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Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

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thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving Turkey

Getty Images/Lisa Peardon
Throwing a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner is easier than you may think. With these simple tips and Thanksgiving dinner ideas, you'll have a feast you can enjoy as much as your guests.

Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

Cooking Thanksgiving turkey isn't hard. It's just big, which it means it takes up a lot of room in the fridge and the oven. And it isn't an ideal shape for roasting evenly. These tips can help you combat those problems and save you some of the hassle of cooking turkey:
  • If you're trying to save money, buy a frozen turkey instead of a fresh one.

  • Make sure you remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity before cooking the turkey. It's a common mistake, especially if this is the first time you're making a turkey.

  • Smaller turkeys (12-15 lbs.) tend to be more tender than larger ones. They're also easier to handle in the fridge and oven. If you're having a large crowd, consider roasting a smaller turkey and a turkey breast.

  • If you're pressed for space in the refrigerator and/or oven, make turkey parts. You can cook either a boneless or bone-in turkey breast and turkey legs faster than a whole turkey, and they take up far less room.

  • Brining, the process of soaking a turkey overnight in a salt water solution, helps keep turkey moist. But you can skip the hassle of brining the bird yourself by simply buying a kosher turkey. It'll be more expensive, but kosher turkeys are already brined.

  • The best way to tell if the turkey is done is by using an instant read thermometer (compare prices) inserted in the thickest part of the thigh. It should read 165 degrees F.

  • Always let a turkey rest before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute. Otherwise, the juices will leak out, and the turkey will be dry.

  • To save time, hassle and money, ask someone else to make the turkey! Why not? It's the hardest part of Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of people, and if that's the only thing someone else has to do, it isn't so bad.

  • Or considering buying an already-cooked turkey. Most supermarkets, gourmet stores and caterers sell pre-cooked turkeys, which not only saves you time, it lets you concentrate on the fun stuff: Thanksgiving side dishes and pumpkin pie.

  • Do not reheat an already-cooked whole turkey. If you are cooking a turkey in advance, slice it, refrigerate it, then reheat the sliced turkey.

Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner Side Dishes and Dessert

  • Ask guests to bring side dishes and dessert. You'll save time and money.

  • If you are making the side dishes, choose at least two side dishes that can be made a day or two in advance, such as make ahead mashed potatoes, cranberry relish and green bean casserole. If making the green bean casserole, do everything up to the french fried onions a day in advance. Then cover and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving, top with the fried onions, and bake as directed.

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