From Our Chefs: 10 Tips For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Nov 13, 2023

10 tips from chefs for thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving.

It’s the one day a year when home cooks turn into chefs, whipping up a wildly elaborate meal to be enjoyed by loved ones far and wide. It’s a day filled with family, food and yes, lots and lots of stress.

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wished at least once that you could enlist the help of a professional chef, with all of their expertise and experience at their disposal.

And while you probably can’t do that, you could still tackle the day head on with a few expertly curated tips and tricks up your sleeve. So, we gathered our Resident Chefs and asked them for the best Turkey Day tips they swear by—here are 10 that will ensure the big feast goes off without a hitch.

Check ‘em out below:

Don’t let Thanksgiving catch you by surprise! Check out our Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide for tips and tricks from our chefs to ensure the big day goes off without a hitch!

Read More

Write out your menu, then simplify it.

Listen, we get it: Thanksgiving is the one meal a year where you can (and usually do) make way more food than you need. But, what if we told you you could still impress the pants off all of your guests without stressing yourself out?

Take an analytical eye to your menu and cut any recipe with an overly complicated ingredient list or recipe. And you probably can make do with just two or three veggie sides rather than five. Do you find every year that there are a few appetizers or snacks that go untouched? Get rid of them.

Keep it simple and let the rest of the meal shine.

For tips on planning your Thanksgiving menu, check out our guide.

Never, ever, test a new recipe.

Again, we get it—it’s finally your turn to host Thanksgiving and you’re looking to make a name for yourself. Our advice? Go with a tried-and-true recipe that you can whip together with your eyes closed.

Not only will this save you the stress of trying to maneuver your way through a new list of steps and ingredients, but if you have a recipe that you know and love, that will show in the finished dish.

Make a game plan.

The biggest stressor when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner (aside, of course, from the ever terrifying still-frozen-in-the-middle turkey), is timing. Ensuring everything comes together and the meal is on the table hot and ready to be enjoyed can make or break the feast.

The best way to tackle the issue of timing is to make a plan.

Let’s say you want to eat at 5 PM. If your turkey takes about 3 hours to cook and needs to rest for an hour before carving, you should plan to put it into the oven at one o’clock. Then, take a look at your sides—can any of them be made in advance? Probably, and they can be reheated while the turkey rests. Pencil that into your schedule.

Aim to have a few stations going at once—some dishes in the oven, some on the stove, some made in advance and ready to reheat and some, like cranberry sauce, that can be served at room temperature.

Prep as much as you can in advance.

Speaking of a game plan, prep as much as you can ahead of time. This will save you loads of time and stress come Turkey Day.

This can be as simple as washing and cutting your veggies or making the pies, sides and rolls a day or two in advance. Whatever you do to prep, make sure you allow time day of for any reheating or last-minute assembling.

Set the table ahead of time.

Sure, in the grand scheme of Thanksgiving, this might not seem like the biggest hurdle. But why add one more thing to your to-do list?

An easy Thanksgiving hack: set your table a few days before. This will allow you to take stock of any dinnerware, linens or décor you might need. This is also a good opportunity to lay out your serving bowls and platters to get an idea of how much space you’ll need come mealtime.

Pro Tip: Planning on a big, beautiful floral centerpiece? Put them in a vase and place on your table a day or two ahead of time—this will give them time to open and will make your tablescape even more stunning.

Want to set your table like a pro? Our table setting guide breaks down all the tips and tricks.

Ask guests to bring a side or dessert.

Let’s be honest: the turkey is the main event. The sides and desserts are just supporting characters. So, give yourself some grace and let your guests in on a little bit of the action.

Whether it’s a side of green beans, some rolls or even a pie or two, getting your guests involved allows you to focus on the key parts of the meal. Plus, everyone will be so grateful to you for spending all day cooking, they’ll practically be begging to pitch in—let them.

Not enough oven space? Use the grill!

Alright, now this might sound a little wild, but just hear us out.

Your grill, for all intents and purposes, is basically an outdoor oven with a lid. Sure, you typically cook things directly on the grates, but you don’t *have* to.

If you’re short on oven space, pop your turkey into a roasting pan, keep the ambient temperature right around 350°F and let the grill do the work. It should take around the same amount of time as the oven—just be sure to keep the lid closed (only check it when you really need to!).

Leave the oven alone.

Speaking of keeping the lid closed, once your turkey goes in the oven, open it only when necessary.

Opening your oven door for even just 30 seconds can drop the ambient temperature by up to 50% or more, depending on your oven and the volume of food you’re cooking.

But of course, when it comes to turkey, you have to baste—and that can only be done if you open the oven, right? Here’s our handy tip: if you’re basting your bird, remove the roasting pan from the oven, shut the door and set it down on a heat safe trivet or the stovetop.

Proceed to baste and check the internal temp. Once it’s ready to go back in, recruit some help from your guests and open the oven right before you’re about to put the bird back in. This will help keep the temperature inside relatively steady and will prevent uneven or prolonged cooking times.

Don’t stuff your turkey.

We know, we know, it’s called “stuffing” for a reason. But, contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t stuff your bird prior to roasting, and for a few good reasons:

  • It’ll take about 5 minutes longer per pound to cook a stuffed turkey vs an unstuffed one, which can wreak havoc on your timeline.
  • Stuffing your bird can suck all of the moisture out of the meat, leaving you with a dry turkey.
  • Because you want your turkey cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F, that goes for whatever is inside the bird as well. Too often, the turkey dries out before the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, which can result in foodborne illness. For more information on stuffing your turkey, check out the USDA’s website.

Casseroles are your best friend.

From potatoes au gratin to sweet potato and green bean casseroles, there’s plenty of casserole-based recipes to satisfy your Thanksgiving cravings.

Many of these can be made a day or two in advance and reheated while the turkey rests. This will not only prevent a lot of stress come Turkey Day but will also help immensely with the timing of the big feast.

Chef’s Note: The secret to delicious, reheated mashed potatoes? A cream and butter cap!

To do this, simply make your mashed potatoes according to your favorite recipe and transfer them to a sealable container. Before putting the lid on, pour a mixture of melted butter and cream or half-and-half over the top, covering them completely.

This “cap” helps to keep the mashed potatoes from oxidizing and drying out. It will melt and be folded into the mashed potatoes when reheated.


Don’t let Thanksgiving catch you by surprise! Check out our Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide for tips and tricks from our chefs to ensure the big day goes off without a hitch!

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Planning Guide & Timeline

how to brine a turkey

The Secret to Juicy Turkey? Brining

how to prepare your turkey

5 Ways To Prepare Your Thanksgiving Turkey

easy thanksgiving breakfast recipes

12 Easy Grab-n-Go Breakfasts For Your Busy Thanksgiving Morning