Thanksgiving may be looking a little different this year, but one thing remains the same: Preparing a big meal like this is stress level 💯. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Cravings is here with our inaugural Tipsgiving: A week of tips, tricks, fixes, and hacks to make Thanksgiving easier. Whether that’s a foolproof way to guarantee crispy turkey skin and juicy meat, a guide to what side dishes you can actually make in advance, or a way to make your store-bought pie crust look waaay fancier, we’ve got you. To kick it off, here’s our guide to mastering stuffing and side dishes.
1. Meal Prep Side Dishes in Advance
Repeat after us: The easiest way to eliminate stress is by meal prepping in advance. Some of our favorite sides can be made two days before Thanksgiving! For dishes that need to be heated up in the oven on Turkey Day, let them come to room temp for at least 15–20 minutes before baking to cut down on bake time.
Make 2 Days Before Thanksgiving:
– Green Bean Casserole: Prepare the casserole in a 10×12-inch baking dish but hold the crispy onions on the side in an airtight container. Cover and refrigerate the casserole until ready to bake, then top with crispy onions.
– Scalloped Potatoes: Prepare and bake the scalloped potatoes. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.
– Cranberry Sauce: Combine everything in a food processor until smooth. Place in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make the Day Before Thanksgiving:
– Stuffing: Prepare the stuffing and bake, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat the day of.
– Cornbread: Mix the dry ingredients and reserve in a bowl, covered with a lid or plastic wrap. Combine the dry ingredients with wet ingredients and bake the day of.
– Mashed Potatoes: Prepare and bake the mashed potatoes, cover, and refrigerate. Make the crispy shallots and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Reheat the mashed potatoes on the stovetop or in the microwave, and add a splash of cream or milk if the potatoes seem too stiff.
2. The Right Stuff for Your Best Stuffing
Ah, stuffing, the true hero of Thanksgiving. Most people actually eat dressing, not stuffing, which is bread, vegetables, butter, and stock, baked in a casserole dish rather than being stuffed inside the turkey. We prefer dressing to stuffing, because stuffing that’s actually stuffed inside the turkey cavity absorbs moisture from the bird during cooking and can pose as a carrier of bacteria like salmonella. To be honest, most people use the terms stuffing and dressing interchangeably, but regionally many Southerners refer to it as dressing while Northerners call it stuffing.
Key tips for perfecting your dressing:
– Start with days-old stale bread to allow your finished dressing to retain moisture without getting mushy.
– If you forgot to let your bread get stale, set your oven to 300–350°F, cut your bread into even-sized cubes (about one-inch cubes), and dry in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
– Be careful with your bread-to-sauce ratio: Too much stock and your dish will be mushy; too little, and your dish will be dry and bland.
– Choose a bread that is slightly dense yet relatively neutral tasting—think challah, brioche, or white bread. They will be able to absorb and hold the moisture without its flavor overpowering the dressing. Chrissy loooves using King’s Hawaiian rolls for her signature (un-stuffed) stuffing.
3. This Easy Technique Is Your Vegetable Prep Best Friend
Whether you want to expedite the cook time for roasted or sautéed vegetables, make crudités for dips, or have crunchy-yet-not-raw veggies for salads, we’ve got a key technique for you.
To blanch in advance, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it heavily. (Our new Cravings stock pot with steamer works great here, as it has a removable insert that can be used to quickly drain vegetables straight from boiling water.) Separately, fill a bowl with cold water and ice. Wash and cut your vegetables into equal-sized pieces, and then cook in salted water for 2–5 minutes or until crisp-tender and bright in color, doing a taste test to check when they’re done. Immediately transfer to the bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon to stop the cooking. Smaller or thinner vegetables like green beans or asparagus will be done in two minutes, while hardier vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower will take longer.
4. Master Any Kind of Roast Vegetable with This Trick
The secrets to roasting any vegetables perfectly are high heat and a little babysitting. Preheat the oven to 400°F and cut, slice, or dice all vegetables into equal-sized pieces to ensure even heat distribution. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt (and pepper and other spices you like), and ideally use a nonstick sheet pan (like the Cravings oversized one!) to ensure easy cleanup and no veggies sticking to the surface. Now for the most challenging part: no timers allowed—we want you to go by looks, not time! Check them every five minutes to see how brown and caramelized they are, flipping if necessary. Smaller, more tender vegetables like green beans and asparagus will cook faster than hardier vegetables like potatoes or cauliflower.
5. Let Frozen Cranberries Save the Day
Can’t find fresh cranberries for your cranberry sauce? Don’t worry, frozen cranberries are interchangeable with fresh—just thaw them in advance. Frozen cranberries are actually frozen at the peak of the season after being picked, so they’re just as good (if not better) than the fresh ones you find in the produce section around the holidays. Looking to switch up your cranberry sauce routine? Try Chrissy’s cranberry relish, which has a WHOLE orange in it for lots of zesty-sweet flavor.