8 Tips for an Effortless Thanksgiving Dinner

November 5, 2023

Eight tips to help you take the stress out of hosting Thanksgiving and add a special touch to your holiday dinner.

THANKSGIVING   |   Published November 5, 2023

Thanksgiving is holiday focused on being grateful for life's blessings.

But it can also turn into a stress-filled day if you aren't prepared for hosting dinner. When the outcome starts to overshadow the meaning it is time to step back and look for ways to relieve some of that overwhelm while still adding details to make everything special.

There are a few things that you can do ahead to relieve some of the busyness of the day. And a few simple tweaks you can add to your party prep that will ensure your friends and family enjoy a delicious meal filled with memorable moments around the table.

Read on to learn eight different tips and tricks for a Thanksgiving holiday dinner that is sure to impress!

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Set the Table the Night Before

Thanksgiving is a day bustling with activity. Lots of food to prepare, guests arriving, and you likely would appreciate a little bit of time to step back and breathe as well.

Getting the table linens on the table and the dishware placed the night before gives you one less thing to concern yourself with on the holiday.

I find great enjoyment thoughtfully placing the silverware, arranging my centerpiece, and getting the chairs set around the table without the stress of needing to get it done in a hurry while the potatoes are boiling and I'm trying to get dressed before my family arrives.

This is a great job to give your children, too, so that they can be a part of getting things ready to entertain.

READ NEXT: Your Guide to Setting a Simple Thanksgiving Table

Label Your Serving Bowls

In addition to setting the table, it is helpful to gather all of your serving bowls and platters ahead of time. That way you know for sure that you have everything out that you need and you aren't rushing around when dinner is being put on the table looking for a basket for holding rolls.

It is also helpful if you stick a post it note inside of each bowl labeling what should go inside. This allows your guests to be able to help put things into the serving dishes without individual instruction. People love to be able to lend a hand, and it makes it easier on everyone when you are clear about what should go inside each dish without having to ask.

I also like to set my serving spoon or utensil inside the bowl.

Peel and Cut Potatoes the Night Before

There are a few ways you can food prep the day before Thanksgiving to lessen the burden on the holiday. Again, everything you can do in advance is one less thing that will steal away your time on the big day.

In addition to baking pies which is always recommended to do the day before, I like to peel and cut the potatoes I'll be needing for mashed potatoes into large chunks and place them in cold water in the refrigerator overnight. Once this task is complete, there isn't much hands-on work involved with the side until you are ready to mash them just before dinner, freeing you up to focus on other foods that need day-of preparations.

I've also found that this overnight soak gives your mashed potatoes a creamier, fluffier texture thanks to the removal of some of the starch. Even just a few hours in the cold water has a great effect.

Roast Your Turkey Upside Down

While it may sound strange, flipping a turkey over and roasting it breast-side down is the ideal way to protect your white meat from drying out and cooking the thigh meat faster. It also eliminates the need to baste the turkey repeatedly as it cooks.

Simply place the turkey upside down on a roasting rack to keep the meat out of the drippings and cook the bird like normal until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If you would like to make sure that your bird has browned, remove the pan from the oven about 30 minutes before it is done roasting and flip it breast side up to finish cooking.

What you end up with is the most moist, juicy turkey meat that you've ever tried! Learn more about this method.

Bake Stuffing in a Bundt Pan

For a really special presentation, you can bake your stuffing/dressing in a Bundt pan using homemade or packaged stuffing.

The stuffing needs to be moist before baking and you'll have to add eggs to the stuffing mixture to bind it all together. The exact number will depend on how much stuffing you make, but you'll likely need between 2 and 4 eggs.

Grease your Bundt pan really well and bake until the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Let it rest for about 10 minutes when it is removed from the oven, then invert the pan onto your serving dish, slice, and serve.

This post from A Spicy Perspective tells you everything you need to know about this unique serving idea.

Test Your Pumpkin Pie with a Thermometer

It feels like you never can trust for sure whether your pumpkin pie is fully cooked. Recipes tell you there should be a little jiggle in the center, but too much jiggle means it is not yet ready. And if you leave it in extra time just to ensure that the filling is cooked, it will likely become overbaked and split from the crust.

A tip that I learned from The Wyse Guide is to insert a digital thermometer into the center of the pie testing to make sure that your filling has reached the optimal temperature giving you the confidence that you can safely remove your pie from the oven. Look for a reading of about 185°F.

Cut Butter into Fall Shapes

Details are important and your guests will appreciate when you've taken the time to pay attention to the little things. One way to add a special touch to the Thanksgiving table is to cut the butter into fall shapes like leaves or acorns to use for rolls and sides.

  • Allow a stick of butter to sit at room temperature until it is soft enough to roll but not greasy or melted.

  • Place the butter between two sheets of waxed paper on top of something flat like a cutting board or cookie sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll the butter out until it is the thickness you desire for your cutouts.

  • Put the butter, wax paper and all, back into the refrigerator to harden.

  • When it has, use mini cookie cutters to cut shapes out the butter. The shapes can then be placed on a serving dish and put back into the refrigerator until you are ready to use them for dinner.

The Harvest Cookie Cutters that I use are made by Wilton and feature four different leaves, a pumpkin, and an apple....everything you need for fall. You can also find mini ones in Christmas shapes for later in the year.

Individual Salt and Pepper Shakers

If you have a lot of people gathered around the table, it is hard to make sure that everyone has easy access to the salt and pepper, even if you have a few sets spread out across the table.

Miniature shakers are a great investment and allow you to place a set at each individual place setting. You can often find these tiny shakers at antique stores and new sets are available online.

In addition to the salt and pepper, you may want to consider having extra butter and gravy spread out across the table for convenience. The less people have to ask for what they need, the more comfortable you've made them feel.

While none of these tips may be especially life changing, they each contribute to helping you and your family enjoy a special holiday a little bit more.

Other Thanksgiving Posts You Might Enjoy


HOW TO MAKE THE BEST PUMPKIN PIE - One simple step gives your pie an incredible enhanced flavor.


THANKSGIVING DESSERT RECEIPS - Pumpkin pie isn't the only option for serving guests dessert.

A BROWN + GOLD THANKSGIVING TABLESCAPE - Vintage dinnerware and a simple centerpiece dress the table for the holiday.

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