7 Quick Tips for an Easy Thanksgiving

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1. Baste a tastier turkey

Rather than basting your Thanksgiving bird with pan drippings, use melted butter and wine, suggests Every Day with Rachael Ray. This duo will add a buttery tang to the meat and help keep it juicy. For a bigger flavor boost, whisk in your favorite herbs, garlic, or other seasonings.

2. Peel apples quickly

Peeling a peck of apples for a pie can take less time with this trick: Peel around the top and bottom of an apple in a circle, leaving the center intact, says Amy Traverso, author of The Apple Lover's Cookbook (Norton, $29.95). Then peel the center in a top-to-bottom motion, turning the fruit as you go.

3. Make a smoother gravy

Getting gravy to the right consistency takes time and care — and a little savvy — says Paula Deen in Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible (Simon & Schuster, $26.99). If it's too thick, mix in teaspoons of hot water until it's right. To avoid lumps, she suggests using Wondra, a flour that dissolves quickly.

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4. The perfect baked potato

For a perfect potato, bake it in a salt bed, says Cook's Illustrated. Spread a layer of kosher salt in a baking dish and top with whole, unpeeled potatoes. Surround the potatoes with sprigs of rosemary and add an entire head of garlic with the top cut off. Cover with foil and bake for 1¼ hours at 450°F. Then remove the foil and garlic, brush oil on each potato, and bake uncovered at 500°F for an additional 15 minutes. To serve, top potatoes with the roasted garlic, butter, etc. The result: potatoes that are tender outside and fluffy inside.

5. How to serve ice to guests

Replace your ice bucket with a kitchen staple: a colander. Real Simple suggests placing an ice-filled colander in a bowl or vase. Water will drain as the ice melts, leaving only cubes for your guests to use in their drinks. Don't forget the tongs!

6. The better way to press garlic

A traditional garlic press can create quite a mess — all those holes, all that tricky cleanup. Men's Journal suggests trading it for a more efficient model by Joseph Joseph. The Rocker ($15; josephjoseph.com), a stainless steel press, uses a back-and-forth motion to mince garlic by forcing it through a series of holes. Rinse and rejoice.

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7. Don't forget to label leftovers

Marking your food-storage containers with painter's tape is an inexpensive way to keep your leftovers organized without defacing the containers, says Cook's Illustrated. Just apply the tape, write the contents and date on the label, and store in the refrigerator or freezer. This type of tape is easily removed and leaves no sticky residue to scrub off.

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