11 Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks from Rachael Ray

Update: This story was originally published in Nov. 2014. But great advice is timeless, right?

Whether it’s your first Thanksgiving or you’re a seasoned pro, we could all use a little extra help preparing for the biggest meal of the year.

To help solve your most common mishaps, from dry turkey and crunchy mashed potatoes to gravy that’s a tad too thick, we’ve gathered some of our favorite suggestions from Rachael.

Got any other tricks? Tell us about ’em on Facebook! And of course, don’t miss Rachael’s Essential Thanksgiving recipe collection to check out mouthwatering ideas for this year’s feast.

Tip Top Turkey!

The turkey is the big kahuna on your Thanksgiving table. These simple tricks will get you set for success.

1. If your turkey is done before your guests arrive, remove it from the oven, place a large sheet of foil over it, and then drape a big kitchen towel over everything. It will all help keep the heat in and protect your bird from drying out.

2. An easy way to slice the breast – and stretch it a little further – is to carve the whole breast off the bird first. Carve each side one at a time, and then slice them from there.

3. If your bird seems a little dry, heat up a few inches of turkey or chicken stock in a wide pan, slice your turkey, and then drag the slices through the bath to get a little more moisture in there.

Superior Sides!

What’s Thanksgiving without ideal side dishes? These five ideas will fix your most common mishaps:

1. If you’re on mashed potato duty, peel and chop your potatoes a day or two before Thanksgiving, and store them in a pot or container covered with cold water. This way, when it’s time to cook them, you can strain, add new water, and be a few steps ahead.

2. If the mashed potatoes are done a little early, make your own bain marie (hot water bath): First, take a wide sauté  pan and add an inch or two of water. Keep this on low heat. Then, place the finished potatoes in a regular sauce pot that will fit inside the pan of water, and cover with a lid. This way, they will keep warm and the bottom of your potatoes won’t burn.

3. Always have some extra milk or stock when making mashed potatoes, since they tend to soak up a lot of liquid. If they sit and too long and get tight, you can always loosen them up by stirring a little liquid into them.

4. If you’re worried about your stuffing getting cold, make it at home as close to the time you have to leave. Then, store it in an insulated bag or cooler covered with foil.

5. If you’re making a side dish that you’re worried will get overcooked or cold, bring all of your components fully prepped and cooked. When you arrive, toss them together, and you’re set! You can always notify your host or hostess in advance if you need the stovetop or oven for a few moments after you arrive.

Superb Sauces!

Skip those sauce blunders and come prepared with a few tricks up your sleeve.

1. Always have a little extra turkey or chicken stock nearby for your gravy in case it gets thicker than you want. This also helps in case you added a touch too much salt by diluting it a bit.

2. If you want to jazz up your same ol’ cranberry sauce, zest a little lemon or orange on top along with some chopped walnuts or pistachios. Voila!

3. If you’re bringing your sauce or gravy to someone’s house and want to keep it warm, help your host or hostess by bringing your own small pot and ladle. Add your sauce and keep it on low heat, stirring every now and then. Heat until you see steam.

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