We were under the impression that Thanksgiving was supposed to commemorate a cooperative feast shared by Native Americans and Pilgrims. Somehow, it’s turned into a high-pressure challenge to show off how well we cook elaborate dishes that we never make any other time of year.
Relax. If you’re hosting this year — especially if this is your first time — you don’t need to go Top Chef to make your guests happy. In fact, we suspect that if you follow some of these tips below, you might find yourself bragging about how easy everything turned out. Just don’t forget to give thanks to the blogosphere!
1. Make a list, check it twice
“Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten suggests looking at all your recipes in advance, writing out your grocery list in order of store aisles, and shopping for all but a few perishables a week in advance. Because — real talk — supermarkets on the day before Thanksgiving will take years off your life. (Also, use this handy guide for how much food to make per guest.)
2. Clear the refrigerator
(Image via Cooking Channel)
To make more space in your fridge, gather all the condiments you won’t be using and store them in a cooler with ice packs.
3. Dishwasher: A love story, part 1
(Image via WikiHow)
If scrubbing potatoes makes you feel as if you’re a World War II army private, load those spuds up in the dishwasher and run it. (Just don’t use detergent.)
4. Dry-eyed onion chopping, no joke
Chew gum while you chop onions to minimize the tears. This is a real thing; we have tried and it has changed lives.
5. Cut and store
(Image via Flicker/Calliope)
If you want to chop all your veggies a day in advance, use this storage guide to keep them fresh.
6. Muffin your stuffing
(Image via Amazon.com)
If preparing stuffing and cooking it in the turkey is too old-school (or unsafe) for you, bake it in muffin tins a day in advance. Bonus: Cute presentation!
7. Crockpot mashed potatoes
(Image via lecremedelacrumb.com)
Wash, boil, peel, mash, season, bake — that’s about four too many steps. This slow-cooker recipe takes a bit longer than the traditional method, but the elbow grease on your part is over in minutes.
8. Dishwasher: A love story, part 2
Fire up that dishwasher to steam vegetables. Actually, since dishwashers use a ton of water, make sure your veggies are in a tightly sealed container and steam them while you’re actually washing dishes this time. (If you’re feeling insanely experimental, you could poach the turkey in the dishwasher like these folks did.)
9. Spatchcock that turkey
(Image via Flickr/galant)
Pressed for time? Let go of that image of the whole bird and split the thing in half (aka “spatchcock”) before roasting it, which will reduce your cooking time by hours. You could also just buy a bunch of legs, breasts, and thighs to roast in pieces, following Ted Allen’s “deconstructed” recipe. You’re going to cut it up anyway!
10. Cook the still-frozen turkey
(Image via Flickr/p_x_g)
Crisis alert: the turkey is still frozen. This is the stuff of many a very special Thanksgiving TV episode, but don’t worry. There is an actual scientifically tested way you can stick the bird right in the oven frozen.
11. Bottoms up: invest in drink labels
(Image via alwaysorderdessert.com)
Ignore all those Pinterest posts about beautiful Thanksgiving tables. It’s the food that matters. Instead of carefully personalized place settings, we love this trick of painting wineglasses with chalkboard paint and labeling each glass with a guest’s name. Plus, limiting the number of glasses each guest uses will cut down on dishwashing later.
12. Dishwasher: a love story, part 3
(Image via Flickr/31333486@N00)
Without a doubt, you should let your guests help you wash dishes when it’s all over. A Kitchn reader suggests labeling drawers and cabinets (removable washi tape works well) ahead of time, so your helpers will know where to put everything away.
13. Call the hot lines
If all else fails, here’s a handy list of all the places waiting for your Turkey Day freakout calls.