Who isn’t looking for a way to make Thanksgiving easier in the kitchen? Christopher Kimball, founder of Milk Street, stopped by our test kitchen to teach us a few turkey day shortcuts that we’d never seen before. Keep reading to learn some of our favorites, from the best way to make store-bought stock taste homemade and a foolproof no-shrink piecrust technique.
Make Store-Bought Stock Taste Homemade
Stock is an essential part of so many Thanksgiving recipes, including two all-stars: gravy and stuffing. Perfectionists will tell you to buy turkey backs, necks and wings and make your own broth from scratch a few days before Thanksgiving. And, while that’s not a bad idea, sometimes life gets in the way and you need to turn to store-bought broth.
With this clever hack from Kimball, you can make that can of store-bought broth taste pretty darn homemade. Here’s how: Pour the chicken broth into a saucepan, add a halved head of garlic, a few fresh herbs, and a bay leaf and let it simmer until reduce by half, about 45 minutes.
The result is a rich, flavorful broth in less than an hour.
Keep Mashed Potatoes Warm in a Slow Cooker
Mashed potatoes are one of the toughest make-ahead challenges: Too often, they turn gummy and sticky when reheated. The trick, says Kimball, is to never let them cool down. As soon as you have mashed your last spud into submission, transfer the batch to a slow cooker that’s been brushed with butter and set on low. Covered, they’ll keep this way for hours without losing their fluffy factor. If they dry out a bit before dinner, simply stir in a few tablespoons of warm whole milk or broth before serving.
Safely Cook Your Stuffing Inside the Turkey
It’s hard not to love the turkey-infused flavor of stuffing cooked inside the bird, but it’s not exactly textbook from a food safety perspective: When stuffing is cooked in the cavity of a roasting turkey it is exposed to the raw poultry, but then never gets hot enough—160ºF—to kill the bacteria.
Kimball’s fix involves preheating the stuffing so it cooks at the same time as the turkey: Put some un-baked stuffing onto a cheesecloth (about half a cup per pound of turkey), and loosely tie it into a bag. Preheat that bag in the microwave until it reaches approximately 120ºF. Stick it into an untrussed turkey, and the stuffing is guaranteed to be cooked through at exactly the same time that the turkey is done.
A few things to note: