Keys to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays at Char-Griller HQ. A whole day focused on delicious food? What else could be better?

Because it is such a food focused meal, people usually find themselves stressed with coordinating the large meal for their family and friends. We experience that with our own Thanksgiving gatherings but this year we want to fix that.

Thankfully, with just a little pre-planning you will be well on your way to a more manageable and enjoyable holiday. Here are the keys to a stress-free Thanksgiving.

1. Make a Plan

Take about 20 or 30 minutes and strategize your Thanksgiving plan. How many people are coming? What does the menu look like? How are you cooking the bird? (We’ve got this one covered. You’re cooking it on the grill, obviously.)

Taking a few minutes to write down this outline will save you tons of stress in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The more of a plan you have now, the smoother everything will go.

2. Gather Your Tools

Inventory your kitchen to see if you need to get anything before the big day. Are your knives sharp? Do you have enough serving utensils? Did you remember to dig out the roasting pan and serving platter?

Consider staging all your tools that you don’t use for your everyday cooking in a spare room or cabinet. Having everything together will mean less scrambling and result in an easier workflow for you when you start cooking all the dishes for Thanksgiving.

3. Assign People Things to Bring

You don’t have to cook the whole Thanksgiving meal yourself. When you are making that list that we talked about in #1, mark off the dishes that you absolutely must cook on your own. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s mashed potatoes or your son’s favorite stuffing. After you determine what you want to cook, ask everyone coming to bring the other dishes.

Assign someone to handle appetizers or drinks. Have another person bring a salad. Ask everyone to bring their favorite dessert. Not only will this take some of the load off of you, it will also give you a chance to try new recipes from your friends and family.

4. Get the Kids Involved

Kids can be great helpers in the kitchen and getting them involved with cooking Thanksgiving not only creates memories, it’s also a great opportunity to spend quality time together and start to pass down recipes and techniques.

Kids can put together salads and help stir stuffing ingredients. They can peel potatoes and carrots and even make pies. Make sure to consider their ages when assigning tasks and always monitor children’s use of anything sharp or hot.

Have older kids? Assign them whole dishes to be in charge of. They will love being a part of cooking the big meal and take pride in the fact that one of their dishes ended up on the Thanksgiving table.

5. Prep Your Appliances

Your fridge likely needs to be cleaned out before Thanksgiving. After all, where else are you going to put all those leftovers. Take this chance to do a total fridge and freezer clean up. Not only will it remind you that no, you really don’t need to buy more butter, it is also a chance to clear out much needed space for holiday events.

Also make sure to give a once over to hand mixers, electric knives, your oven and any other appliance that will be involved in the cooking. This way you’ll have time to get them fixed or replaced before the big day.

Don't forget to check if you have enough fuel for your grill and that it's all working properly. This is also a good chance to clean up the grill grates and make sure to dump any forgotten ash from the ash pans.

6. Plan a Timeline

Even if you aren’t really a "plan everything down to the hour-type" person, trust us, you want to have a Thanksgiving timeline. It will ensure that everything gets cooked and that dinner is on the table at the perfect time. We recommend preparing some dishes the night before to free up valuable prep space the day of.

Consider making the stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, and pies the night before. No need to bake them. Simply cover them in foil and label them with cooking times and temperatures with a permanent marker.

Plan a timeline that takes into account the turkey first and all the side dishes later. This will help keep you on track and ensure that everything gets on the table in time.

7. Consider Using the Grill

If we haven't convinced you to cook your turkey on the grill yet, we're going give you a few more reasons why you should. First, it will help keep the house cooler since you are cooking the bird outside. Second, you'll have more space in the oven for sides and pies meaning less stress trying to balance and coordinate everything. And third, cooking the turkey on the grill will likely get a few people out of the kitchen and in the backyard or on the porch so you'll have more space to work.

Another way to use the grill? Heat it to medium-low and use it as a staging area for keeping sides warm until you are ready to serve!

8. Have Fun

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a joyful and relaxing celebration of the harvest. Have the whole crew get up early and start with a family breakfast in your pajamas. Then assign tasks like cleaning, setting the table, and helping cooking. (You can even send the particularly rambunctious members of your family outside to put up the Christmas lights if you want them out of the house.)

Make sure that you set aside an hour or so before serving dinner so you can get ready before guests arrive. If you followed your timeline, you’ll come back to a clean kitchen, and food that is ready for the table.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be stressful and with a little pre-planning, it can be a fun, easy and enjoyable holiday for everyone.

What are your tricks to a stress-free Thanksgiving?