Video: Padma Lakshmi’s 5 Game-Changing Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving

11/20/2014 at 01:52 PM ET

If your Thanksgiving game plan didn’t involve buttermilk or apples, you might want to take a listen to Padma Lakshmi’s sage Turkey Day wisdom.

During her appearance on The Tonight Show Wednesday night, the Top Chef judge gave host Jimmy Fallon five quick tips for hosting Thanksgiving — even though he only requested three. Since we’re all about lowering the stress on Turkey Day and upping the deliciousness, we took copious notes on Lakshmi’s advice.

MIX UP THE GUEST LIST

“The first thing I would say, is invite some strangers, or mix up your invite list,” she says, to which Fallon jokingly asks if she means pulling guests from off the street.

“No, no, no. But you know, Thanksgiving is always really hard because you’ve got all this family fighting and stuff. It’s nice to have a varied guest list so there are strangers that your family would maybe be embarrassed about arguing in front of,” she clarifies. “So they’d be on good behavior.”

So, while you might not have originally thought to invite the new neighbors, Lakshmi says doing so could keep your crazy Uncle Ron in check for the feast. Got it — on to the grub!

COOK THE BIRD EARLY

“Cook your turkey beforehand,” Lakshmi says, explaining that her family starts cooking the bird at midnight the night before. “It’s exciting, getting up early in the morning and making sure that turkey is beautiful. And that way, the hard part is done. I never understand when people are cooking turkey after everyone gets there, and it’s like a nail-biting experience.”

Turkey goes in at bedtime, comes out early in the morning — check!

BUTTERMILK BATH

“You want to soak the turkey in buttermilk — not milk — buttermilk that’s salted and sugared,” Lakshmi says, adding that the enzymes in it will break down the dark meat.

She instructs to place the bird — legs first — in a tall, narrow vessel, ensuring that the legs and thighs are fully immersed, and let it marinate for three days.

FILL IT WITH FRUIT

When it comes time to cook the turkey, Lakshmi says to insert apples and oranges into the bird. “So it gets rid of the gaminess,” she explains.

EASY GRAVY

“You’re going to have all this juice. Don’t be afraid of the juice when you’re done!” Lakshmi says. “Take that juice, add some butter and flour to it and that’s your natural homemade gravy.”

Turkey juices plus flour and butter equals gravy. Done and done.

Fallon is thrilled by Lakshmi’s straightforward, two-minute tutorial. “We never give out tips,” he says. “I’m so happy!”

As are we. Off to buy some buttermilk!

—Morgan Gibson

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Sian on

My mother always did the buttermilk marinade. Her turkey is the est! Definitely work it.

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