Holiday dinners are supposed to be a time for engaging with loved ones, reflecting on what we have to be grateful for, and enjoying a delicious meal. However, only those whose responsibility it is to cook and prepare said dinner truly understand what an undertaking such a task really is. In an effort to alleviate some of the stress of dinner creation, here are some tried and true Holiday dinner hacks to stay calm on cook day.
Holiday Dinner Hacks
1. Freeze rolled-out pie crusts so they hold their shape in the oven.
Had too many pies shrunk on you in the oven? Popping your pie crust in the freezer for 20 minutes to 1 hour (while you make the fillings) will let the gluten in the dough relax and minimize shrinkage during baking. This is only really a concern for single-crust pies, such as the beloved pumpkin and pecan. If you’re adding a top crust, you don’t need to worry about shrinkage. Or skip the whole thing and make these mini apple pies baked inside an actual apple.
2. Slow-roast your turkey overnight to free up oven space the day of.
It sucks having to wake up at 6 AM to get a head start on cooking, then feeling exhausted by the time dinner rolls around. You can actually cook your turkey overnight the night before, and enjoy a freed-up oven on the day of. Here’s the recipe!
3. Make gravy instantly great by adding soy sauce.
Although turkey is best when using turkey pan drippings as a base, adding a spoonful of regular soy sauce is a great way to add and bring out the flavour of gravy if it’s a little bland for your taste.
4. Ice the turkey’s breast before roasting to keep it from drying out.
You know how the white meat always ends up cooking before the dark meat and you end up with dried out white? Try icing the turkey’s breast before roasting to prevent this! When you start the breast at a slightly lower temperature, you’ll find that both sides of the turkey cook perfectly at the same time.
5. Grate frozen butter straight into pie or biscuit dough.
This is one of my favourite Holiday dinner hacks – or general pie-making hacks. You can use any cheese grater you have on hand. This way the butter stays cold, which is important to retain that tender and flaky texture, but you don’t have to break your back by cutting it into the flour.
6. If you boil potatoes whole, you don’t need to peel them.
Peeling potatoes is so passé, not to mention incredibly laborious and time-consuming when you’ve got a million other things to do. After boiling, all you have to do is shock them in ice water when they’re done, and then slip the skin off with your hands! Or eat the skin – it’s a good source of fibre.
7. Keep the mashed potatoes in a slow cooker.
There are a ton of dishes to keep warm and you are running out of space–but don’t forget the slow cooker! There’s nothing worse than cold mashed potatoes. Set the temperature to low and stir every hour. This will give you an extra burner for other dishes.
8. Add baking soda to mashed potatoes to make them fluffier.
Want to take your mashed potatoes to another level of fluff? Add a little baking soda before whipping. After draining the potato chunks and returning them to the pot, sprinkle a pinch of baking soda over the potatoes, before adding the other seasonings and buttermilk or cream. Give everything a good stir for even distribution, then whip as usual!
9. Chop the vegetables a couple of days before and label them.
Things can get scary when you’re running out of time and maniacally attempting to cut up a bunch of veggies. Make things easier on yourself (and avoid injury) by cutting up your vegetables ahead of time. If you’re feeling especially organized, you could go one step further and label the containers you put them in.
10. Use a thermos to keep the gravy warm.
All the elements are being used, and there’s no space in the oven. Fear not–just store your hot gravy in a thermos until it’s time to serve, then pour it into a gravy boat when dinner is on!
11. Use a cooler for extra fridge space.
If I haven’t already stressed this enough through the above tips, Holiday dinners create massive SPACE issues. If you are still running out of space to put everything, get real thrifty and bring out the cooler for extra pre-dinner storage.
12. Use aluminum foil as a roasting rack.
People use roasting racks to hold the bird above the aluminum foil rack instead of spending a bunch of money on a wire. Twist the aluminum foil to form a rope-like form, then arrange the ‘rope’ underneath the bird, so that your turkey is slightly elevated. Voila! You can also create circulation by placing the turkey on a bed of halved onions, carrots, and celery.
13. Use a measuring cup as a fat separator.
Great gravy is made from skimmed pan drippings, but if you don’t have a fat separator, just pour your drippings into a large heatproof measuring cup and pop it in the freezer. As the drippings cool down, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to skim off with a spoon.
14. Overcooked turkey? Use chicken broth as a turkey reviver.
Dried out bird? Don’t fret, your turkey can be saved by drizzling a little warm chicken broth over sliced meat to add moisture and flavour.
Above all, stay calm and try to have fun with it–this holiday is about enjoying yourself, not about perfection.
Want more Holiday Dinner Hacks? Check out this post about ways to cook a whole turkey without an oven!
What are some of your own Holiday dinner hacks for cook day?