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21 Thanksgiving Cooking Tips Our Readers Actually Swear By

Winner winner, *turkey* dinner.

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Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

We asked the BuzzFeed Community for their most uesful Thanksgiving cooking tips and tricks — here are some of our favorites!

1. Decide how you want to prepare your turkey well in advance. You can dry-brine it...

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Dry-brine your turkey for at least 16 hours, rinse it off then follow Ina Garten's perfect turkey recipe.

heartsmoney

Brine your turkey. It’s the best way to guarantee a juicy, flavorful turkey. Here’s my favorite turkey cooking method.

honeybailey

Get Ina Garten's recipe here, and learn how to dry-brine your turkey here.

2. ...rub bacon and butter or plain mayo under the skin and in the cavity...

Process raw bacon and softened butter until smooth and smear it under the turkey skin. Adds moisture and smokiness.—kef12482My go-to this year is what I was advised to do last year: smother the turkey inside and out with mayonnaise. It makes the meat moist, the skin crispy, and no mayo flavor (which is great because my husband hates mayonnaise).—kristam471336bb1You can also dry brine it, *then* rub it down with butter/mayo/butter-and-bacon.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Process raw bacon and softened butter until smooth and smear it under the turkey skin. Adds moisture and smokiness.

kef12482

My go-to this year is what I was advised to do last year: smother the turkey inside and out with mayonnaise. It makes the meat moist, the skin crispy, and no mayo flavor (which is great because my husband hates mayonnaise).

kristam471336bb1

You can also dry brine it, *then* rub it down with butter/mayo/butter-and-bacon.

3. ...or just straight-up wrap the whole thing in bacon.

cookingontheweekends.com

Add bacon all around the turkey to keep it from getting dry. I did a mixture of this and the cooking bag ❤️ and it came out very juicy.

mellyquartz

Get a bacon-wrapped turkey recipe here.

4. Then decide *how* you're going to cook your turkey. You can go ~traditional~ and cook it in your oven, in a roasting pan, with no fancy stuff.

Use a two-tiered pan to cook your turkey!! My grandma’s pan (that I use now) has a top layer with holes in it for the turkey, and a bottom part that catches all the delicious drippings, without essentially soaking the turkey in them.—waspxiiiHere's how to dry brine and cook a basic roast turkey.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Use a two-tiered pan to cook your turkey!! My grandma’s pan (that I use now) has a top layer with holes in it for the turkey, and a bottom part that catches all the delicious drippings, without essentially soaking the turkey in them.

waspxiii

Here's how to dry brine and cook a basic roast turkey.

5. Or you can ask your butcher to spatchcock your turkey if you hate waiting ages for the whole thing to cook.

Spatchcock the turkey. The butcher can do this for you. It makes it so easy and fast to cook. —honeybaileySPATCHCOCK THE TURKEY! It's essentially butterflying: you cut out the spine, and flatten it a bit. You have a perfectly moist, crispy-skinned turkey in about 2 hours. Totally changed my turkey game! And you can use that cut out spine for good gravy.—l455ded38bHere's a recipe for roast spatchcocked turkey.
James Ransom / food52.com

Spatchcock the turkey. The butcher can do this for you. It makes it so easy and fast to cook.

honeybailey

SPATCHCOCK THE TURKEY! It's essentially butterflying: you cut out the spine, and flatten it a bit. You have a perfectly moist, crispy-skinned turkey in about 2 hours. Totally changed my turkey game! And you can use that cut out spine for good gravy.

l455ded38b

Here's a recipe for roast spatchcocked turkey.

6. *OR* you can cover your entire turkey with a roasting bag.

If you cook your turkey in the oven, place it in a roasting bag, then put the bird breast-side down in the pan. It doesn’t look “presentable,” but we carve it before bringing it to the table, and the important thing is the taste. This makes the turkey super juicy. Everyone I’ve ever shared leftovers with has told me that it’s the best turkey they’ve ever had.—maxinet40dd5f0b8Use Reynolds oven bags, and cook the turkey upside down. Turkey will be done in about 3 hours, no basting, sooo easy!—erikaschrothecGet a recipe for roasting bag turkey here. You can probably find the bags at your grocery store, or get a pack of 8 on Amazon for $11.98.
justapinch.com

If you cook your turkey in the oven, place it in a roasting bag, then put the bird breast-side down in the pan. It doesn’t look “presentable,” but we carve it before bringing it to the table, and the important thing is the taste. This makes the turkey super juicy. Everyone I’ve ever shared leftovers with has told me that it’s the best turkey they’ve ever had.

maxinet40dd5f0b8

Use Reynolds oven bags, and cook the turkey upside down. Turkey will be done in about 3 hours, no basting, sooo easy!

erikaschrothec

Get a recipe for roasting bag turkey here. You can probably find the bags at your grocery store, or get a pack of 8 on Amazon for $11.98.

