Many of us look forward to whipping up classic Thanksgiving dishes every year, but might find that there simply isn’t enough time to make everything from scratch. With that said, we reached out to chefs and other cooking/ health experts to learn more about four pre-made, store-bought items you can utilize to make Turkey Day dinner so much easier this year. Read on for tips, suggestions and insights from Chef Brian Jupiter, executive chef at Chicago’s Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern and Jessica Randhawa, owner and head chef at The Forked Spoon.
1. Save Time With Boxed Stuffing
The first food product Jupiter says he would buy from the grocery story to "make Thanksgiving dinner a tad easier" is boxed stuffing. "The greatest part about boxed stuffing is that you can manipulate it as much as you want," he explains, noting that he recommends "adding more seasonings, herbs and vegetables, utilizing the boxed stuff as your base."
To dazzle up your boxed stuffing even more, Jupiter suggests "incorporating roasted fresh vegetables, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, and homemade stock into the mix to give an aspect of freshness." Randhawa agrees, adding that the average made-from-scratch Thanksgiving stuffing recipe takes "about an hour and a half to complete and uses the oven." This, she points out, is not convenient with all the other possible Thanksgiving recipes that require the oven when you're pressed for time. "For this reason, it is often a great idea to save time and some stress by buying a stuffing kit from the store," she stresses.
2. Grab Pre-Made Dinner Rolls
When at the store, Jupiter says that buying dinner rolls (rather than making them from scratch at home) is understandable when you aren't blessed with more time. Plus, they're super tasty! "The next item I would recommend grabbing are pre-rolled dinner rolls that have not been ‘proofed’ yet," he explains. If you can find them, Jupiter says that "these will be a serious hit at Thanksgiving dinner."
All you have to do, he points out, is "lay them out on a baking sheet the night before you want to make them." Then the day of, "brush over the rolls with egg wash and pop them in the oven," he adds, continuing that "there is nothing better than fresh baked rolls." (Hard to argue with that!) Once they have been proofed, Jupiter says to then brush with egg wash and bake according to the instructions. "While in the oven, melt a few tablespoons of salted butter with two cloves of minced garlic," he suggests, and "once the rolls come out of the oven, brush the tops with your butter garlic mixture."
3. Buy Cranberry Sauce Ahead Of Time
While making cranberry sauce fresh at home can be a fun experience, many of us have to prioritize the Thanksgiving turkey, pies, mashed potatoes, etc., and don't have time to do so. This, Randhawa says, is why buying cranberry sauce from the grocery store can lighten your cooking/ workload (and will taste just as good!) "Buying a cranberry sauce from the store is a great way to save time this Thanksgiving, as it saves about 35 minutes when making a cranberry sauce recipe from scratch," she notes.
4. Stack Up On One Favorite Veggie
Vegetables will be your best friend when making practically every dish for Turkey Day, Jupiter says, so he suggests buying them in bulk from the grocery store before the big day. "I would recommend using a bulk amount of one vegetable in different variations," he says, adding to "use a multitude of onions for the stuffing, gravy, turkey stock, and roasting, as you can even caramelize the onions for your sandwich the day after." Utilizing a bunch of one vegetable, he stresses, is "so much easier than buying many different vegetables and preparing them all differently."
Jupiter uses potatoes to explain "how to best go about incorporating bulked vegetables to help ease Thanksgiving dinner preparations." If you buy a surplus of different varieties of potatoes, he says, "you can use them in hundreds of ways– roasted fingerlings, mashed Yukon Gold, etc." Another pro tip he provides is that he "enjoys seasoning and frying the potato skins as a kitchen snack while cooking." Also, Jupiter says that a classic French technique he loves to use is "to place cubed russet potatoes on a tray under the turkey while it roasts." As the skin renders, he concludes, "fat will drip onto the potatoes, adding a nuanced flavor."