Thanksgiving Prep Like The Pros

October 01, 2014
Let’s face it. Thanksgiving dinner is a daunting task. And if you volunteered to host this year, you’ll need all the help you can get. From food prep and grocery shopping to meal planning and table setting, there’s a ton to get done. So we turned to the pros for their expert advice on making Thanksgiving prep as stress-free as possible.

Season your way to a perfect bird

Chef Robert Ciborowski is the Executive Chef at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, where he hosts Thanksgiving dinners every year. Chef Robert says, "The key to preparing a good turkey is all in the seasoning before cooking. If you don't have time to brine, use a basic seasoning method with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper."

Cook it slow and take it easy

Amy Hanten of The Cooking Mom recommends using a slow cooker for the stuffing or side dishes to save precious room in your oven. She also suggests taking the family for a walk on Thanksgiving to relieve stress and get out of the house. It can help burn off some of that pumpkin pie too! 

You don't have to do it all

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You don’t have to make the whole meal from scratch, says Chef and Restaurateur Aaron May. “Cheat where you can. If there is a great bakery down the street, buy your dessert there instead. That will give you more time to make everything else better. Why spend hours making a pie from scratch when some nice lady in your neighborhood has been selling the best pecan pie ever for 30 years?”

Make a game plan

Ricky Eisen, founder of Manhattan catering company Between the Bread, recommends cooking the starches first when making a large meal, because those dishes will take more time to cook. Then tackle the quicker sides like green vegetables that cook quickly and are best served soon after they are prepare.

Add some flower power

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Ron Ota, Florist for BloomNation, recommends adding fresh flowers to your Thanksgiving centerpiece. "The fall season is a great time for flowers--deep reds, oranges, golds, yellows, and other rich and warm colors. Asters, chrysanthemums (mums), dahlias, and some lily varieties bloom in fall, making them a great choice for fresh autumn decor."

Take inspiration from nature

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Coleen Christian Burke is a holiday decorator for the White House. She recommends taking the family on an autumn hike to pick up seasonal treasures for your Thanksgiving display. “You can collect whatever catches your eye: twigs, berries, pinecones, etc.” she explains. “You can't help but feel thankful when you bring nature into your home at Thanksgiving.” 

Experiment with a savory brine

Kikkoman Chef Helen Roberts recommends mixing 2 gallons of water, 10 ounces of soy sauce, ½ cup of salt, ½ cup of sugar, and herbs in a stock pot. Just rinse the trimmed turkey and let it sit in the mixture overnight in the refrigerator (or for at least 8 hours). This is a great way to sneak in some added flavor!

When all else fails, potluck it

Teri Gault, coupon expert and founder of The Grocery Game, suggests taking care of the turkey, and then assigning the rest of the guests a traditional dish. Most people want to know how they can help, and potlucking gives you more time to focus on the turkey.