7. You can even opt for an electric roaster and free up more valuable oven real estate.

Invest in an electric roaster if you have limited kitchen space/small oven. I bought one for about $30 during Amazon’s lightning deals, and it cooks the turkey really well (refrain from opening the lid and checking on it). I actually set it up on a small table in the living room and it helps immensely with space in my tiny kitchen.—jillianb4d44f726fUse a roaster for the turkey. No need to take up precious oven space. And stop wasting time basting the turkey. Rub it with butter, put it in the roaster, then cover it with tinfoil halfway through cooking. Done.—fredzestyGet this electric roaster on Amazon for $37.75.
amazon.com

Invest in an electric roaster if you have limited kitchen space/small oven. I bought one for about $30 during Amazon’s lightning deals, and it cooks the turkey really well (refrain from opening the lid and checking on it). I actually set it up on a small table in the living room and it helps immensely with space in my tiny kitchen.

jillianb4d44f726f

Use a roaster for the turkey. No need to take up precious oven space. And stop wasting time basting the turkey. Rub it with butter, put it in the roaster, then cover it with tinfoil halfway through cooking. Done.

fredzesty

Get this electric roaster on Amazon for $37.75.

8. For a very low-stress turkey, buy one that you can take directly out of the freezer and pop in the oven.

jennieo.com, thedeliciouslife.com

Buy a freezer-to-oven turkey. Jennie-O is my favorite. They have sealed-in juices and preseasoning; plus require no thawing, no brining, no prep at all. Done in 3-ish hours!

cristaraineyb

Read more here and here.

9. If you dare, start by roasting your turkey breast-side down, then flip it partway through.

Cook your turkey breast side DOWN for the first half. Halfway through, flip it to be breast-side up. I swear by this trick and cook all poultry this way!! My coworker (who is the queen of soul food btw) told me this and I’ve never looked back.—littlebits27This lets the meatiest part of the turkey cook closer to all the juices so it's actually juicier, but still gives you picture-perfect golden brown skin. Fine Cooking has a few tips if you want to try this at home.
finecooking.com

Cook your turkey breast side DOWN for the first half. Halfway through, flip it to be breast-side up. I swear by this trick and cook all poultry this way!! My coworker (who is the queen of soul food btw) told me this and I’ve never looked back.

littlebits27

This lets the meatiest part of the turkey cook closer to all the juices so it's actually juicier, but still gives you picture-perfect golden brown skin. Fine Cooking has a few tips if you want to try this at home.

10. Monitor your turkey's temp with an in-oven thermometer that'll beep at you the moment the it's actually done.

amazon.com, amazon.com

Get one of those meat thermometers that can stay in the turkey while it’s roasting, that has an alarm for when it reaches the correct temperature. Since I got that, I haven’t had a single dry turkey (or chicken, or pork loin, etc.).

redtoenails

Get one on Amazon for $10.69.

11. Let your turkey rest for at least 20 minutes after you pull it out of the oven.

WAIT. Let that bird rest at least 20 minutes. Move it to a new pan so you can use the one it cooked in for the gravy. Cover it once it is out with foil and then lay dish towels over the foil to keep it super warm. If you cut it without letting it rest long enough, your bird will suck. Plain and simple. —Ellery Macbeth, FacebookFWIW, Cook's Illustrated says you *shouldn't* cover your turkey while it rests, because it'll make the skin soggy. But they still recommend resting — for 45 minutes. Learn how to carve a turkey here.
Macey Foronda / Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed

WAIT. Let that bird rest at least 20 minutes. Move it to a new pan so you can use the one it cooked in for the gravy. Cover it once it is out with foil and then lay dish towels over the foil to keep it super warm. If you cut it without letting it rest long enough, your bird will suck. Plain and simple.

