The biggest cooking day of the year is fast-approaching and you are the lucky one hosting the meal. Unless you get the entire spread catered, all the guests and dishes and prep work can stress out even the most seasoned cook. Here are nine hacks you can use to dazzle your friends’ and family’s tastebuds all while reducing the hassle and pressure. 

The beverages Did your brother-in-law bring a lukewarm six pack of drinks that need to be refrigerated before the turkey day game? Wrap each can or bottle in a wet paper towel and put them in the freezer for up to 15 minutes. The added surface area from the layers and fibers in the paper towel, combined with the rapidly cooling water in the towel, will chill your drink faster than just a bare bottle would. Just don’t forget to take it out of the freezer — frozen liquids expand, and you don’t want an exploded drink. If you, like most people, only have one refrigerator in the house, all the prepping, cooking and chilling dishes means you are bound to run of space quickly. If guests are unsure of what to bring, tell someone to supply a cooler, which will provide everyone with a place to keep their drinks cold while freeing up enough fridge space for that prepared apple pie that needs to go in the oven after dinner. Another tip: insulated coolers don’t have to be just for keeping beverages cold — line the bottom with a towel and use it to store hot dishes, keeping them warm until they’re ready to eat. The sides Save valuable time by chopping and dicing all your vegetables the night before, so they’re ready to go in the morning. Onions, potatoes, celery or carrots can all be prepped ahead of time. Another trick? If you cut apples or potatoes the night before for pies or mashed dishes, put them in a gallon-sized bag filled with water. Surrounding the pieces with water instead of oxygen will keep them from turning brown. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes or a dish of sweet potato casserole. But peeling potatoes is messy and time-consuming. Cut down on time and make peeling almost effortless by transferring the cooked potatoes directly from their boiling pot into a bowl of ice cold water. This “shocks” the potatoes, essentially detaching the skin from the rest of the potato, thus making the peeling process something you can do with your hands in one fell swoop. Bonus tip: add a pinch of fresh baking powder to mashed potatoes — the heat will cause the powder to release carbon dioxide, making them extra fluffy. Baking soda will work, too, but it needs to be paired with something acidic to trigger the reaction, so make sure you’re also using buttermilk or plain yogurt if you use baking soda. Gravy is often considered the liquid gold of the Thanksgiving meal. If you’re gathering the drippings from the turkey as the base of the gravy, you’re also going to be grabbing a lot of fat with it. If you don’t have a fat separator, you can just pour the drippings into any container and throw it in the freezer. The cold will cause the fat to separate faster, making it easier to scoop out and be left with your gravy base. Homemade biscuits have butter as a key ingredient, but if you’ve ever made biscuits before, then you know that folding the butter into the flour requires a bit of elbow grease. Since the secret to the flakiest biscuits is cold, and thus rock-hard, butter, use a cheese grater to thin down the butter to smaller shavings that are easier to mix in.  The turkey When cooking a bird as big as a turkey in the oven, you want the heat to circulate around the meat as much as possible to ensure even cooking. A roasting rack is ideal for this, but if you don’t have one, there are other options. Take a large piece of aluminum foil, roll it up into a long coil, and then shape it into a spiral that the turkey can rest on. This will lift it off the bottom of the pan, allowing heat to envelop the turkey. Another option that’s especially fruitful if you’re planning on making gravy from the turkey drippings is creating a bed for the turkey to cook on out of a layer of chopped onions, celery stalks and cut potatoes. There are many tricks out there for dealing with overcooked, dry turkey. Because turkeys tend to be so large, some parts cook faster than others, causing the dreaded dry white meat. You might be able to solve this by cooking two smaller turkeys instead of one large one, but if that isn’t an option, before cooking, place ice packs on the turkey breasts to cool them down further. Since the breast meat tends to cook faster than any other part of the turkey, starting them at a lower temperature than the rest of the bird may keep them from overcooking. Another possibility is soaking a cheesecloth in melted butter and draping it over the breast while cooking the turkey, or even placing a lattice of strips of bacon on top of the turkey while cooking. If all else fails and you still have some dry meat, try pouring warm chicken broth on it to revive it, or at least keep it from getting worse. The dessert Taking a stab at the family pumpkin pie recipe this year? If you don’t use a pie weight, you may end up with a broken or shrunken crust, which can make adding the filling difficult. If you don’t own a pie weight, you can instead line the crust with parchment paper and fill it with dry rice or beans, which will be just as effective as a weight. Cook following instructions, then remove the rice or beans and parchment paper and proceed as usual.