Thanksgiving looks like it should be simple — a time to indulge in comfort food and relax with friends and family. This is a terrible contrivance. Each year in late November, we’re all expected to turn our humble home kitchens into commercial canteens for a day, slinging out dishes to feed a crowd. But with a few tips from the world of food science — and a little planning — Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be quite such a strain.

First, the turkey: If yours is tough and dry, you’re overcooking it! All you need for a juicy turkey is a thermometer and the ability (and willingness) to ignore the government’s advice for cooking temperatures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends taking turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it is instantly pasteurized (that is, only 1 out of 10 million bacteria will survive). But pasteurization is a function of temperature and time. Cook your turkey breast to 150 degrees, and so long as it rests there for at least 3.7 minutes, it will have the exact same level of bacterial reduction, and come out far, far juicier in the process. I recommend roasting the turkey until it registers 150 degrees in the breast and 165 or above in the legs, which can withstand higher temperatures without drying out.

You can also brine your turkey by dunking it in salted water, though it’s a little bit of a pain, since you have to keep it in the fridge or on ice. So I use dry brining: Heavily salt the turkey and let it rest salted in the refrigerator loosely covered with plastic for at least a night and up to three nights. This has a very similar effect to wet brining: The salt will initially pull moisture from the turkey, which it then dissolves in. As that salty liquid rests on the surface of the bird, it will slowly dissolve the turkey’s muscle proteins, and as they dissolve, they’ll reabsorb the moisture the salt pulled out. Then, because the muscle proteins are broken down, the turkey squeezes less as it cooks and pushes out less moisture. Voilà: a better-seasoned, juicier turkey.

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While that turkey is dry-brining, you can get everything ready for your stuffing (or dressing, if you prefer). But be careful what kind of bread you use if you want a good, custardy texture. People often mistake dry bread for stale bread. Staling is what occurs when the starch in the bread retrogrades and recrystallizes, making it tough. It can happen with or without drying. Drying is the actual removal of moisture from the bread. Dry bread has plenty of air space in it to absorb stock for better flavor. So grab a loaf of fresh bread, cut it into cubes and dry it out in a low (250 degree) oven, rotating the cubes until completely dried and crisp, which will let them absorb more of the stock you add and give you a fresher and perfectly textured stuffing. You can dry your bread in advance.

In fact, quite a few dishes can be made ahead of time and reheated, but make sure you reheat them right, and choose dishes that rise to the occasion. Casseroles are an ideal candidate for reheating. Green vegetables like roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts and green beans will lose their color if they’re reheated. And you don’t want to pre-slice your meat and reheat it because you’ll lose moisture. Mashed potatoes can be a little difficult because their starch will recrystallize, so you don’t get the same creaminess the second time around. To reheat them, you can either fold the cool potatoes into a hot pot of simmering cream, or if you’ve got a sous vide circulator, bag your potatoes and reheat them at 150 degrees for at least an hour and up to 24.

Finally, the greatest source of Thanksgiving stress is that people overcommit themselves in the kitchen. You might, for instance, come up with a menu without realizing that five of the dishes have to be cooked in the oven, and they all cook at different temperatures and times, which can leave you in a jam when the company arrives. Plan your menu well and take advantage of all the different pieces of heating equipment in your kitchen. If you’re having turkey, it’s going to be in the oven — so use the warm oven for cooking stuffing while the turkey’s resting, and maybe think about doing Brussels sprouts and another side on the stovetop in the meantime. Strategizing your use of kitchen equipment is similar to the way a restaurant would plan its menu: They make sure that if there are five stations in the kitchen, their dishes are balanced across the five stations so one person doesn’t get completely slammed all night.

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