9 Last-Minute Tips and Tricks for Perfect Thanksgiving Entertaining
SAVEUR editors weigh in with their most game-changing hacks based on years in the Turkey Day trenches.
Every Thanksgiving we are thankful for any hot tip that makes hosting that much easier. And over the years, we at SAVEUR have amassed plenty of game-changing tricks, from a foolproof method for turkey-roasting to a quicker route to killer scalloped potatoes. This year, we asked our staff for their absolute favorite hacks, which we’re sharing so your Turkey Day goes off without a hitch.
Forget shaking and stirring—the move this year is making a big-batch cocktail for easy self-service.
If you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving, you know how easy it can be to miss your own party. After all, the turkey won’t roast itself, and there are no pre-dinner drinks without someone there to mix them—right? Wrong. Enter the big-batch cocktail (a few of our favorites here), which you can make hours ahead of time and refrigerate in a pitcher or punch bowl (just add any bubbly ingredients at serving time). As guests help themselves, you’ll be doing exactly what you’re supposed to: spending quality time with family and friends. –Benjamin Kemper, Senior Recipes Editor
Save time, space, and your sanity by steaming potatoes instead of boiling.
My entire household is made up of potato people, which is to say, there was never a pot large enough to hold all of the potatoes we boiled on Thanksgiving. Once I learned I could make an epic quantity of mashed potatoes in minutes by steaming the potatoes—bringing two inches of water to a boil instead of an entire stock pot? Yes please!—I never looked back. (Simply halve or quarter your potatoes, then cook them over medium-low until fork tender.) Now I have fewer cooking vessels spewing hot air into my kitchen—covered pot FTW!—and creamier, less watery mash, to boot. –Laura Sampedro, Managing Editor
Bag up the bird.
Those supermarket roasting bags always work wonders for our family Thanksgiving. They keep the turkey juicy, cut roasting time dramatically, streamline cleanup, and—most importantly—minimize time spent in the dreaded food safety Temperature Danger Zone. This last point is always a concern with an old-school stuffed bird, which is a non-negotiable in my mother’s kitchen. If you’re put off by the “short-cutty”-ness, I assure you, the premise here is an old and perfectly legitimate one. Call it turkey en papillote if you like, or point to Cajun cooking guru Justin Wilson’s extensive in-a-bag recipe oeuvre. For the best results, slice the top of the bag open and crank up the heat for the final 15 minutes to crisp up the skin. Roast the neck separately with some aromatic veggies and butter, then add the turkey drippings and a splash of stock for your proper pan gravy. –Kat Craddock, Editorial Director
Set your super-chic, festive table the night before.
Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful, but it's also a day that can be… chaotic, whether due to the giant to-do list, the cooking itself, or the long hours spent with extended family. So why not check one thing off that list and set your festive, super-chic table the night before? Spending a little extra time to get the table just right will set you up for success and make you feel like whatever comes your way tomorrow is totally mangable. Plus, having an Instagramable table for your guests will seal the deal on a really memorable Thanksgiving. –Jess Hothersall, Photo Editor
Make leftovers the star.
Because everything tastes more delicious when drenched in gravy (no one will notice if those turnips are a bit under-seasoned!), my family takes ours very seriously. The day or two ahead, we simmer down turkey parts (neck, breast, etc.) from our local butcher to ensure there is lots of gravy for not only the Thanksgiving meal but also hot turkey sandwiches the next day. Plus, there's some “dry run” placebo effect ahead of cooking the turkey that makes the actual roast less stressful. –Alex Redgrave, Executive Editor
Do something you’ll really be thankful for: Travel abroad.
The Thanksgiving before the pandemic, I decided to do something different with my family. My husband, Ian; daughter, Quinn; and I had a lovely lunch at our neighborhood Jean-Georges restaurant—then hopped on a flight to Rome. Traveling internationally on Thanksgiving Day is amazing. The airport is totally mellow because everyone is already where they need to be. Plus, when you get to your destination, there are no American tourists! Imagine having the Trevi Fountain all to yourself. And I don’t need to tell you about the food! –Kate Berry, Chief Creative Officer
Utilize the outdoors to free up much-needed kitchen space.
We could all use a bit more oven, counter, and refrigerator space on Thanksgiving. To free up precious kitchen real estate, head to the great outdoors. If you’ve got a grill, consider using it to prepare your sides: Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and corn on the cob are just a few vegetables that really shine after a stint on top of the coals. You can smoke your turkey outside, too, leaving your oven open for essentials like green bean casserole and pecan pie. If it’s cold enough, you can even set up chilled drinks on an outdoor beverage station. And—let’s be honest—with all the busyness that surrounds Thanksgiving dinner, getting some fresh air can be just the thing for finding a few peaceful, quiet moments amid the fun and frenzy. –Megan Zhang, Senior Culture Editor
Dare to skip the turkey.
Let’s be real. The turkey is the most expensive, hard-to-cook, time-consuming, unwieldy piece of the Thanksgiving puzzle. It’s been the iconic stressor for years in popular culture, where turkeys have burst into flames, flown through the air, deflated, or otherwise self-destructed. Save yourself the anxiety this year and just… ditch it. That’s right, punt that football-shaped fowl out of the picture and welcome another protein (or no protein!) into the fold. Roast a pork loin, or a chicken, or even a lasagna for crying out loud. The entire Thanksgiving story is basically a myth, so create your own tradition devoted to being thankful with family and friends. –Ellen Fort, Senior Editor
Forget the roux—and do this instead.
My gravy is never lumpy. Achieving this saucy ideal requires a little extra prep, but the result is always silky smooth and works wonders on the day of the big bird. Dry-browning flour is an old French technique introduced early to colonial kitchens in the U.S. I learned the hack from my father, who used browned flour to thicken soups and gumbos. All that’s required is a skillet (preferably cast iron) and patient stirring to prevent scorching. Swirled into sizzling pan juices, browned flour adds a slightly nutty note to the other aromatics, be them fresh herbs, garlic and onions, or—as in our family gravy recipe—minced giblets. Because browned flour is already cooked, it binds faster than raw flour, eliminating the straining step to remove doughy clumps. Beyond Thanksgiving, browned flour goes into my rustic gravies for chicken, duck, and other game birds. My family practically drinks the stuff. Get the full technique here. –Shane Mitchell, Editor-at-Large