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The Beginner’s Guide To Thanksgiving Dinner

Written by James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by Photographed by James Kicinski-McCoy

Whether you’re attending a pot-luck style Friendsgiving celebration or hosting your family on Thanksgiving Day, taking on the task of cooking for a group and deciding what to make can be a tall order, especially for first timers. So, where do you start? We’re here to help, whether it’s a dish you’re contributing to the table or if you’re responsible for the whole spread, we’ve got some Turkey Day classics that are sure to be a hit. And don’t feel pressured to prepare them all—your Thanksgiving feast is meant to cater to your family and guests, so feel free to add dishes, take some away, and make it completely your own!

This one may seem like a given, but can also be one of the most intimidating items on the menu. We love Martha Stewart’s Perfect Roast Turkey recipe as a sure-fire way to a bird that’s cooked just right. However, if it’s your first time and you’re too nervous to take on the task, try ordering a fully roasted one instead. Just be sure that you do so in advance to ensure that your main course arrives on time!

Another Thanksgiving classic to add to any lineup is stuffing. Opt for a simpler, more familiar version, or dress it up with recipes from culinary masters like Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa. We’re big fans of her rendition including Italian sausage and herbs.

Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes tend to be a simple, yet delicious crowd-pleaser. What’s more, it’s a dish that you can easily prepare the night before and heat up on the big day. If you’re not sure where to start as far as recipes are concerned, we suggest trying Mr. L’s Mashed Potatoes recipe from Food52. It’s the perfect marriage between the classic mashed potatoes that we all know and love, and a few elevated ingredients to make it stand out.

Another Turkey Day must that you’re almost certain to see on every table is gravy. However, it can be a tough recipe to nail down your first time around. Some people prefer to go without, but for those who consider gravy to be the bread and butter of a Thanksgiving dinner and want to give it a go, Ina Garten’s Homemade Gravy recipe is a beautiful and savory option. If you’re low on time, though, there are also a wide variety of great store-bought options, like the Pacific Organic Turkey Gravy, that will suffice.

Dinner Rolls
Few dishes are more inviting during the holiday season than a warm batch of dinner rolls. And, with all of the renditions that can be found today (gluten free, multi-grain, etc.), you’re sure to find a version that suits the needs of your guests. Save time and stop by you local grocery store to pick up prepackaged or bake-and-serve version, like Hawaiian Sweet Rolls or Bake-N-Serve Dinner Rolls. They’re both an easy option that will cut down on time in the kitchen, and no one will care that you didn’t make the rolls from scratch, promise!

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes (topped with mini marshmallows, of course!) are a great way to bring a little something sweet to the table, before diving into dessert. You’ve probably seen them prepared as a casserole to make prep and serving a cinch. Try this tried-and-true bake from Martha Stewart. It’s simple and won’t eat up too much of your time! More than that, the brown sugar and butter make it a mouthwatering indulgence that will have everyone coming back for seconds.

Prepping for your Thanksgiving feast may seem tough, especially if you have any vegan or vegetarian guests at your table. Luckily for you, there are literally hundreds of delicious vegetable dishes that will satisfy hungry mouths, dietary restrictions or not. If you’re looking for some standout vegetable fares, why not impress your guests with sautéed green beans and balsamic onionsroasted brussels sprouts, a whole roasted cauliflower, or an easy medley of root vegetables to make sure all of your bases are covered.

Pumpkin Pie
A Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without pumpkin pie. Luckily for you, it’s an easy dessert that can be made the day before. The easiest, and most delicious version comes straight off the back of a can. That’s right! Libby’s Pumpkin Pie recipe has been a household favorite for decades and can be prepared and popped into the oven in a matter of minutes.

Now, once you have decided what’s on your Thanksgiving menu, be sure to plan ahead with organized shopping lists, and a timeline of when you’re making what, day of and day before. This will ensure a smooth run in the kitchen and successful holiday feast. And remember, keep it simple, ask for help, and enjoy!

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