The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving

The best way to cook a stress-free dinner is to think ahead, which is why we’ve created this comprehensive Thanksgiving guide with tips, techniques, and game plans that will help you host your best Turkey Day yet, whether you’re organizing your first Thanksgiving or your 40th. For more holiday tips, check out our Guide to Friendsgiving as well.

Tips for Planning Your Thanksgiving Menu

When you host Thanksgiving, you’re in charge of creating the menu. Whether you’re cooking one dish or the whole feast, you need a solid plan.

1. Think About Oven Space

If you’re responsible for roasting the turkey and only have one oven, be sure you have a solid plan for how and when that oven will be used. And don’t discount a toaster oven, some of which are large enough to bake easy Thanksgiving desserts and casseroles, or at least reheat them. Check out our guide to Thanksgiving recipes you can make ahead.

And consider mixing in some no-cook sides, like our Kale-Apple Slaw with Poppy Seed Dressing recipe.

2. Make It a Potluck

Even the story of the first Thanksgiving describes a potluck, so there’s no shame in sharing the work with your guests. Ask people to volunteer to make sides or give out assignments. If your crowd is open to trying new dishes, consider making this Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pecorino and Pomegranate or a Healthy Root Vegetable Grain with Buttery Walnuts, both recipes from the “Modern Potluck” cookbook. Or elevate a classic, as with our Herbed Fresh Green Bean Casserole recipe below.

3. Supplement Your Thanksgiving Menu with High-Quality Store-Bought Items

Friends or family members can’t cook? Or don’t want to? To spare your own sanity, choose the Thanksgiving recipes you most want to make and outsource the rest to a local store or chef. Besides, what does Ina always say? Store. Bought. Is. Fine.

We rounded up some of the best cookies, cakes, and pies to order online if you want to outsource dessert, or you could just stop by your local Trader Joe’s. We also collected the best Thanksgiving meal kits and delivery options, from heritage turkeys to entire feasts, including a vegan Thanksgiving box that can serve as a full meal for a small group, or be incorporated into a larger omnivorous spread if you’re hosting vegan guests.

4. Be Sure to Include Some Lighter and Brighter Dishes

With mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey with gravy, Thanksgiving dinner can be a bit mushy, heavy, and fairly sweet. To counteract those flavors and textures, be sure to serve a crisp, tangy salad, like our Bitter Greens with Caper Vinaigrette recipe.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Compromise

If your crowd insists on a classic Thanksgiving menu but you like to cook more adventurously, pick your battles. For example, ask your aunt to make her famous buttery mashed potatoes for the purists. Then you can sauté Jerusalem artichokes to introduce your guests to something new.  Try our Jerusalem Artichokes with Crispy Prosciutto recipe below.

If you’re willing to subvert even the most entrenched traditions (and don’t think your guests will riot), try these unique Thanksgiving turkey recipes and updated pumpkin pie recipes for your table.

Tips for the Thanksgiving Turkey

While you can rub your turkey. with herb butter and make an elaborate sherry-cream gravy, sometimes, the best Thanksgiving turkey recipes are the simplest, requiring little more than a good quality bird, butter, and salt.

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