The Thanksgiving Hack Lidia Bastianich Swears By

As the leaves start to change and pumpkin spice returns to menus, Americans will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving. Declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, the first nationally observed Thanksgiving was meant to foster unity in the fractured country. Commemorated annually on the fourth Thursday of November (thanks to Roosevelt in 1941), Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1621 (via History).

The Thanksgiving celebration has a complicated history not often depicted accurately with respect to Native Americans. Nonetheless, for many Americans, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for families to gather together at one table (plus one for the kids) and be thankful for what they have. Whether football, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or the National Dog Show is part of the day, one thing is consistent: the meal.

The celebration is dubbed Turkey Day for a reason: 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, according to the University of Georgia. Each year, 46 million turkeys, minus the two pardoned by the president, are eaten on Thanksgiving, more than twice the number consumed on Christmas. Since turkey is the meal's headliner, bringing it to the table can illicit applause, oohs, and aahs; there's a lot of pressure for the cook to get it right and create an Instagrammable turkey.

Here to help, chef Lidia Bastianich has a cooking hack she swears will prepare your turkey for its close-up this Thanksgiving.

Bastianich's cooking hack for a golden turkey

"You eat with your eyes first" is the rare adage actually proven true by science. A study in ScienceDirect concluded that there are "physiological and neurophysiological changes" in the body when shown food. The mere sight of an appealing dish can increase our desire for a meal. Along with the aroma, our brains enjoy the turkey even before we place it in our mouths. 

According to Bastianich, a quick cooking hack to give your turkey a deeply golden skin, making it look more delicious, is to brush it with balsamic vinegar during the final 10 to 15 minutes of roasting, per Today. This tip is so reliable that the experts at Butterball, who field 10,000 turkey questions between November and December, use the ingredient in a glaze to give their birds an enviable skin.

Adding balsamic vinegar to the skin is especially helpful if you brine your turkey. While brining adds moisture to the bird, preventing the white meat from drying while the dark meat finishes cooking, the extra moisture can also hamper the skin from crisping and turning golden brown. Along with a hot, dry oven, balsamic vinegar aids in achieving the Maillard Reaction, the science behind browning. Loaded onto a plate with mashed potatoes and stuffing, a perfectly browned and succulent Thanksgiving dinner is well worth the 365-day wait (and the food coma that follows).