Are you trying to create the perfect (and ideally stress-free) Thanksgiving dinner for your guests? When we reflect on past holidays, it’s the bloopers and mishaps that we tend to remember the most (and often hold dear). At the time, we’re frazzled when we realize we forgot to thaw the turkey or your toddler puts his fist in your in-law’s perfect pumpkin pie, but it’s those memories that make our time with friends and family, well, memorable. We created this cheat sheet to help you achieve the perfect stress-free Thanksgiving dinner.

thanksgiving

Whether you’re a first-time host, a veteran entertainer, or just a helper in someone else’s kitchen, it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are 10 of our favorite Thanksgiving hacks that we hope will do the following:

  1. Save you time So you spend your holiday connecting, not cooking all day (unless you are purposely trying to avoid certain guests).
  2. Save you precious kitchen space for important dishes like pies and bourbon.
  3. Impress your friends/family who doesn’t love a little praise from the in-laws?
  4. Correct mis-haps your mom will love you when you revive her overcooked turkey with hack #9.

10 Tips For Hosting A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Hack #1: Brine the bird

Brining your turkey creates a juicier and more tenderized meat. Here is a recipe on how to brine a turkey. If your fridge isn’t big enough, check out this tip on how to use your cooler!

Hack #2: Have your soup pot ready

Instead of pitching the turkey carcass, add it to a large soup pot to make a broth. Cover the bones with water and add vegetables + herbs like celery, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley. Simmer until the veggies are tender and the bones are falling apart. Strain and add salt and pepper. Once your broth has cooled, you can store it in Ziploc bags and freeze it. If you often use smaller quantities of broth (such as 1 or 2 cups at a time), you may want to measure and freeze in smaller bags. Look at you…making your own trendy bone broth!

Hack #3: Grate the Butter

In any recipe that calls for folding in butter (i.e., pie crusts, dressing, biscuits), grate the stick of frozen butter – it will save time and more evenly disperse the fat.

Hack #4: Use stale or toasted bread for your stuffing

Toast bread first, or tear bread into pieces and leave out on sheet pans to “stale” a couple of days prior to making your stuffing. This ensures the bread has less moisture and creates a better (less sticky) dressing.

Hack #5: Make your sides ahead of time! 

Sides like homemade cranberry sauce will last for weeks in the fridge. Similarly, pies can be assembled ahead of time and frozen. Just turn on the oven and bake them a little longer on turkey day. Mac and cheese and sweet potato mash are great make-ahead side dishes. You can also try making our vegan pumpkin mousse recipe for a stress-free, make-ahead dessert.

mac and cheese in a ramikin

Hack #6: Use your slow cooker

Make at least one Thanksgiving side in your slow cooker (i.e. green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn). The best thing about cooking something in the slow cooker is you can turn it on and forget about it for a few hours while you prepare everything else.

Hack #7: Use your cooler to save space

Clear out those space-hogging condiments in the refrigerator like pickles, ketchup, and hot sauces and store them in the garage in a cooler filled with ice packs. This will open up room for cooling pies, bottles of wine, sauces, etc.

Hack #8: Use your Yeti

Make the most out of the supplies you have on hand. Use your Yeti (or any other thermos) as a way to keep your gravy warm.

Hack #9: Overcooked bird? Never!

Before you present your dried-out bird to your guests, bring it back to life with warm chicken or vegetable broth. It’ll help moisten the meat and add lots flavor.

Hack #10 Don’t forget the kids

Have your kids participate on Thanksgiving preparations.  Allowing kiddos to help plan the celebration is a great way to build holiday memories and traditions! Our kids still laugh about the time a relative set the sweet potatoes on fire a couple of years ago.

In addition to being grateful for our families, we are grateful for YOU: our clients, members of our Nutritious Family Eats community, and our social media friends. We wouldn’t be here without your support.

Now take a deep breath and go into your stress-free holiday plans!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

P.S.: Want more time-and sanity-saving kitchen tips like these (plus a healthy meal plan each week)? Sign up and join our Nutritious Family Eats community

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.