1. You baste your turkey.
It might be tradition, but basting your bird doesn't actually result in a more moist turkey because juices poured over top don't penetrate the skin. For a bird that's really moist and flavorful, rub pats of butter (or herb butter, if you want to get extra fancy) under and on top of the turkey skin before roasting.
2. You wash your potatoes individually in the sink.
If you're cooking for a lot of people, washing potatoes can be a major time suck. But thanks to this sneaky tip, you can focus on other things while your dishwasher does all the work. Yes, your dishwasher. Just run the potatoes through rinse cycle (don't use soap!) and you'll have some squeaky clean spuds.
3. You make stuffing in one big pan.
If you haven't tried making stuffing muffins yet, this is the year to do it. Not only do they ensure that there's enough stuffing to go around, help with portion control, and guarantee extra crispy-crunchy parts, they're also totally adorable.
4. You pull your bird out of the oven based on a timer.
Even if you followed the recipe precisely, or calculated cook-time based on the weight of your turkey, you should still always, always, ALWAYS check for doneness with a thermometer. A nicely browned turkey can still be frozen solid on the inside, and doing a quick temperature check is preferable to worrying about getting guests sick.
For reference, a whole bird is safe to eat when the middle of the turkey (and the stuffing inside!) has reached 165 degrees F. If your turkey comes with a pop-up thermometer, don't use it! They don't typically pop until the bird is overdone, meaning you could easily end up with dry meat. You're much better off sticking with the old-fashioned thermometer.
5. You prep your veggies on Thanksgiving day.
Prep work like dicing sometimes takes longer than the recipe implies. Plus, it's nearly impossible to efficiently chop veggies while there are about a million other things going on in the kitchen. Save time and keep stress levels to a minimum by chopping onions, carrots, peppers, celery, and garlic the night before. Use Tupperware containers for storage and keep them in the fridge to use as needed on Thanksgiving day.
6. You buy a variety of wines and take individual drink requests.
Stop trying to please everyone. You'll spend a ton of money, spend most of the night prepping and/or refreshing drinks, and will likely be left with a bunch of half-finished wine bottles. Instead, make one big-batch holiday punch and you'll get loads of complements on your sophisticated cocktail choice while saving time and cash.
7. You use raw garlic.
Instead of using raw garlic as many Thanksgiving recipes call for, add an extra layer of flavor to your stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, and more by swapping it for roasted garlic. Just roast a few heads the night before or the morning of—you can even use the toaster oven so you don't have to worry about fitting anything else into the oven schedule—and you'll have an even more flavorful dinner as a result. Plus, spreading pre-prepped roasted garlic over crostini is the perfect last-minute appetizer, in case your turkey needs to a bit longer than expected.
8. You serve canned cranberry sauce.
Some people have a nostalgic love for the jelly-like canned stuff and others serve it as a family tradition. So if you really, truly, honestly enjoy the the grocery-store version, ignore this advice. But if you serve canned cranberry sauce out of convenience, you should know that the real-deal is infinitely better and surprisingly very easy to make.
9. You store your pie fruit out on the counter or in the fridge.
Need fruit to ripen faster before making your signature pies? Simply stick it in a paper bag a couple of days in advance. To speed up the process even further, add a banana to the bag along with your unripe produce. Just letting them sit in a bowl by the window is basically useless.
10. You make whipped cream the old fashioned way.
No need to dirty another mixing bowl or waste precious minutes making whipped cream with a whisk. Simply pour your desired amount of heavy cream and sugar into a jar, make sure the lid is on tight, and shake off some of that Thanksgiving stress until you've got the perfect pie topper.
11. You serve regular roasted potatoes as an alternative to mashed.
Accordion or Hasselback potatoes may as well have been invented specifically for Thanksgiving. You can pour gravy over top and each potato soaks up all that concentrated turkey flavor. And you can make them with sweet potatoes, too!