—Ellery Macbeth, Facebook

FWIW, Cook's Illustrated says you *shouldn't* cover your turkey while it rests, because it'll make the skin soggy. But they still recommend resting — for 45 minutes. Learn how to carve a turkey here.

12. Add a little bit of mayo to mashed potatoes to make them extra creamy.

watchlearneat.com

A bit of mayonnaise in your mashed potatoes keeps it creamy. And my grandma's favorite tip: always buy extra butter.

meaghans5

You can also use mayo to make completely dairy-free mashed potatoes. Get a recipe here.

13. And enlist your slow cooker for no-stress mashed potatoes.

lecremedelacrumb.com

Using the slow cooker for mashed potatoes. I start cooking the potatoes early and then mash them towards the end. That way I don’t have to worry about them getting cold.

marinas6

Get the recipe here.

14. Or use your slow cooker to make a quick stuffing that you can set and forget.

cookingclassy.com

Crock-Pot stuffing. I make this every year and it's always a hit, even with my brother who's a self-proclaimed stuffing hater.

sarahover2007

And get another slow cooker stuffing recipe here.

15. Whether you make your stuffing in the oven or in the slow cooker, toast your bread (or let it sit out overnight) before mixing it with everything else.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Toasting your bread cubes in the oven is an easy way to dry out your bread for stuffing if you don't have old bread on hand. Single layer on a pan, 300°F for 20 minutes always does the trick.

samanthal417066603

Read more about making stuffing here.

16. Or make your stuffing using your favorite bagels, which won't get mushy even when they're fresh.

Use bagels for stuffing. Doesn’t turn to mush like bread does.—kylees418af755cGet the recipe for Everything Bagel Stuffing here.
thekitchn.com

Use bagels for stuffing. Doesn’t turn to mush like bread does.

kylees418af755c

Get the recipe for Everything Bagel Stuffing here.

17. Bake your desserts one or even two days beforehand, so you don't have to worry about making the time or the oven space.

This might be common knowledge, but bake your desserts the day before to save oven space.—giav41cc6e5b0
@kholowchik / instagram.com

This might be common knowledge, but bake your desserts the day before to save oven space.

giav41cc6e5b0

18. And consider starting your sides one day beforehand too.

My timeline is pies, candies, and cakes two days before, and sides the day before. I make the mac the night before, but wait to bake it until Thanksgiving Day, so it's not dried out.—sarahh4bff3abdbGet a 17 make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes here.
@wholefoodssomerville / instagram.com

My timeline is pies, candies, and cakes two days before, and sides the day before. I make the mac the night before, but wait to bake it until Thanksgiving Day, so it's not dried out.

sarahh4bff3abdb

Get a 17 make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes here.

19. Break up your grocery shopping trips to avoid the lines: one a couple weeks before the big day, and one at the beginning of the week.

Make a shopping list and get all nonperishables at least 2 weeks before Thanksgiving to save your sanity — ain’t nobody got time for those lines. Make a plan for the week of Thanksgiving, prepping whatever can be made in advance in the days before. It sounds like a lot of work, but it takes so much stress off of the actual day!—arielm4e4b6e3c1
@tpwhite14 / instagram.com

Make a shopping list and get all nonperishables at least 2 weeks before Thanksgiving to save your sanity — ain’t nobody got time for those lines. Make a plan for the week of Thanksgiving, prepping whatever can be made in advance in the days before. It sounds like a lot of work, but it takes so much stress off of the actual day!

arielm4e4b6e3c1

20. To take some of the stress and pressure off, turn Thanksgiving into a potluck, and ask guests to bring appetizers, desserts, and sides.

Have your guests each bring one side dish. You'll end up with just about zero work! :)—sarahkata
@vandana_lad / instagram.com

Have your guests each bring one side dish. You'll end up with just about zero work! :)

sarahkata

21. Chill out about it all; whatever happens, have confidence you can solve whatever problems arise and enjoy turkey day!

Fox

I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 8–12 people for about 7 years now. My one true piece of advice is, chill the fuck out. It's a just a holiday. Everything will get done and everything will be fine. Enjoy the day. Enjoy your guests.

CHILL THE FUCK OUT and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

sarahmcelroyv

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