Chefs' Thanksgiving Dinner Tips

Get all the tips for an easy and stress-free Thanksgiving dinner from some of Food Network's favorite chefs.

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Bobby Flay

"I like to make mashed potatoes with a Southern green chile queso sauce - Thanksgiving's the day when you can get away with any amount of calories. For a good stuffing, I always say that celery and chorizo are two must-have ingredients."

Alex Guarnaschelli

"As simple as this tip sounds, it's one of my favorites: When you wake up on Thanksgiving morning (or even the night before), fully set your table down to the last detail. That way, even if dinner is not completely ready on time, you don't have to worry about the table, and you 'look' ready!"

Instead of using flour or cornstarch, which may clump in hot liquid, Alex thickens turkey gravy with vegetables. She starts with really soft roasted veggies – a mix of onions, carrots and celery is ideal – then purees them with warm stock in the blender. Add this to the gravy base to create creamy, smooth results.

The secret to getting rid of lumps in mashed potatoes and gravy lies in two key tools: a potato ricer and a sieve, Alex says. Pass cooked potatoes – even already mashed potatoes that have been mixed with butter and milk – through a ricer to guarantee a light, fluffy mash. And for the gravy, just before serving, strain it through a sieve to catch any bits of fat from the drippings.

Faced with a dry turkey? Alex recommends cutting it in big “steaklike” slices with the skin still on and serving the pieces next to each other to retain as much moisture and flavor as possible. Plus, a hefty pour of gravy on top when serving never hurts either, she explains.

Rachael Ray

"Try deviled eggs for an appetizer that's not too filling before dinner. They're easy to transport in the egg container and can be made a thousand different ways. When storing food in a crowded fridge, use storage bags instead of plastic containers - they take up less space and can be stacked flat on top of each other."

Aarón Sánchez

"Shop early in the day — that's when there is the least amount of people and the freshest produce. Carve out time to do most of your prep the day before so you can enjoy the holiday with friends and family and you don't feel rushed to make it all happen that day. Also, prep and marinate your turkey in the same pan that you'll cook it in; this way you keep all of the juices and flavors."

Giada De Laurentiis

"To put an Italian spin on Thanksgiving, I make a ciabatta stuffing with chestnuts and sausage. And since my mom's a vegetarian, I always make butternut squash lasagna for guests who don't eat meat."

If you’ve ever found guests sticking around your house well after the party has ended, Giada has a tip for nudging guests to leave: turn off the lights! That’ll give them the hint, she told us.

Geoffrey Zakarian

"Be extremely organized and have your dishes mostly prepared ahead of time. Don't forget to plan out your serving utensils — this often sends people scrambling at the last minute."

Ree Drummond

"For a vegetarian-friendly Southern-style dish, stuffing is an easy choice. Just add in wild rice for texture, meaty mushrooms and root vegetables or caramelized apples. If you're serving ham instead of turkey, change it up by adding a sweet, reduced maple glaze with balsamic vinegar, rosemary and finely diced jalapenos."

Jose Garces

"Ever since I was very young, my family has involved me in the predinner prep. Today, I pass that tradition on to my guests. I find that inviting people to participate in the meal we’re all about to share gives them something to talk about and diffuses any awkwardness that can arise among relatives who see each other only once or twice a year. Plus, I get a whole crew of sous chefs to assist me!"

Sunny Anderson

"I like a non-traditional Thanksgiving dish like fried chicken wings to go with the football game on TV. Since I'm also frying my turkey the oil is already hot for the wings too."

Spike Mendelsohn

"Try serving family style. It brings people together and makes your life in the kitchen a lot easier. Also, keep the drinks flowing. Sometimes things don’t go perfectly when you’re throwing a holiday get-together, and that’s okay, but drinks for the crowd always help. Do as much as you can ahead of time. Why waste valuable time with friends and family stressing if you can be a part of the party? Organization is key."

Jeff Mauro

"For a travel-proof appetizer, bring a sausage bread - it's similar to a calzone. Stuff bread dough with sausage and a little cheese and bake or re-heat it when you get to dinner. Plus potatoes or sweet potatoes are always an inexpensive side dish to bring along."

Marc Murphy

"My advice is to do as much prep as you can beforehand. I always try and pick dishes that you can make ahead, so you can actually enjoy your company while they're there. That's the most important part. I also course out my menu: Make sure you have a few options for guests to have once they arrive, but not too much because you want them to stay hungry for that dinner you prepared!"

Eric Greenspan

"The key to staying relaxed when serving a holiday crowd is to 1) keep it simple, 2) give yourself plenty of time or 3) drink consistently but lightly throughout the day!"

Martha Stewart

Believe it or not, Martha says she actually likes canned cranberry sauce! However, she implores you to make your own, because it’s so simple and a holiday like Thanksgiving demands extra-special touches.

Carla Hall

As you’re carving the Thanksgiving turkey, Carla recommends flipping over the bird to find two really delicious nuggets of meat on the back. They’re called the oysters, and they’re tucked on either side of the spine. Moist, tender and full of flavor, the oysters are some of Carla’s favorite cuts of turkey.

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