"America’s Test Kitchen" co-host Bridget Lancaster has been working on her Thanksgiving meal (which is organized in a giant spreadsheet) since October, but she also knows that most of us can’t quite swing that level of commitment. So, ahead of the holiday, she stopped by Boston Public Radio to answer listener questions and give us all a few tips.

What to do if you're a perennial procrastinator

One listener wondered what to do if you find yourself two days before hosting a large group at Thanksgiving with no plan and no preparation done. Lancaster says: start with the turkey and go buy some sides.

“If you are working with a frozen turkey at this point, you better start defrosting,” she said.

Her recommendation for defrosting is to put the bird in cold water and refresh that water once every 30 minutes until the turkey is defrosted. And if at this point you're still planning to buy a turkey, make sure it's fresh. Defrosting takes about 30 minutes per pound, so you may not have time to defrost a large bird bought just before the holiday.

As for sides, however, there’s no shame in sticking with store-bought.

“There are great bakeries and great restaurants where you can pick up sides and things like that," she said, "so you don't have to take on the full load yourself.”

Another shortcut she mentioned to save some time (and intimidation) is premade pie dough, which you can always jazz up for a little more dimension.

“Feel free to go to the supermarket and pick up premade pie dough," she said. "You can actually roll it in graham cracker [or animal cracker] crumbs instead of flour so it gets a little bit of a nutty flavor."

For nervous bird handlers

Unsurprisingly, many listeners had questions and worries about how to properly prepare and cook a turkey. One of the most popular methods to make the process easier, Lancaster said, is spatchcocking. Spatchcocking, or butterflying, involves removing the turkey’s backbone so that it can lie flat and cook more quickly and evenly. Lancaster explained that the process is easy, particularly considering the amount of time it saves.

“You can do this, especially if it's a smaller turkey, with really hearty kitchen shears," she explained. "You just go up either side of the backbone, you flip it over, breast side up, and then with all your weight, you crack that breast plate so that it lays out as flat as possible. And it's great because all the dark meat is on the outside of the pan, exposed to the heat, and it'll shave an hour and a half off your cooking time as well.”

One caller asked about the rules and merits of brining, or soaking your turkey in salt water, overnight. Lancaster said brining can make the meat a little too moist or salty, so her preference is to stick with a dry seasoning method.

“If you have a previously salted turkey — if you buy it and you look at the ingredients and it says that it has a lot of sodium and or it's been injected — you don't want to brine because it'll be too salty …[the Test Kitchen has] started to do more salting rather than brining,” she said.

To salt, she said, “you basically lift the skin up from the turkey, you put salt underneath the skin. That way [it] can go into the meat. And then you let it go for 24 to 48 hours in the fridge."

Food safety

Turkey breast meat should be cooked to 165 degrees, and thigh meat should be around 175 degrees. One caller asked if pop-up timers are reliable at telling when the meat is done. Lancaster said home cooks should stick with instant-read thermometers to get the best result.

“Do not trust that [pop-up] timer … they all pop at different temperatures, and they usually pop too late. They'll pop 10 to 15 degrees above when you should be taking that turkey breast out, which, again, is 165," she said. "An instant-read thermometer is what you want.”

And if the bird is cooking unevenly or you can’t quite get the temperature quite right, she recommends cutting it into large parts: Put the legs and breasts onto sheet pans, then put them back in the oven.

One listener asked about preparing homemade dressing in advance, then putting it in the refrigerator to bake the next day. Lancaster said that is absolutely safe (and it's also what she does herself). The only thing you need to do is give it one final stir before cooking.

On proper scheduling

Another age-old question: How to get everything to come out at the same time when using only one oven. Her tip? Use the turkey’s resting time to heat up sides.

“The turkey should rest at least 35 minutes to 45 minutes. It has to rest before you carve into it. Otherwise, all those juices are going to be all over your counter and stove on the turkey," she said. "You've just bought yourself 35 to 40 minutes of oven time right there.”

The latest book from America's Test Kitchen, “The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook,” is available now.