One of the golden rules to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey is to place it on a roasting rack before it goes into the oven. Missing this step and cooking it directly on the pan will burn the bottom of the bird, resulting in overcooked, dry meat.
Luckily, if you don't have a roasting rack on deck, that doesn't mean you have to make an emergency run to the store just yet. The rack is simply a fancy tool that creates space between the turkey and the pan surface, allowing the oven's heat to circulate underneath. This results in a more even roast. So, if you can figure out an alternative way to lift your meal away from the hot pan, you're good to go.
Peek at some nifty rack substitutes below.
Take a long sheet of aluminum foil (the length will depend on the size of your turkey) and scrunch it up into a thick rope. Shape the foil rope into a spiral or a figure 8, then place your bird on top.
If the turkey is still too close to the pan, simply add another layer of foil around the rope to give your DIY roasting rack more height and bulk.
The foil rack is a great solution when cooking other meats as well. Whenever I cook steak, I make mini spirals and place the cuts on top.
If you've got leftover veggies in your fridge, chop them into large chunks and spread them across your pan. Ideally, this crude "mirepoix" includes chopped celery, onions, and carrots.
However, if you've got potatoes laying around, cut them in half and throw them in, too. The benefits are threefold: the vegetables create a cushion for the turkey and while it cooks, they add great flavor to your drippings, and you have another side dish of roasted veggies with almost zero extra effort.
Just try to cut the bulkiest veggies so they're about the same height—this ensures that your turkey doesn't tilt or slide off the rack as it's cooking.
P.S. Save those drippings and make phenomenal gravy later.
Once again, it's chopsticks to the rescue. Grab 6-12 pairs of wooden takeout chopsticks (again, the amount will depend on the size of your turkey) and organize them in a grid pattern (think tic-tac-toe) on the pan. Space them wide enough apart so your turkey can fit on top, creating a rack that's at least three layers high.
You might want to tie it together at the corners with some kitchen twine or unwaxed dental floss for extra stability, too.
You can do this using those extra chopsticks next to the hot sauce packets in some forgotten kitchen drawer. You know which one I'm talking about.
The wire racks used to cool baked goods make a great replacement for roasting racks. Simply slip over the pan and place the turkey on top. If your pan is on the smaller side, toaster oven racks work too. You can also make a V-shaped rack bymolding two toaster oven racks together.
We'd love to hear your own DIY holiday solutions. So if you've got one for Thanksgiving, let us know in the comments!