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14 Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks from the Pioneer Woman

Hosting Thanksgiving can be so stressful that we forget to enjoy ourselves! Luckily, Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, has plenty of tricks up her sleeve to save time and your sanity.

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Young woman shopping in the supermarket06photo/Shutterstock

Set Yourself Up for Success

The more you do ahead of time, the more time you’ll have to spend with your loved ones on the big day. You can start your shopping and even meal prep the Monday before, thanks to zip-top bags and your freezer.

The Pioneer Woman has tricks for meal prep, too!

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Making shortcrust pastry dough by woman's handsShutterstock / AndreyCherkasov

Embrace the Rustic Pie

Start your crusts on Tuesday. Make as many as you need, including a couple extras for pesky unforeseen circumstances. Form the dough into balls and store individually in plastic bags in the freezer. When it comes time to roll out the dough, Ree Drummond is a huge advocate for the “rustic crust:” after tearing off the extra dough around the pan so it hangs over the lip, just tuck the crust under—no need to pinch.

Start baking with 50 of our best pie recipes.

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Little boy cutting vegetables while his father cooking food in kitchen.Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Put Time-Consuming Prep on the Chopping Block

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving Day to start your vegetable prep. You can chop up all the vegetables you’ll need for stuffing, gravy and side dishes the day before. Just store them in containers in the refrigerator for a stress-free Thanksgiving kitchen.

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Mashed potatoesTaste of Home

Make Your Mashed Potatoes a Thanksgiving Triumph

The Pioneer Woman has a truly inspirational recipe for mashed potatoes that involves tons of cream, butter and even cream cheese. What’s especially great, however, is that you can make it days before. Just mash your potatoes, mix with the creamy ingredients and store in a covered dish in the fridge up to two days. On Thanksgiving, remove the dish 45 minutes before it needs to go into the oven, and bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. Heaven is a place on earth, and it’s inside this bowl of mashed potatoes.

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Image of cook carving a turkeyTaste of Home

The Fastest-Cooking Turkey in the Land

On “The Pioneer Woman,” Ree tested out multiple store-bought options to speed up your Thanksgiving prep time. One method? Turkey cooked the day before. She had her butcher cut up the turkey into pieces so she could douse them with herbs, butter and olive oil, and she both roasted and carved the turkey the day before.

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Thanksgiving table settingShutterstock / AnjelikaGr

Keep Organized

The day before is the perfect time to set the table, and it’ll be one less thing you’ll have to deal with day-of. Ree also recommends that you lay out all the dishes, pans and utensils you’ll need to cook with the night before. She even labels them with sticky notes so she doesn’t end up short a pan at the crucial moment.

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mulled appleShutterstock / tataev_foto

Spice Up Your Home

You don’t need to spend a bazillion hours on holiday decorations. Simple touches, like little branches of greenery, do a lot and are easy on a budget. Ree also recommends adding a little holiday spirit to your home by lighting up some festive candles or mulling apple cider. Functional and delicious.

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Little Girl Eating Thanksgiving CelebrationShutterstock /

Keep the Hungry Hordes at Bay

With all the delicious smells wafting out of your kitchen, how can you blame some little rascals from sneaking in and trying to get into the goods before the actual dinner? Appease the masses and keep your kitchen clear with some snacks, like these fun Thanksgiving treats.

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Cranberry pear stuffingTaste of Home

Dress Up a Stuffing Mix

If you’re really in a pinch, this trick will put your Thanksgiving Day prep on fast-forward. Ree Drummond suggests using a pre-packaged stuffing mix that you incorporate into your stuffing recipe. Once you’ve mixed it with your own vegetables and seasonings, guests won’t be able to tell the difference.

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Chicken brothTaste of Home

Chicken Broth Is Your New Best Friend

With all these make-ahead tips and tricks, the one thing you’ll have to battle is dryness. Luckily, a little chicken broth can go along way. Keep some on hand all day long to make sure everything you’re serving is moist and decadent. From dry turkey to stale stuffing to overly thick gravy, chicken broth is here to save the day.

Guess what 10 ingredients Ree Drummond can’t live without.

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Cooking pot with flavored brine for turkey on wooden tableShutterstock / Africa Studio

Wine, Dine and Brine

If you want to really knock the socks off your in-laws, nothing will get the job done better than brining your own turkey. However, Ree cautions that this should only be done with a fresh, never frozen turkey, as most frozen turkeys are already preserved with sodium and will turn out way too salty. The exception is some frozen organic turkeys. But when in doubt, stick to your butcher’s recommendation.

Ready to brine?

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Spiced eggnog pumpkin pieTaste of Home

Store-Bought Pie: A Cinderella Story

Sure, sure, we all want to present a perfect homemade pie on Thanksgiving to the exclamations and praise of our guests. But sometimes that’s just not in the cards. Luckily, Ree has some great tips for decking out a store-bought pie that will leave your guests none the wiser. She tops her store-bought pumpkin pie with a chocolate ganache, and finishes it all off with a marshmallow whip for a pie that’s so decadent, who cares if it’s not homemade?

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dinner meal or leftovers (chicken, brussels sprouts, asparagus, green pea) stored in glass containersShutterstock / marekuliasz

Have a Leftovers Game Plan

Despite our best intentions to perfectly portion, leftovers seem to expand beyond what we started with. But it doesn’t have to be turkey sandwiches until Christmas for you and your family if you get creative! Ree recommends turning Thanksgiving leftovers into pot pies, turkey paninis, turkey spring rolls and even a turkey tetrazzini for a repurposing that’s anything but boring.

Ready for more new takes on Thanksgiving leftovers?

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grandmother and granddaughter embracing on kitchen and looking at freshly prepared turkey for thanksgiving dinnerShutterstock / LightField Studios

Don’t Sweat the Mess Ups

So you burned the pie crust, or maybe the dog ate the entire turkey. Things happen, and people make mistakes—even Ree Drummond. Her advice? Try to save it if you can, like turning a fallen cake into a trifle. But at the end of the day, keep in mind that the most important thing is to celebrate everything you’re thankful for, and to spend some quality time with the ones you love.

Maggie Ward
Maggie’s background in the arts gave her a penchant for collaborative communication and the pursuit of conveying ideas in a clear, striking way. Outside of writing for Taste of Home, Maggie loves playing the piano and writing music, as well as performing with various bands and theatre productions around the city of Chicago.
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