Your Thanksgiving Dilemmas, Solved

You asked us your toughest Turkey Day questions. Here, Real Simple’s Food Director provides expert advice.

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We asked you to post your Thanksgiving food dilemmas on Facebook—everything from burned pies to gluten-free meal options. Real Simple’s Food Director Sarah Copeland answers your questions for a delicious, stress-free holiday.

Julliette Liu: How do I time everything just right with one stove? No matter how much planning is involved, something always takes longer than expected and holds everything else up.

Sarah Copeland: You’re so right. It helps to work ahead—restaurant chefs use this to their advantage on a daily basis to make sure many different entrees arrive hot and fresh to your table at once. You can cut vegetables, pick your herbs, peel your potatoes (or use our delicious, no-peel mashed potato recipe and save this step), and get ahead on anything that re-heats well hours or even days ahead.

Meredith Darbyshire: Last year I burned the bottoms of my pies. Yet the middles were still undercooked. My oven was preheated to 350. Is it possible that this was/is due to using a silicone pie pan vs. a traditional glass pan? If so, do you have any recommendations or should I just toss the pans and stick with what works?

SC: It is possible! Classic works—in our test kitchen, we still use good old-fashioned glass or metal pie plates, and sometimes ceramic if we want a more elegant presentation. If you’re making a custard that needs to cook at a lower temp, like our Cranberry Custard Pie or classic pumpkin pie, it can be helpful to par-bake the crust. And, despite some instructions to bake pies on the bottom rack, baking on the middle rack is a good safety measure to make sure crusts don’t get too brown before the pie is set.

Amy Matney: My family doesn't like turkey. What are some good alternatives to use that can become our new tradition?

SC: I think most families would be thrilled with 2 plump roasted chickens, stuffed with stuffing (just like you would a turkey), and they make for great, easy-to-use leftovers. A whole side of salmon (see ours in the December issue) is also a welcome centerpiece for anyone who doesn’t eat meat. A roast pork loin is another great option—especially one that’s a little spicy and unexpected. Here’s our favorite one (you can skip the black bean salad and serve all your other favorite Thanksgiving fixings).