You’ve got this. Or at least now you do. Thanksgiving may be the Olympics of eating, but we’ve got a line-up of gold medal level pros with the guidance you need to pull off a stylish and delicious turkey day.

Whether it’s your first go-round or you’re a well seasoned (and brined) veteran, everyone can learn something from our round-up of advice below. From Bon Apetit’s Editor In Chief to the caterers  and party planners who rule and reign over L.A., here are all the things you need to know to keep yourself sane and victorious next Thursday…


TImeline of To-Dos|To keep ourselves in good spirits for the Thanksgiving holiday we always start with a solid plan! This includes menu planning ahead of time and placing orders for the items that can’t be made at home. As the day grows near, we make a small timeline of things that will need to happen that day so we can enjoy time spent with guests.
Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

Prioritize Efforts|Don’t try to recreate a fancy restaurant menu for Thanksgiving dinner; stick with home-cooked classics instead. What you do want to try and replicate from a restaurant is lighting and ambiance. Setting the mood is crucial.
-Adam Rapoport, Bon Appetit

Share The Responsibility|We love including our friends and family in pulling the holiday together, and don’t hesitate on asking them to share the food duties if they have a killer recipe we know everyone loves!
-Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

It’s Okay to Outsource|I would suggest creating a prep list for traditional family dishes you plan on making yourself, and then feel free to supplement other sides (or even the turkey!) with the many restaurants that are providing holiday menus this year. Why do everything yourself and then be frazzled when your friends and family are over?
-Tara Maxey, Heirloom LA

Menu Planning

Know Your Audience|You’ll get the most love if you know the crowd you’re serving: I know when I’m hosting a dinner for my friends, creamy ricotta on toasts, colorful salads, and strawberry shortcakes are always sure things.
-Kristen Miglore, Food52

Keep It Simple|Never serve anything too fussy. The point is to be out enjoying the party with your family and friends, not stuck in the kitchen. It’s a party not a State Dinner.
-Adam Rapoport, Bon Appetit

Gather Recipes|Rip out or photocopy recipes you like from books and magazines. Put your recipes in a dedicated Thanksgiving or holiday binder organized by category. I remember my first Thanksgiving with a stack of cookbooks and magazines taking up valuable counter space and my wasting so much time looking up each recipe multiple times. Ugh! 
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

3 to 1 Rule|
I always have a 3 to 1 rule with cooking for an event: three make-ahead dishes, like a soup that can be easily reheated, a kale salad that can sit in the fridge overnight, or a big cheese platter, and one “hot” dish that needs to be made at the last minute or taken out of the oven, like a turkey. You will feel much, much saner. Also, NEVER make a recipe for the first time on a holiday – you’re just courting disaster.  Stick to classics you’ve made one thousand times.
-Claire Thomas, The Kitchy Kitchen

Aim for Balance|Opt for at least half as many or equivalent non-starchy sides as starchy.  If you have mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potato casserole, you need 2-3 non-starchy sides like a salad, green beans and cauliflower.  I think most Thanksgiving menus are lacking salads and non-starchy vegetables, in general.  Salads are the easiest to add onto a menu because they can be prepped way ahead and they don’t require an oven.
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Diversify Ingredients|Whenever I plan my Thanksgiving dinner menu, I try not to repeat ingredients too many times.  Even though I love Brussels sprouts, I usually try to make them in either a salad or a side dish, but not both.  If they’re part of a mixed vegetable medley, that’s fine.  But if I have pecans in the topping of the sweet potato casserole, I won’t use pecans in a salad, too.  Maybe I’ll use toasted pumpkin seeds instead.
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Think Outside The Oven|If you are short oven space, consider using a toaster oven for baking small 8 or 9-inch dishes and using an outdoor grill for reheating or keeping things warm.  My sister swears by this countertop commercial turkey roaster oven for cooking her turkey since her oven is too small to cook a large turkey.  The turkey is brined the night before and cooked in this contraption like you would a normal oven.  She says her turkey turns out amazing.  I have never used it, so I would read the reviews and if you buy it, do a test run with a chicken or small turkey in the next couple of weeks.
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Consider the Apps|For any gathering you are cooking for, be sure to have ready to eat appetizers and some self-serve drinks set out for guests right when they arrive. Eating is on everyone’s mind on Thanksgiving so make or order a platter (like our crostini station featured here) that can sit out for a few hours for people to nosh on. This way you can focus on whatever kitchen duties you may have, and also be relaxed enough to have some laughs with your loved ones while doing so.
-Tara Maxey, Heirloom LA 

Keep Snacks Quick|We always put out stationary boards of cheese and charcuterie for our guests before the big feast.  This way I’m not fussing with last minute hot hors d’oeuvres or having to replenish throughout cocktail hour.  I select a few different cheeses and fill the board in with colorful fruits (e.g. grapes, apples, asian pears and persimmons), fig jam, charcuterie, nuts, olives, crackers and pickles.
-Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Do A Dessert Potluck|I hate making pies and Thanksgiving is all about the pie.  So dessert in our house is a potluck!  I take care of the buffet but my guests handle the sweets – it’s great!
-Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

