We all know that holiday dinners should be a time to celebrate family, friends and food, but more often than not, it’s a stressful holiday with anxious hosts more worried about the turkey than about the people around the table.
I talked to various home cooks hosting holiday dinners for the first time. I asked, what do you want to know? Questions poured in, from what turkey to buy to how to make a pie crust. Here are my curated answers from food experts I trust most — a great group of fearless food writers. [Updated November 2018]
Novice cooks wanted pros to weigh in on planning and executing a Thanksgiving meal. I asked a panel of food writers what strategies they’ve learned and pulled them together for a guide every cook can learn from.
A one-page guide to common questions featuring brief, sensible answers. From what type of bird to buy to how to cook it and carve it. I even tackle whether you can cook a frozen turkey.
Just assembling all the stuff for a big holiday dinner can be confusing. How much to buy per person? What can you buy guilt-free?
Sure, it seems obvious. But if you’ve never done it, or you feel like you’re always overdoing it, take these tips from top food writers.
I challenged a group of firefighters to tell the difference between a holiday meal made with an organic turkey and homemade sides and another with a frozen bird and sides from boxes, cans and jars. The result? Take a look.
Leftovers are just as much of a holiday tradition as turkey and cranberry sauce. I’ve pulled some creative ways to make the most of them.
Pie maven Kate McDermott from Art of the Pie on the perfect pie crust, plus why no one should feel guilty using canned pumpkin.
Fluffy, not lumpy, my Le Cordon Bleu-inspired recipe with a video by Chef John of FoodWishes.com
If you can open a can of cranberries, you can make my family’s recipe for this classic from scratch. Promise.
A different take on potatoes from food writer Jess Thompson that can be made in advance and heated up just before the big dinner.
Surprisingly simple, strikingly tasty. Another winner from Jess Thompson’s book, Cooking Up Washington
A simple, classic recipe from the celebrated food writer Diane Morgan. Cook the onions and bacon a day in advance, toss ingredients together and bake.
An inexpensive, easy way to put the flavor of autumn in a bowl. Another make-ahead recipe with a complex taste but simple steps.
Techniques & Tips:
- SeriousEats: How to Spatchcock a turkey to cook in under two hours
- The Kitchn: How to Make Turkey Gravy (Ahead of Thanksgiving)
- Delish.com: Ideas for Procrastinators (or those too busy to plan ahead)
- AllRecipes.com: Thanksgiving for Novices and How to Cook a Turkey (video)
- SavvyEat: How to Put Together a Thanksgiving Menu (great infographic!)
- House of Brinson: An amazing Thanksgiving in a Pot recipe (with slide show)
Vegetarian Main Courses and Sides
- Kim O’Donnell: Vegetarian Pot Pie (main dish)
- Omgyumming.com: Vegetarian Wellington (main)
- SpoonandSaucer: How to Make Cranberry Sauce (video!)
- SpoonandSaucer: Northwest Rice Pilaf (great side)
- TheSpicedLife: Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
- Foodie Goes Healthy: Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dates
- Creative Culinary: Cranberry Cocktail (can be non-alcoholic, too)
- FarmFreshFeasts: Slow-Cooker Apple Chai (alternative non-alcoholic drink)
Some of the pages in this guide include affiliate links. Questions? Email me.