Generic with Your Turkey
When shopping for turkey, go for store brands. They are cheaper than well-known ones, and both birds may even have come from the same place. One of the main differences: Some brands use a unique seasoning on theirs. Check the ingredients to see if it’s something you might like. Check out this step-by-step guide for how to cook a turkey.
Switch Out Pan Sizes
When the kitchen is in full-on production mode, you might find the pans you need aren’t clean or are already in the oven. While using the pan mentioned in the recipe is always recommended, there are a few practical swaps you can make. Here are some common conversions:
- One 9×5″ loaf pan = three 5-3/4x3x2″ loaf pans
- One 8×4″ loaf pan = two 5-3/4x3x2″ loaf pans
- One 9″ round baking pan = one 8″ square baking dish
- Two 9″ round baking pans = one 13×9″ baking pan
- One 10″ bundt cake mold = one 10″ tube pan or two 9×5″ loaf pans
- One 13×9″ baking pan = two 9″ round pans or two 8″ square pans
- Regular muffin pan (12 muffins) = mini muffin pan (36 mini muffins)
Get Room Temp Eggs Quickly
When baking, it’s important to use room temperature ingredients (unless otherwise specified). If you forget to take your eggs out of the fridge in time, don’t fret. Just place them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
Use Cake Wraps for Level Layers
Making a showstopping layer cake this holiday season? You might want to invest in cake pan wraps ($11). These reusable bands help your cakes bake up nice and level for stacking—no trimming needed. Members of Taste of Home’s baking club, Bakeable, love them. Join in on the action here.
Look for Basted or Self-Basted Turkey
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a bird labeled “basted” or “self-basted” has been “injected or marinated with a solution containing butter or other edible fat, broth, stock or water plus spices, flavor enhancers and other approved substances.” This can add flavor and moisture to your turkey. If you prefer to do things yourself, avoid those basted labels.
Use Dried Beans as Pie Weights
If you’re blind baking a pie or tart crust, you’ll need something to weigh the pastry down. You can use pie weights, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can use dried beans instead. Just fill the crust with parchment or foil and then fill with the dried beans. You can reuse them infinitely, so stash them away in a container for future baking.
Make a To-Go Salad Kit
Here’s how to make a quick, party-ready salad, hassle-free: Prep all of your ingredients separately in reusable containers (we love these silicone storage bags from Stashable) and place them in a large serving bowl along with a bag of greens, a bottle of dressing and your serving tools. When you’ve reached your destination, simply toss everything together and serve.
Use Cookie Cutters to Create Gorgeous Pie Crusts
One of the easiest ways to finish your pie crust is to break out your favorite cookie cutters. Cut out crust into shapes to form an edge or top crust for pies. Use a bit of water to get the pieces to stick and bake as normal.
Skip the Homemade Pie Crust
Do we love flaky, buttery homemade pie crust? Absolutely. Do we always have time to make it? Nope! When pressed for time, it’s perfectly OK to reach for the store-bought stuff. In fact, our staffers tried all of the most popular refrigerated pie crust brands and found one that tasted like homemade.
Don’t Be Afraid to Buy Frozen
There’s no real quality difference between fresh and frozen turkey, says Norma Farrell, a consumer-education specialist at the National Turkey Federation, since the latter are flash-frozen after processing to preserve them. “Fresh” turkeys can be many days old by the time you buy them—and can cost up to 50 percent more. If you forget to defrost your turkey—don’t worry! Here’s how to cook your Thanksgiving turkey from frozen.
Fill Flavorful Tartlets
If your freezer isn’t stocked with a couple of boxes of frozen pastry shells ($4) it’s time to get some ASAP. This pre-cut puff pastry is our secret weapon for whipping up last-minute finger foods. There are infinite options for the filling, but we prefer to top these cuties with melted brie, jam and fresh fruit.
Pour Elegant Soup Shooters
Soup shooters may look elegant but come together in a moment’s notice. To make: Thin a carton of tomato soup with vegetable broth and top with crème Fraiche. Add a sprig of fresh dill for garnish. Get more easy appetizer recipes here.
Break Out the Lazy Susan
Decorating Christmas cookies can be messy business. Wrangle all your decorating supplies on a lazy Susan to keep everything within reach. Here are a few cookie decorating supplies you’ll use forever.
Use Food Coloring Pens for Easy Decorating
Piping decorations onto cookies can be tedious. You can speed up the process and get detailed results with a basic coat of royal icing and some edible ink pens ($7). All you have to do is frost a cookie, let the icing dry and sketch on any design you choose—you can get the full DIY here.
Dress Up the Table
Is your table feeling a little blah before the party? Break out a box of cookies for this easy (and edible) craft. Simply thread ribbon through each treat, then place loosely on the table as a sweet centerpiece. Here are a few more ideas for how to decorate for Christmas.
