Try these swaps for a worry-free meal. 

By Real Simple
Updated November 06, 2015
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While no one is immune to Thanksgiving disaster (our digital food editor once served raw turkey!), there are strategies you can enact to put the odds in your favor. On this week’s episode of “Thing’s Cooks Know,” hosts Sarah Collins and Sarah Karnasiewicz discuss foolproof ways to avoid Thanksgiving pitfalls, from gummy mashed potatoes to dry, flavorless turkey.

Here, a few tips from Karnasiewicz, food editor:

1. Turkey: Instead of cooking the entire turkey at once, cook the breast (which needs to be cooked to 145°) separately from the legs (which need to be cooked to 165°). This will ensure the breast doesn’t dry out.

2. Gravy: Rather than using a flour or cornstarch thickener, start with a mix of herbs, veggies, and bacon. Simmer in broth, then pop in the blender until smooth—this will eliminate the need for frantic whisking.

3. Mashed Potatoes: If you want to make the mashed potatoes ahead of time, refrain from attempting to re-heat them on the stovetop. Instead, place them in a casserole dish and warm them in the oven. Right before serving, mix in melted butter.

4. Stuffing: The moisture and weight of the bird will break down the bread, so to avoid gummy stuffing, cook it separately from the turkey. For best results, use day-old crusty bread (such as a sourdough boule).

5. Salad: Go for a salad that doesn’t require too much attention, and one that will look and taste great when served at room temperature. Start with a vegetable base—such as shaved Brussels sprouts—then add nuts and sharp cheese for flavor and texture. Find Thanksgiving salad recipes here.

6. Cranberry Sauce: Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools, so don’t panic and add more sugar if you’re worried it’s too thin. Experiment with adding bright, bold flavors, such as grapefruit peel or dried apricots.

7. Pies: Instead of making a traditional apple or pumpkin pie, opt for a tart with a press-in crust. This eliminates the stressful process of rolling and shaping, and a tart pan ensures the result will look beautiful.

For more expert tips, listen to the full episode below. Don't forget to review and subscribe on iTunes!