Make Thanksgiving cooking less chaotic with these ingenious tips

Preparing a huge meal this holiday? Don't panic. Here's some of our best tips that will make the day turn out perfectly.


Alina Bradford

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Katie Teague

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The big holiday meal

Hosting during the holidays is stressful enough. Add your crazy aunt who won't put down the wine and intense political conversations into the mix and you've got yourself a mess.

Fortunately, we have some tips that can make things a little easier for you this year before and while you cook the big holiday meal. And here are all the best tips for surviving the Thanksgiving holiday from all angles.

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Stop using the wrong pans

The right pan can make all the difference when cooking. Be sure you're using the right one by following this quick guide to baking pans.

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Pre-prep is your friend

The morning before your big dinner, cut up the veggies you'll need for recipes and put them in airtight containers. This will take a lot of pressure off of you when it comes time to cook. 

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Delegate, delegate, delegate

You don't have to cook everything. Assign sides and appetizers for others to bring. Taking things off your plate will make cooking dinner much easier.

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Make mini pies

You probably don't have room in your oven for the turkey, pies and all of the side dishes. 

Free up some room by making mini pies and baking them in your toaster oven. You can buy mini disposable pie pans at most grocery stores.

Frigidaire Professional 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven
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Cook six at a time

Around six mini pies will fit in an average-sized toaster oven at a time. Just be sure to switch your toaster oven from toast to oven mode and select the proper temperature and baking time.  

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Use your microwave

You can utilize your microwave to make desserts, too. Here's a great recipe for mug pumpkin pie that will be a real crowd pleaser. 

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Double your cooking space

Cooling racks can be used during baking to double your oven's capacity when you're baking cookies for the crowd. Here's how.

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Use your broiler

Your oven may have a secret cooking area you haven't been using: the broiler. Adding your broiler to your holiday cooking arsenal can give you the extra cooking space you need when all the spots in the oven are taken. 

Here's how to find it and how to use it properly

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Tent the turkey

If the lid to your baking pan never fits over your turkey, but you want a lid to seal in the yummy juices while the gobbler roasts, make a tent out of aluminum foil.

Stick a bamboo skewer into the breast of the turkey. (Don't worry, the hole doesn't really show when the turkey is done and doesn't let out much juice.) Then, tear off two sheets of aluminum foil that are one-and-a-half times longer than your baking pan. Lay the two pieces side-by-side and fold the long edges in the center together to make one big sheet of foil.

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Turkey tent

Finally, put the huge sheet of heavy-duty foil over your turkey -- using the skewer as a tent pole -- and crimp the edges of the foil around the edges of the pan. 

The tent pole will prevent the foil from touching the skin of the turkey and the foil will keep it moist.

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Employ your slow cooker

Need to keep a food item warm because it finished cooking before everything else? 

Put it in your slow cooker (or Instant Pot) and set it to the low or warming setting. The dish will stay warm, but won't overcook. This works best with mashed potatoes or other foods where presentation isn't too important.  

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Slow cooker recipes

Here's 10 yummy slow cooker recipes for the holidays to make your slow cooker even more helpful.   

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Speed cook your ham

Ham is a staple in a lot of homes, but it can take forever to cook. Not if you use your Instant Pot, though.

All you need to do is put a 4- to 6-pound ham with the fat facing upward in the pot with four cups of chicken stock. Then, cook it on high pressure for 15 minutes. Allow 30 minutes for a natural pressure release and you're golden.

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Instant Pot potatoes

You can make mashed potatoes in your Instant Pot, too. Cut six large potatoes into rounds, put them in the Instant Pot, cover with water and season with half a teaspoon of salt. Then, set the Instant Pot to cook for 8 minutes on high pressure. Quick-release, drain and mash to finish up.

Here are some more holiday Instant Pot recipes to help you get dinner on the table quickly.

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Heat up the grill

Don't overlook your George Foreman Grill when outsourcing to small appliances. It can toast and fry small items while your stovetop is busy with other foods.

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Get your wine game on point

Wine apps like Wine-Searcher and Coravin Moments can help you pair wine with your meal, taking out the guesswork.

Here are some more tips for serving and storing your wine

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Beer and cocktail pairings

If beer is on the menu, you can use your Google Home to find good pairings using Food My Beer. If you want to go with cocktails at dinner, use The Bartender or Tender

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