13 Essentials for an Easy Thanksgiving Dinner

What does it take to make Thanksgiving dinner easy?

it’s having a plan and being prepared.  But Thanksgiving dinner does not have to be hard.  Here’s a strategy to save you time and make Thanksgiving more enjoyable.

The Turkey

Get it several days in advance so that it can thaw in the refrigerator.  It’s not safe to thaw it on the counter.

How big of a turkey should you buy?  If you want turkey left over, get two pounds per person.  One pound is the minimum.  One pound raw turkey will net about a half pound of cooked meat.  I want more than that.

You’ll need a pop-up thermometer to tell when it’s done.

The Cranberry Sauce

For me, cranberry sauce is an essential for Turkey dinner, especially holiday dinners.  The canned stuff is okay but I think every good turkey deserves lingonberry.  It’s a Scandinavian cousin to a cranberry and you’ll like it much better, your guests will feel pampered, and it goes great on those turkey sandwiches.

The Potatoes

For me, there are really only two decisions for a holiday dinner:  Am I going to mash my potatoes or use a ricer?  What am I going to add to them?

A ricer makes nicer mashed potatoes.  It doesn’t crush the little particles releasing starch and making them gummy.  It sure is handy to mash potatoes in your stand-type mixer but for holidays, riced potatoes are a nice touch.

I’m going to add butter, a little milk, and seasoning.  I’m always tempted to throw in some cream cheese.  My family sure likes that.

The Gravy

You’ve got choices.  If you’re comfortable making gravy from scratch, do so.  A fat separator makes nicer gravy with less fat in it.

Consider our just-add-water turkey gravy mix.  If you go to a fine restaurant for Thanksgiving, that’s what they will use.  It’s a fine gravy with little work.  And gravy is one of the last things you do, right when things are the most hectic.  If you use a mix, you can make the gravy ahead of time, even the day before.

The Rolls

There’s no question here, I’m going to use a mix and save my baking time for pies.  Our standby mix every Thanksgiving is Sour Cream Potato Rolls but this year, I think I’ll make the Water Rolls.  We really like them with their chewy crust and seed and salt mixture on top.

Allow plenty of time for your rolls to rise.  It’s better to let them rise a little longer than not enough.
I’ll put the rolls in as soon as the turkey comes from the oven.  They’ll take about 15 to 18 minutes to bake.

The Timer

You need multiple timers in your kitchen with multiple projects going on.  The timers not only tell you when to get stuff from the oven, they remind you that it’s time to start the potatoes boiling or from the rolls.

One of those timers should go around your neck.  That way, if you have to check on the kids, go to the door, or put the laundry in the dryer, the timer goes with you.  You’ll find that a life-saver on a busy day.

The Thermometer

Every kitchen needs an all-purpose insta-read thermometer.  Use it to measure water temperature for your rolls.  Use it to see if the rolls are baked to the right temperature.  (Stick the probe to the center of the roll.  It should read 190 degrees, maybe 195.)

The Pies

I go a little crazy over pies at Thanksgiving and bake all kinds of adventure pies.  But my family insists that I include apple and pumpkin pies.  Then I can tinker around with French Silk Pies and Mississippi Mud Pies.

I’ll bake the pumpkin pies the day before and any cream pies.  The fruit pies, I like them fresh from the oven.  I’ll time those so that they come from the oven three to four hours before dinner so that they don’t interfere with the turkey.

I’ll slip my pies from the pie pans to plates on which to cut and serve them.  That takes a nice nonstick finish.  (You need a dark pan so that it absorbs heat and cooks the bottom of crusts properly—no more soggy crusts.)  Twist the pies by grasping the crust to break the pie loose where any juices may have leaked through and seized the pan.  You’ll have better looking pie slices and no more scratched pans.

Do yourself a favor and use a just-add-water pie crust mix.  You’ll make perfect pies and save yourself a ton of time.

Put a pie crust shield over every fruit or pumpkin pie before it goes in the oven—no more messing around with aluminum foil and no more burnt edges.

Whipped Cream

I’m going to use caramel whipped cream on both my apple and pumpkin pies; I rarely make whipped cream with vanilla anymore.  Caramel is just so much better.  You can make your caramel whipped cream with caramel flavor or from little mix packets that we sell.


If you do much baking, you’ll need cocoa.  Really good cocoa makes an incredible difference.  Try our Ramstadt Breda with 3X the cocoa butter.  Read the reviews.  You’ll never use cocoa from the store again.


You can buy spices, good spices, at our store.  But you’ll especially need these two for holidays: A poultry rub for your turkey and Vietnamese cinnamon.  Vietnamese cinnamon is much more flavorful and my “go-to” cinnamon for apple pies

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