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Your holiday turkey meal prep guide

A collage of three images; left column: stacked clear containers full of food; top right: a cooked turkey garnished with mini pumpkins; bottom right: a Blended family enjoys a Thanksgiving meal around the table

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, keep reading for the steps 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 all the items you'll need, like the ones below:

  • Raw ingredients
  • Cooked/pre-made ingredients
  • (Foil) pans, pots, utensils, and other equipment
  • Condiments, rubs, and sauces 
  • Any additional storage containers you may need for leftovers 

If you’re using a new spice blend, test it out on a smaller cut of turkey/sliced turkey ahead of time. Make sure none of your guests have a strong aversion to any of your star ingredients. 

Pro Tip: Make a list of all dietary considerations and alternatives so everyone will have an entrée. Create a system to label items that are allergen free, like color coding, matching dishware, or an allergy-friendly section of your spread. 

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:

  • Deciding who is taking the turkey out to thaw – and when
  • Prepping and organizing holiday leftover meals, like meatballs, enchiladas, or pot pie, or egg rolls!
  • Restocking your first aid kit and organizing kitchen safety gear (oven mitts, towels, fire extinguisher, etc.)
  • Making sure you have enough containers, serving utensils, chairs, and toilet paper (Ask guests to bring their own

Pro Tip: From the freezer to the front closet, now is a great time to make ample 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. Recruit a few loved ones 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 loved ones won’t soon forget. Happy eating, and happy holidays!

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