How to cook a perfect turkey and more Thanksgiving secrets

Thanksgiving might be the most delectable day of the year. It’s a holiday that is heavy on tradition, but also heavy on the calories. Some of our favorite dishes make their annual appearance on the Thanksgiving table: that giant bird that is labored over, grandma’s butter-laden dressing, tart and tangy cranberry sauce, fluffy mashed potatoes, and those cloud-soft rolls. That’s just for starters; are almost too many delicious sides to name, and don’t forget about dessert.

Thanksgiving, however, is not just about the food (though the food lovers among us would argue otherwise). It’s a time when families come together to stuff their faces, drink hot apple cider (or a stronger libation of choice), and shout at the television when the refs make a bad call against their team — oh, and maybe make some cherished family memories along the way.

But other family members are trapped in the kitchen; all of that deliciousness has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is the loving devotion (along with blood, sweat, and tears) of those preparing the feast that guests have come to enjoy.[slideshow:

Does Thanksgiving really have to be a hard, a long, drawn-out process that leaves little fun for the family cooks? There has to be a better way. In fact, there are better ways to make Thanksgiving just a little bit easier. Slow-cooking the turkey overnight makes the meat tenderer and leaves more space in the oven on the big day. Don’t waste time scrubbing endless potatoes for that heavenly mash; let your dishwasher do that thankless chore.

Thanksgiving should be a day of savoring, not laboring. Check out these “hacks” that will make this Thanksgiving a little less stressful.

1. Bake stuffing in muffin tins


That large casserole dish holding all that stuffing goodness gets heavy and unwieldy, not to mention the fact that it doesn’t produce enough crispy edges to go around. Increase crispy surface area by baking your favorite stuffing in muffin tins. Perfect portion sizes are a bonus.

2. Add baking powder to mashed potaotes

Mashed potatoes are a popular dish at the Thanksgiving table, but let them be the star. In addition too tons of butter and cream, a little baking powder can make your mashed potatoes the stuff of dreams. The heat from those hot potatoes triggers a chemical reaction with the baking powder, wherein the carbon dioxide produced adds extra fluffiness. Science can be tasty, too.

3. Make a foil roasting rack


Roasting racks can be essential on Thanksgiving Day. Those racks we tend to overlook help to lift meat away from the direct heat of the pan and allow hot air to circulate underneath. The meat will cook more evenly, and the skin will get crispier. If you don’t already have a roasting rack, forget the store and create your own with a few long sheets of aluminum foil crumpled into coils. You’ll be thankful for this DIY roasting rack.

4. Cook white and dark meat separately


Some years, no matter what you do, your turkey just won’t cook evenly. That big bird is awfully hard to get perfect. Either the white meat is too dry and the dark meat is just right, or the white meat is juicy and the dark meat is not nearly done enough. Solve this Thanksgiving problem and cook the two separately. This ensures perfect results for both white and dark meats.

5. Skip peeling the potatoes


Like scrubbing, peeling the potatoes for those mounds of mashed potatoes is a huge time-suck. Instead of taking the time to peel the spuds, boil your potatoes skin-on. Once they’re cooked, dunk them in ice-cold water. Shocking your potatoes will allow the skin to come right off when rubbed. Shockingly easy, huh?

6. Cook your turkey overnight


The oven is always jam-packed on Thanksgiving Day, so do yourself a favor and slow-roast your turkey overnight the night before. Slow-roasting the bird at low temperatures will make the meat tenderer because high temperatures cause meat to dry out! Kill two birds with one stone and have a tastier, less hectic holiday.

7. Cut lattice strips with your cooling rack


Pretty pies are a marvel to look at as well as to eat. Lattice-top pies inspire awe and envy and show off those pie-baking skills. If only it was a little easier. Try cutting your lattice strips for that beautiful apple pie using your cooling rack. This will ensure evenly sized strips and get you one step closer to pie perfection.

Read on for more tips and tricks to make your Thanksgiving meal perfect.

More from The Daily Meal

Last Minute Thanksgiving Ideas

10 Chefs' Thanksgiving Day Leftovers

Best Turkey Tips for Thanksgiving

Chef's Thanksgiving Tips