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Your holiday turkey meal prep guide

The holidays are here, and we’ll soon be gathered with loved ones around the table. Whether this is your first time hosting or your home is the holiday hub, make sure your holiday meal stops the show – keep reading for how to cook a delicious bird (and sides) your guests won’t soon forget.

Grab the entrée–and all its friends!

A meal is nothing without its ingredients. Make a thorough list of the food, foil pans, and special condiments and spices you’ll need, and keep the following things in mind:

  • Turkeys are currently in short supply – grab yours early and thaw it 1 day for each 4 pounds
  • If you’re using a new spice blend, test it on a smaller cut of turkey/sliced turkey ahead of time
  • Make a list of all dietary considerations and alternatives so everyone will have an entrée
  • Don’t forget the ice!

Set yourself up for success

Now that you’ve gotten the groceries, make sure your home is ready for the Turkey Day bustle by completing and delegating the tasks below:

  • Prepping and organizing holiday leftover meals, like enchiladas, egg rolls, or meatballs!
  • Restocking your first aid kit and organizing kitchen safety gear (oven mitts, trivets, towels, etc.)
  • Make sure you have enough containers, serving utensils, etc. – or ask guests to bring their own
  • Know who is taking the turkey out to thaw, and when

Pro Tip: From the freezer to the front closet, now is a great time to make space in all the areas you and your guests will be using.


A white man reaches into an oven while wearing potholders to remove a bacon-wrapped turkey that sits on a bed of roughly chopped potatoes


Cook your turkey right

Now that your bird is thawed and ready to become the centerpiece of your feast, follow these tips  (and your package’s instructions) for a beautiful turnout.

  • After it reaches room temperature, pat your turkey completely dry for crispy skin
  • In the roasting pan, put veggies under your seasoned bird for a flavorful side and heartier gravy
  • Place your turkey in the oven legs first, so the denser meat is closer to the oven’s warmest part

Deploy your post-meal cleanup crew

Once you’ve finished enjoying your meal, it’s time to pack things up to avoid food getting left out ‘til morning. Tag a few people in to make light work of the next few steps.

  • Put your bones and meat in separate bags to easily make stock now or freeze for later
  • Use ice to help warm dishes cool down before transferring food to the fridge or freezer
  • Take stock of which dishes were fan favorites and which you can skip next year

And there you have it – the best practices you need to prepare a festive and delicious meal your guests won’t soon forget. Happy eating, and happy holidays!

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