Tips + Tricks
Delegate tasks. The key to the success of any feast meal is having a repertoire you can master, so assign some side dishes and dessert to guests while you focus on the main trio: turkey, gravy and stuffing. If you’re feeling confident, add one or two other dishes.
Practice makes perfect. If you have an eager “test kitchen” at home and some time to spare, try out a couple of recipes on your family or friends before the main event. You’ll be more confident when Thanksgiving arrives and you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.
Take shortcuts. Not everything has to be made from scratch. After all, Betty is the queen of shortcuts! Save yourself some trouble and supplement with delicious Pillsbury Original Crescents and clamshell salad greens. Purchase all non-perishables in the weeks before the holiday to avoid last-minute runs to the store.
Think about crowd control. Too many guests and not enough room at the table? Serve your feast buffet-style—a more casual and space-saving arrangement. Set out simple snacks right away—cheese and crackers, a veggie platter—so hovering types stay out of the kitchen.
Add a twist. Amp up your wholesome meal by offering a signature cocktail. Display the recipe on a card or in a frame so guests can mix up a round themselves.
Timing is Everything
Shop ahead. Make sure you have your grocery list fine-tuned far in advance—a last-minute trip to the store for eggs can suck a precious half-hour from your prep time. Shop for non-perishables at least a week ahead; shop for perishables one or two days before.
Bird is the word. Turkeys can be finicky, so build in an extra hour more than the recipe time to give your bird a half-hour to rest and give you an extra half-hour in case it takes longer to cook. If the bird is finished ahead of time, no big deal—you can keep it warm in a foil-covered pan.
Start with a clean slate. A cardinal rule when it comes to entertaining: Empty the dishwasher before the guests arrive and the meal starts. Thanksgiving typically uses up more dishware than any other holiday—the more space in that washer, the less workspace will be taken up by piles of dirty plates and bowls.
Setting the Table
Dish it up. Set your table or buffet one or two days ahead of time to make sure you have enough utensils, dishes and glassware. Include clean serving platters and bowls so they’re ready for transferring sides from the oven or a guest’s tin-foil pan. This will also save you time in those last minutes before dinner is served.
Mix and match. Don’t be afraid to mix up your place settings. Grandma’s china, flea-market finds, layered tablecloths and new flatware create that eclectic flair that makes the holiday feel personal and special.
Be ready to roast. Invest in a good roasting pan and rack—both are important to help the turkey cook evenly and to catch the pan juices. If you’ve purchased a frozen turkey, reference our poultry thawing chart and use our handy timetable to help determine how long to cook your bird. You will need a reliable meat thermometer to aid you in checking for doneness—and to gauge a more accurate serving time.