These Tips Help Make Thanksgiving Cooking Less Chaotic

If you're planning to make a huge meal this holiday, here are 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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person cutting into a cooked turkey
1 of 17 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The big holiday meal

Hosting during the holidays can be stressful, especially when you're cooking the main dish or preparing all the sides. 

Fortunately, we have some tips that can make things a little easier for you this year leading up to and while you're cooking the big holiday meal. 

muffins in a baking pan
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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.

cut up cabbage
3 of 17 Alina Bradford/CNET

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. 

side dish
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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.

mini pie
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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.

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.  

chocolate cake in a mug
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Use your microwave

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

festive cookies
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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.

inside an oven
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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. 

cooked turkey
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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.

turkey tent
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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.

slow cooker
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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.  

instant pot
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Slow cooker mistakes to avoid

As a side note, here are some common slow cooker mistakes you don't want to make.

instant pot
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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.

meal on a plate
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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.

Never cook these 10 foods in your Instant Pot.

fried egg
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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.

cooked ham
17 of 17 Chowhound

Even more tips

For more tips, check out this Thanksgiving cheat sheet to prep for your holiday like a pro. Also, here are the Thanksgiving Day store hours

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