When time runs out before the holiday soiree, do the dip! This Baked Asparagus Dip calls for only three ingredients: asparagus, cheese and mayonnaise. Just place in an ovenproof bowl and bake at 375° until heated through. Serve it warm with pita chips.
Try a New Cookie Press
Spritz cookies can be tough to master, especially when you’re using a vintage cookie press. If you love spritz but hate the fuss, invest in a new press. These new machines make uniform cookies every single time with just the pull of a trigger. You can see the difference right here.
Keep Cookies Soft with a Slice of Bread
Need to keep soft and chewy cookies, well, soft and chewy? It’s easy. All you have to do is pop a slice of bread into the container. It’ll give the cookies the moisture they need. And this trick works if your cookies have gotten a bit too crispy or have dried out.
Use a Tea Towel to Get a Perfect Cake Roll
Keep your yule log from breaking by rolling it in a tea towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Rolling the cake while it’s still warm keeps it from breaking and helps train the sponge to curl the right way for when you fill it. Here’s our complete how-to.
Put Together a Classic Cheese Board
Don’t have time to cook but have an upcoming celebration to attend? Pick up some cheese, meats, and crackers from the store and check out how to assemble a beautiful cheese board that’ll make your friends and family say, “Wow!”
Know that Size Matters
Smaller turkeys tend to be more tender. Consider cooking two small birds instead of one larger one. Turkey come out dry? Here are other turkey mistakes you might be making—plus how to fix them!
Test Your Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Before you dive into the baking season, be sure to check on your baking powder and soda. These products do have a limited shelf life, so if they are expired or ineffective, you won’t get the right rise and lift on your favorite baked goods.
To test baking powder, measure a teaspoon into a cup and add a third cup of hot water. If it bubbles, the baking powder is ready to be used. To test baking soda, measure out a quarter teaspoon and add two tablespoons of vinegar. If it bubbles, it’s ready for baking.
And remember: Baking soda and baking powder are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably. Here are the big differences.
Fake Homemade Tomato Sauce
While Nonna had hours to babysit her famous red sauce, we’re guessing you might not. Stir in a pat of butter or a splash of half-and-half to make canned pasta sauce taste homemade. Try adding minced fresh herbs right before serving. “I also add Better Than Bouillon to make it taste like it’s been simmering forever,” explains reader Angela Lively. Get more tips for how to upgrade a jar of pasta sauce here.
Use Cranberries as a Garnish
Need an easy finish for your favorite bundt cake or cheesecake but don’t want to fuss with finicky finishes? Try sugaring cranberries. In about five minutes you can turn this seasonal fruit into a jewel-like topper worthy of any holiday dessert. Follow our how-to to make it happen.
Prep Easy Party Sandwiches
Roundup a few deli salads and slider buns from the store, and cocktail sandwiches for your party will be ready in no time at all. Draw menu inspiration from this list of stunning small-bite sandwich recipes.
Use a Glass (Not your Fingers) for Perfect Crumb Crusts
Crumb crusts—be the made of graham crackers, cookies or pretzels—are an easy base for cheesecakes, pies and tarts. While you can press them into the bottom of these dishes with just your fingers, using a glass or measuring cup with a flat bottom helps you get a nice even layer on the bottom and sides. Get the full how-to right here.
Put a Swirl in your Cheesecake
Cheesecakes are a wonderfully decadent dessert. Put the presentation over the top with a pretty (and simple) swirl design. With just a skewer, you can create all sorts of gorgeous designs like this jam spiral.
Make Whipped Cream Fast
A warm mug of hot cocoa just isn’t complete without a dollop of homemade whipped cream, however dragging out your big mixer (or whisking by hand) doesn’t always seem worth it. But you can make whipped cream quickly and easily in your immersion blender. Just add heavy whipping cream, a touch of confectioners’ sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract to a tall container. With just a few pulses you’ll have a terrific topping for any dessert and minimal dishes to wash.
Consider Free-Range Turkey
If you see “free-range,” “free-roaming” or “cage-free” on a turkey label, this means that the turkeys had access to the outdoors and could move around in a yard. These turkeys tend to be more muscular, and therefore have more flavorful, and often leaner, meat. This shows in the price, but the better flavor is worth it for some consumers. But keep in mind that, despite what many people think, “free range” is not the same as organic and doesn’t necessarily mean that the bird was raised without growth hormones. Put together the ultimate spread with every Thanksgiving recipe you’ll ever need.
Check If Your Bread is Kneaded Correctly
Making rolls for the holiday season? Make sure that you’re kneading the dough well enough with a quick test. After kneading for a bit, stretch a small wad of dough between your fingers. If the dough stretches to form a windowpane, your job is done. If the dough tears, keep kneading until it passes the test. Here are our best roll recipes for the season.
