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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.