Get Thanksgiving Dinner On The Table Faster, Chef-Approved Hacks

Get Thanksgiving Dinner On The Table Faster, Chef-Approved Hacks

Thanksgiving is the Thanksgiving feast of culinary days, the day humble home cooks roast a 15-pound turkey while simultaneously making pancakes and sides from scratch, and wake up at the crack of dawn and spin chaotically like a Tasmanian devil, the day goes by in a hazy and ends with a sink Stacked with dishes.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Wake up at a reasonable time, watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (and even the Purina dog show) and enjoy a happy day surrounded by loved ones with an easy to-do list in the kitchen. We’ve tapped into the expertise of professional chefs from across the country to share their tried-and-true tips for getting Thanksgiving dinner to the table easier and faster.
Let’s get the most obvious hack out of the way first: Thanksgiving dinner is a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s no shame in getting some help. Planning ahead and preparing dishes in the days leading up to Thanksgiving is the best way to ensure that you don’t spend an entire day cooking instead of enjoying time with your family. Reheating food on Thanksgiving Day is much easier and faster than heating it from scratch.
Planning ahead and delegating “is the way chefs think about and plan event days,” said Brian Bornman, chef and co-owner of Crudo e Nudo in Santa Monica, California. “Make cranberry sauce on Sunday, stuffing on Monday, green bean casserole on Wednesday, then deep fry the turkey and warm up your prepared dishes on Thursday. Save yourself on dish duty and invite others to bring in pumpkin pie and extra sides. Instead of creating a day around masochism in the kitchen Get some champagne roses at 10 a.m. and pick one fun project (like deep frying, smoking, or grilling a bird) knowing full well that the rest is already done or delegated.”

Don’t peel the potatoes
Shave some time off your prep work and avoid unnecessary peeling accidents (which you’re more prone to if you’re stressed and hasty) by boiling potatoes with the skin on and ramming them in an ice bath when they’re fully cooked. “The skins will pay off immediately,” said Craig Cochran, chef and owner of NuLeaf in New York City. “It’s a huge time saver.”

Spatchcock, don’t roast
It’s no fun waiting for the tukey to finish cooking while the rest of your meal is ready to go and your guests are waiting. This year, consider spatchcocking to get beautifully cooked turkey on your table faster.
“Instead of going the traditional, time-consuming route of roasting, try cooking a Spatchcock!” said Jennifer Tomei, Executive Chef and Partner of Huckleberry Bakery and Café in Santa Monica, California. “Remove the back bone, flatten the bird and grill its leathery side up. It cooks in less than half the time, and you still get that juicy flesh and crunchy skin.” (Check out our guide to spatchcocking here.)
Rob Sonderman, executive chef at Federalist Pig and Honeymoon Chicken, added that this technique allows for more even cooking. “Pull the turkey out of the oven when the breasts reach 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the legs are just over 165, and let them rest for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour or more before slicing.”

Skip the whole turkey
Speaking of time-saving turkey tricks, choosing not to cook a whole bird saves time and is ideal for small gatherings. “Instead of trying to negotiate with a whole bird, I like to buy turkey breasts and drums!” said Heather Ashby, executive chef at DiAnoia’s Eatery in Pittsburgh. “Turkey breasts can be stuffed with whatever you like, they cook faster and retain their natural juices. The barrels can be roasted, smoked, or fried; the possibilities are endless!” (Check out our favorite turkey breast recipes.)

Preheat the roasting pans
Since your oven is preheating, place the pans you’ll be using to roast the vegetables inside so they’re hot with them. Bonnie Schumann, executive chef of Weavers Way Co-Op in Pennsylvania, explained that doing so will help potatoes, squash, and brussels sprouts (or whatever you’re cooking) roast faster and more evenly. She said preheating pans “are a must in the industrial kitchen as a time saver, and it helps a lot around the house because it makes room for multitasking which is very important when cooking a full Thanksgiving meal.”

Make meat broth in a blender
Avoid stirring and simmering and let the blender do all the work of thickening and removing lumps. “When I roast the turkey, I put herbs and butter under the skin, then add the mirapoix about an hour before the bird is done,” said Todd Rogers, director of cooking operations at The Pearl Hotel in Florida. Then, when I make the broth, I remove the sulfur from my pan, along with all the broth, broth, and mirepoix, and put it in a KitchenAid or blender. I add the broth, giblets, and trimmings from the bird to it, then add the heavy cream, and this makes the broth thicken. Same – cole made, so you don’t have to make a roux. Some people like to make the roux and add the broth and then the giblets, but you can do it all in a blender and it cuts down on the process, making it quick and easy.”