Whether you’re attempting a full Thanksgiving feast for the very first time or you’re a seasoned pro who could use a few extra tricks in their repertoire, here are a few “Why didn’t I think of that?” planning and cooking hacks to try out this holiday season.
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1. Use the freezer as your prep space.
Time to clear out some room — the freezer is a great place to hold lots of pre-prepped food to make it easier on the big day. You can save valuable time and counter space by dicing mirepoix or diced vegetables like carrots, celery and onions that you’ll be cooking down for stuffing, soups or casseroles. Freeze them in an airtight bag with the herbs you’ll be using, and you can go directly from the freezer to your sauté pan or stockpot.
2. Assemble and freeze your potatoes and pies.
Mash or purée your cooked potatoes with butter and milk (Tip: Coconut oil pairs deliciously with sweet potatoes), then cool and freeze. On Thanksgiving Day, you can slowly reheat them in the microwave. Similarly, you can assemble and freeze double-crust pies — apple pies work really well — in metal pie tins. Then once they’re frozen, you can wrap them in freezer wrap for longer freezer storage. To bake, cut slits in the top crust and bake right from the freezer. (Plan on adding 20 – 45 minutes of baking time.)
3. Keep the appetizers light.
Thanksgiving fare tends to be heavy and rich, so do your guests a favor by balancing the meal with produce-forward snacks. Serve a crudités platter with hummus, Greek yogurt dip or our Muhammara Red Pepper Spice Dip — the more veggies, the better.
4. Make your gravy early.
It’s all gravy … when there’s gravy (made ahead of time). The turkey’s resting, the counters are cluttered with dishes and the race is on to make sure everything else is served hot. Nothing’s worse than scrambling to make the gravy after a long kitchen marathon. You can cheat and make gravy a few days before the feast by buying a few turkey pieces from our Meat department, roasting them and then using the drippings to make your signature gravy recipe.
5. Brine your turkey.
Skip the stress of bland, overcooked turkey by brining it. This simple technique packs meat with flavor and locks in moisture. It’s so simple too — all you really need are kosher salt and brown sugar, but you can also add spices and herbs like whole cloves, cumin seeds, peppercorns, nutmeg, bay leaves, fresh sage, citrus zest and more.
6. Bake a practice pie.
If you're a novice baker, why not try making a practice version? You get double the pie and you'll be confident when its time for the real feast. Or, make it really easy and reserve a Thanksgiving Pie from Whole Foods Market. Need pie pointers? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Pie for helpful tips and tricks.
7. Get roasting, no special equipment needed.
You can elevate your turkey, beef, lamb or pork roast by laying down a bed of quartered onions, whole carrots and celery stalks at the bottom of your roasting pan. Bonus — you can freeze those leftover veggies and purée to flavor future soups and stews.
8. Don’t forget the wine.
This is important. Need a recommendation? Check out our expert Wine Team's top picks for the season in our Holiday Wine Guide.*
9. Garnish like you mean it.
We’ve moved beyond tucking sprigs of parsley around a casserole — add that final flourish to your serving dishes with texture and flavor in mind. Think along the lines of adding roasted nuts or fried shallots to salads or roasted root veggies. Add slices of roasted citrus alongside a glazed ham. Sprinkle freshly grated citrus zest on top of cranberry sauce or braised greens. This one little extra step adds memorable (and flavorful) magic to your table.
10. Don’t make every single dish from scratch.
Whether it’s the turkey, sides, dessert or the entire meal, let us help you check something off your list so you can enjoy more time with family and friends. Here are several different ways to order and stock up:
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