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Tips to Make Thanksgiving Less Stressful and More Delicious

The cooks and editors at Cook’s Country are here to help!

Published Nov. 7, 2022.

The cooks and editors at Cook’s Country have a lot of experience with Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve developed recipes for it, we’ve cooked it, and we’ve even messed it up sometimes, but we’ve also made the best of it, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Read on for our tips to make your holiday go smoothly this year.

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Thanksgiving Tips

Focus, and limit your menu. I would argue that in addition to turkey and gravy, you really need only three other side dishes. After that, items get lost in the shuffle and you begin spreading yourself too thin. 

Bryan Roof, Editorial Director

On the Tuesday prior, I follow my mom’s lead and cube bread for a big batch of stuffing (my favorite part of the meal) and let the cubes naturally stale over a few days. This way there’s no need to toast the bread in the oven, and the work is done ahead. 

Scott Kathan, Executive Editor

Simple Holiday Stuffing

Though it has just a handful of ingredients and is supereasy to make, this casserole-style stuffing delivers big, buttery, savory flavor.
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We often set up a buffet using vintage Salton warming trays that have been in my family since the 1960s. More recently, we have also used a slow cooker and an electric pressure cooker to both cook and serve dishes (using the “keep warm” settings). 

Nicole Konstantinakos, Deputy Food Editor

Make a simple chicken stock well in advance to use in gravy, dressing, and even leftover turkey gumbo. 

Matthew Fairman, Senior Editor

All-Purpose Chicken Stock

A bare-bones recipe for turning water and scraps into kitchen gold.
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Put your friends and family in charge of appetizers and dessert, so you can concentrate on the main meal. Stage those courses in different areas of the house to make the kitchen less stressful. 

Amanda Luchtel, Test Cook

To avoid antsy guests, never promise a set dinner time. Instead, prepare a couple spreads for guests to snack on and prebatch cocktails (and set out glasses, ice, and garnishes) so that they can make their own drinks while you finish cooking.  

Kelly Song, Test Cook

No matter what happens, always act like you "meant for it to come out like that."  
–Bryan Roof, Editorial Director

If you’re planning to set out a cheese board, set yourself a reminder to pull your cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before guests arrive so that it's not cold. Serving cheese at room temperature affects the flavor and texture in a positive way (but be sure to not leave the cheese out any longer than 4 hours). And keep the blue cheese far away from other cheeses—some people hate it, so if it's in its own corner of the cheese board, it's less likely it will overlap with other cheeses. 

Morgan Bolling, Executive Editor, Creative Content

Make a timeline working backward from when you want to eat to help you visualize how long everything will take (be sure to include resting times) and when you should be cooking each item.  

Amanda Luchtel, Test Cook

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple-Cherry Vinaigrette

A tangy vinaigrette, a crisp apple, and dried cherries elevate this simple vegetable.
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Shop on Monday. Clean and organize your kitchen on Tuesday. Prep on Wednesday and then reward yourself with a nice dinner out. Rock out on Thursday. If you’re spending more time than that on Thanksgiving, you’re trying too hard. 

Bryan Roof, Editorial Director

Roast your turkey first thing, so the oven is free for baking rolls, heating side dishes, and warming pies. If you’re worried about the turkey getting cold, fear not: A large turkey will stay warm for quite some time while it rests. And if it’s not hot enough for your liking, do as I do, and just ladle some hot gravy over it! 

Megan Ginsberg, Deputy Editor

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

With multiple side dishes commanding your last-minute attention just as guests are arriving, you don't want to worry about the gravy.
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I always plan at least one grilled item to free up oven space (also, if you ever need a break from family, going outside to tend to the grill is a perfect excuse). Our Grilled Sweet Potato Salad is great! Or you could smoke your turkey. 

Morgan Bolling, Executive Editor, Creative Content

Rodney Scott's Holiday Smoked Turkey

Savory smoke—plus a top-notch rub and mop—puts a delicious twist on your celebration centerpiece.
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Make and freeze our Classic Sausage-Herb Cornbread Dressing more than a week out, and prepare and chill our Cheesy Mashed Potato Casserole days in advance, so you’ll have two crowd-pleasing recipes that need only reheating on the big day. 

Matthew Fairman, Senior Editor

With a little planning, you can make homemade pie crust as convenient as store-bought. I stock my freezer with flattened rounds of homemade dough the week before Thanksgiving and thaw it in the refrigerator when I’m ready to bake. Simply prepare your favorite recipe, flatten to a 6-inch disc, wrap in plastic, and tuck into the freezer. 

Toni Tipton-Martin, Editor in Chief

Chocolate Pecan Pie

We love pecan pie, but we were looking for something more.
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No matter what happens, always act like you "meant for it to come out like that." 

Bryan Roof, Editorial Director  

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