Many of you are sitting there browsing The Simple Dollar but thinking about tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner and wondering how you can make it even better. Here are some quick tips you can add to your meal to make it cheaper, tastier, and perhaps a bit faster.
For the first thirty minutes of cooking a turkey, put the temperature 50 degrees F (or 25 degrees C) higher than the directions recommend. After that, lower the temperature and follow the directions. Why do this? It makes the skin crispier and more flavorful and makes the turkey underneath slightly juicier, too. My family actually cooks the turkey at a very high temperature all the way through, reducing the cooking time, but it’s very easy for this to end in disaster if you’re not highly diligent with the turkey.
Use the bath tub for thawing/defrosting a frozen turkey. Really, nothing works better that I’ve ever tried. Fill a bathtub up with cool water (that feels nice and cool to the touch, but not quite freezing), then plunk the turkey (in the plastic wrap) in there late in the evening. You can defrost a pound of turkey every thirty minutes using this technique, so a fifteen pounder will defrost in about seven and a half hours. Don’t use warm water for this or else you’re begging for bacterial growth.
Stuff a turkey with ice. This goes a long way to improve the moistness of the turkey. Put several ice cubes in the cavity of the turkey just before you toss it in the oven and when you baste it mid-cooking, squirt some of the extra liquid back up in the cavity. It will form steam in there, adding moisture back to the inside of the turkey.
Stuff a turkey to flavor the meat, not to eat. I don’t recommend eating turkey stuffing, as I mention above, but if you’ve put ice in there, you can put in a lot of spices too solely to add flavor to the turkey. I usually put in two cups of chopped onions, two cups of celery, one teaspoon gfound sage, about a teaspoon of crushed black pepper, and a teaspoon of garlic salt. Put it right in there with the ice, and it’ll be amazing (the stuff will steam up in the cavity).
Measure every dry ingredient for everything the night before. Put them in baggies or cups and leave them out to use the next day. This makes the actual day far less chaotic. I also find that digging out all of the Tupperware you’re going to use for leftovers and matching them to their lids the night before is also very useful.
Set your table the night before, too. Many people like to use elegant dishes and nice place settings for Thanksgiving. You can save a lot of time if you just set the entire table the night before, place settings and all.
Serve appetizers. At first, you might think this adds expense and also adds effort to your day, but the actual effect saves money and time. You can make appetizers in advance, first of all, and just set them out for people to eat when it’s convenient. This will keep them out of the kitchen, meaning you can work more efficiently. Even better, it will take a serious edge off their hunger, meaning they’ll eat less at the actual meal where the food is more expensive per bite.
One final tip: don’t throw out leftovers. There are always things you can do with any amount of leftovers. Last year, I wrote about seven great things you can do with them, but my favorite is taking leftovers to shut-ins in the community, people who are unable to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner for whatever reason.