The Week Before

Prep The Kitchen|Get your knives sharpened early, especially your carving knife. A razor-sharp knife is the most important tool in your kitchen. Also, clean out the refrigerator. I do this the weekend before Thanksgiving to make more space in the fridge.
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Know Your Menu|Be aware of which dishes (or dish elements) can be made a few days in advance, like chopping vegetables, making vinaigrettes, toasting nuts, making stock, etc.
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Make Lists|I make three lists: Non-perishables (e.g., flour, spices, wine, nuts, dried fruit) – I buy these as soon as I have a menu plan; Perishables to buy one-week ahead (e.g., winter squashes, butter, hard cheeses, potatoes); Perishables to buy two days before (e.g., turkey, dairy, bread for stuffing, all other fruits and vegetables).
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Buy to-go containers|I always make too much food and I like sending care packages home with my guests to enjoy the day after, especially our single friends.  This year I am definitely packing up all the extra desserts so that they aren’t tempting me the next afternoon when I’m shopping for holiday gifts online.  I love the idea of having people bring their own reusable containers, but for me it’s easier to get these disposables from my local Smart & Final or amazon.
-Pamela Salzman, cooking instructor

Glassware Matters|For wine or whiskey and everything between, serving in the right glassware is thoughtful, elegant and enhances the beverage being served. You can rent or buy inexpensively and ahead of time, so why not?
-Talmadge Lowe, Pharmacie

The Day Before

Set The Table|Set the table the day before to save stress the day of. As far as the table setting we love to keep it simple with warm Autumn tones in textures (like napkins) and incorporating natural elements to compliment the food being placed on the table.
-Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

Play With Details|Be playful with your place settings!  Use a square plate instead of round, tie the napkins in a knot instead of using napkin rings, use a paper placemat and calligraphy your menu on it.
-Erin Sprinkel +Angela Margolis, Sterling Social

Print Menus|Print menus for each place setting and lay a piece of greenery or a fresh herb on top. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to dress up your table. Plus, it provides a glimpse of the feast to come will get your guests chatting and stomachs growling!
-Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

Make a SImple Centerpiece|When setting a long table, garlands are a stunning and cost-effective way to dress your table. Just wire together some seasonal greens like maple leaves, olive leaf, and some herbs to heighten the senses. Then simply poke in some floral heads for a pop of color.
-Paige Appel + Kelly Harris , Bash Please

Festive Ice Cubes|Every year I make giant ice cubes with cranberries inside.  A bowl of the pretty cubes at a self-serve bar, makes all cocktails instantly festive. Fill ice cube trays 1/3 full of water and freeze.  Add a few cranberries and an addition 1/3 of water.  Once frozen, top off the ice cube and freeze.  Transfer ice cube into a sealed bag and keep going until you have a couple for each guest. Assign a guest the task of replenishing the cubes as needed!
-Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Thanksgiving Day

Coordinate Cooking|Make dishes like mashed potatoes ahead of time and re-heat over a double boiler the day of Thanksgiving to save room in the oven for things that need to crisp, like stuffing, the turkey and pies! And don’t be afraid to serve some room temperature dishes like a green bean salad or roasted squash with burrata so you’re not rushing to heat everything up right before dinner.
-Gaby Dalkin, What’s Gaby Cooking

Pre-Make Cocktails|I make a pre-batched pitcher of cocktails so that guests can help themselves and I don’t have to play bartender.  This year I am going to serve persimmon margaritas or cranberry mojitos.  
-Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Have a Drink|
As a mixologist, my tip is pretty obvious, but…have a drink! In this case, I’d recommend getting some digestifs like: Cynar or Angostura Amaro. Put this bittersweet sipper over ice for a perfect after dinner drink.
-Talmadge Lowe, Pharmacie

BUffet it up|Thanksgiving dinner should always be a buffet because there are always so many dishes to be had. If it’s a holiday dinner party, I’m doing sit down. I think a holiday dinner is different, it shouldn’t be about over abundance, it should be about a great menu.
-Adam Rapoport, Bon Appetit

Make Traditions|During dinner, we go around the table and say what we are thankful for.  This has become a really special tradition amongst friends. We always play a big game of Celebrity after dinner.  It’s a very fun tradition.
-Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

Leftover Kit|I always send my guests home with leftover kits.  How sad would it be to wake up to no turkey sandwiches on Friday??  In addition to the divided leftovers, I include a loaf of bread and extra cranberry sauce. Last year I even included dessert assortments in the form of individual pie slice boxes.
-Annie Campbell, Annie Campbell Catering

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  1. JUst found you thanks to Pamela Salzman.

    deborah | 11.16.2017 | Reply

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