Help Little Smokies Shine
Cocktail sausages are great on their own, but make sure they go above and beyond for your holiday buffet. Dress ’em up with barbecue sauce, or try these other cocktail weenie ideas for your next celebration.
Use Your Oven to Proof Bread
Need to proof a gorgeous holiday bread but it’s too chilly inside to get a good rise? Don’t fret. Instead, turn to your oven—but don’t turn it on! You can use your oven as a proofing box. Just fill a glass baking dish with boiling water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Then place your dough on an upper rack and shut the oven door. The steam will create heat and humidity—bread dough’s best friends. Get more proofing tips here.
Use Cooking Spray for Clean Cuts
To create precise knife cuts in cinnamon rolls, twisted breads and other decorative doughs, spray a serrated knife with cooking spray before cuttin
Save the Day with Crescent Rolls
Crescent roll dough is magical in a last-minute situation. Skip all the kneading and try these Mini Caramel Rolls that come together in a flash—perfect for holiday brunch!
Prep Your Trunk for Travel
Bringing lots of treats to the party? Make sure your car is prepped. Collect your yoga mats or extra drawer liners before you place any dishes in your car. Line a trunk, or back seat, with these non-slip materials to keep food from slipping and sliding when you hit the interstate.
Enhance a Salad Kit
Salad kits are an excellent starter for your next potluck salad. Simply grab one or two from the produce aisle and add a few ingredients to give it homemade flair. (Think shredded chicken, walnuts, or whatever else you have on hand.) No fussy chopping necessary.
Keep Cookies in Place
Cookies (like these quick, chewy maple cookies) are notorious for sliding off plates. Luckily, there’s a simple fix. Line the plate with a pretty kitchen towel or napkin and place your baked goods on top. Cover with plastic wrap, and your cookies won’t budge!
Bake Shortcut Apple Pies
Don’t have time to bake a whole pie? Here’s the next best thing. Our recipe for Bite-Sized Apple Pies goes from kitchen-to-table in 20 minutes, plus, it’s fun for the kids to help make. Simply wrap strips of pastry around apple wedges and shake on some cinnamon-sugar. Then just bake and watch them disappear.
Prevent Cakes from Sliding
Before assembling the cake, place a dab of frosting in the middle of the cake plate—as well as on the cake board, if you are using one. The frosting acts as a glue to prevent the cake from slipping as you decorate, as well as staying put in the car. Psst! Here’s how to frost a cake the easy and elegant way.
Assemble Quick Antipasto Skewers
This mini antipasto kabob recipe can be made using items you pluck right from the deli counter. All you need is olives, pepperoni, salami, cheese tortellini and some Italian dressing. Skip the marinade step to serve up in a flash.
Utilize Your Baking Sheets
Disposable foil pans are super useful, but they are prone to caving in under heavy bakes. (Case in point: This hefty lasagna recipe.) Instead of risking it, slide a baking sheet underneath for extra support.
Insulate with Yesterday’s Headlines
News flash: Newspaper makes a great insulator. Next time you need to keep something cold, line a cooler with your weekly paper and tuck it around and over your dish. This tip works great for cool, crisp dishes like this colorful spiral pasta salad.
Give tubs, like ones for sour cream, butter, yogurt or salad mix, an extra live! Rinse out used plastic containers and keep them on hand for future side dish duty. Up next: These 15-minute sides will save your sanity.
Make a Meaningful Hostess Gift
You made a dish to pass but totally forgot about getting something special for the host. Before you walk out the door, grab an unused recipe card from your box and jot down the recipe you’re bringing or a holiday recipe you know your host loves. Here are 50 of Grandma’s secret holiday recipes to get you started.
Don’t Count Out Popcorn
You might think of these tiny kernels for movie night, but popcorn (especially our Test Kitchen’s favorite brand) is a great snack to have handy when surprise guests pop over this holiday season. Add cinnamon sugar, smoked paprika, Parmesan—or nutritional yeast for your DF friends—to step up the flavor. Find more of our favorite flavored popcorn ideas here.
Use an Embossed Rolling Pin
If you want picture-perfect cutouts every time, consider using an embossed rolling pin. It’s a super-easy way to create a high-end look. From snowflakes to Christmas trees, there are a variety of patterns that are perfect for your holiday cookies.
Assemble a Fruit Platter
A fruit platter makes a healthy addition to any holiday spread. Be sure to use in-season ingredients like pomegranates and tangerines for best flavor. Learn more with this guide to what fruits and vegetables are in season when.
If you love hosting but are trying to avoid Turkey duty this season, there’s no shame in ordering out! Companies like Cracker Barrel ($100), Boston Market ($120), Whole Foods ($80, $120) and more offer delicious Thanksgiving meal orders. Less stress means more time enjoying what’s most important: the family and friends you’re with.
Have reservations about cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Make reservations instead. These restaurants are open on Thanksgiving.