Making Thanksgiving dinner easier

Ok, so I can’t sleep. What else is new. I just looked up catering the meal. Boston Market actually sounds pretty decent. But kinda sad.

But let’s back up. Rough count this year would be 15 people, ages 14 and up. Most of those are in-laws that I can’t stand, but whatever. Family shitstorm isn’t worth not hosting this year.

So I’m thinking: all the normal sides (which I love and am very good at) and then order some fried chicken. My husband generally does just the damn turkey and gravy, and this way he’d help more with the other stuff. And everyone loves fried chicken.

I’d wake him to discuss, but I think it can wait until morning.

Thoughts? I love the traditional food. I hate doing all the work for people I’d rather never see again.

Contact a real caterer (NOT a restaurant) and enquire how much for ?lb turkey, stuffed, roasted and delivered.

You may be surprised to discover it can get easier still.

The challenge? Resisting telling your guests you DIDNT actually do the bird yourself. Just smile and say, ‘Thank you! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!’

Good Luck!

Check with a higher end grocery store, too. I don’t know where you’re at, but our Lunds/Byerlys offer the whole shebang - turkey, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, rolls - ready to eat. Price depends on number of people.

Are you open to the idea of making it a pot-luck? You supply turkey, ham, gravy and mashed potatoes. Add maybe one or two other sides and a couple of pies. Every other adult attending brings something tasty to support the event. It hugely simplifies such things.

One other hint, buy a box of Chinese food take out cartons. Find a restaurant supply store or other supplier and provide your guests an easy way to take as many of the leftovers as they’re willing to pack.

Well, I’m not American so can be dismissed for not knowing the cultural expectations, but if family harmony is the key to this day not being a total nightmare, why risk serving something that doesn’t mean the expectations of the unwelcome visitors?

If people are expecting the big bird, do you really want to be the person to disappoint them? (And I’m not sure letting your husband off the turkey hook is a guarantee to more help with the green beans - there’s some jobs some people just have blind spots about).

[my stepfather]"Throw 'em a goddamn fish if they don’t like it![/MSF]

I host Thanksgiving every year for our families. We have anywhere from 10-20 people - depends on who comes to town. We have always done a potluck type meal. My husband and I do 2 large turkeys - one in an oven bag in the oven (very easy and fast) and one in the electric roaster (also easy and fast) and gravy (I buy it in jars and combine those with the gravy packets that come with the turkeys). My sisters, mom, and MIL bring everything else right down to the Chinette throwaway plates! It’s much easier this way and everyone is more than happy to help out.

I’ve had lasagna on Thanksgiving, yes, and roast chicken - fried chicken sounds perfectly fine, most people like that and really don’t like turkey all that much. I loathe Thanksgiving. I had to buy the food, prep, cook, serve, and clean up for two Thanksgivings in a row, for years. And my beloved relatives from years ago, of course, have moved away and mostly died, so it’s just me, husband, and grown daughter. I tell her if she gets a better offer for The Big Day, to take it. Otherwise, we are grilling ribeyes outside, making a big old lasagna if it’s raining or snowing, or finding if there’s a Chinese buffet open…that said, I would go with cooking a turkey in a baking bag, fast, easy, and falls right off the bone. And mashed potatoes and gravy. Everything else can be bought at a grocery store, and those coming can bring a contribution. Salad, pie, rolls and butter, cranberry mold, sweet potatoes. Home made or bought. The most strenuous part would be the clean-up, and you can have Chine-ette plates.

Safeway, and most large-chain supermarkets, will prepare as much or as little of the meal for you as you like.

If it’s just the main protein you’re not willing to prepare, any cured ham is ready to eat right out of the package.

Turkey in a bag! The only way I’ll cook one. And in a disposable roaster which I put in a nice sturdy sheet pan for taking in and out of the oven. Jarred or packaged gravy to which I add a little bit of the “debris” from the cooking bag for a more homemade feel. I’m not crazy about most Thanksgiving sides because they’re too creamy and gloppy for my taste. Green bean casserole, sweet potato anything, and stuffing (gross!) can stay home. I make cornbread dressing, roasted Brussels sprouts with red bell pepper, simple mashed potatoes, and cranberry orange sauce with fresh cranberries which can be cooked in about three minutes in the microwave.

Make what you want to make and maybe next year someone else will volunteer.

My best tip for making Thanksgiving easier is to make the turkey so it is ready 2-3 hours before you plan on eating and putting it into a cooler. That gives you time (and oven space) to get the sides ready. A side benefit is that it really keeps the meat moist because it has had plenty of time to rest. A decent cooler will keep it at a good temperature for quite a while. I discovered this one year when the turkey finished cooking and my in-laws told us they would be a couple hours like. I was freaking out and decided to give it a try. Now I do it every year and get rave reviews on how moist the white meat is.

If you have the time and fridge space, the other thing I have found to lower the stress is the make the sides in the days before so that all I need to do on the big day is warm them up.

Honeybaked Ham is often a good turkey alternative.

Depending on what part of the country you’re in, BBQ restaurants may sell smoked turkeys.

If you are ordering something, make sure you reserve early as they often sell out.

Deep fry the bird!

My aunt used this trick to get several of the men-folk out of the house on Thanksgiving morning by banishing them to the driveway with a turkey fryer and a couple of birds. There are several advantages to this method.

Deep fried bird is delicious.
It frees up room in the kitchen and oven while transferring heat and chaos outside.
It gives the men something fiery, productive and potentially entertaining to do while drinking beer. She even moved their big screen TV out there so they could watch a game.
The same turkey fryer can be used to boil big batches of spuds for mashed goodness or can boil two dozen ears of corn at once.

We go the Whole Foods pre-cooked meal route. Works quite well.

Some great ideas here, thanks! I looked at my notes from last year, and I could definitely have family bring more items. Yes, my side dishes are tastier, but it’s time to let that go.

Alpha Twit, how do you dispose of the oil? I’ve often wondered. Has anyone ever BBQed a bird? Our kitchen is not large. Just the one oven.

Honestly I still think fried chicken sounds awesome! :grinning:

It depends, if you typically do a lot of deep frying then you can easily filter it and reuse it a few times. If you don’t want to deal with that hassle then you have a few options.
1 - There almost certainly will be some way of recycling the oil in your area. I think any place that takes used motor oil will also take cooking oil but there will be some place near you that will dispose of it.
2 - A couple of years, I took the waste oil to the restaurant where I works and dumped it into their grease waste tank. If you’re friendly with the manager of one of your area’s eateries then you might ask them for a favor.
3 - One year, after I quit the restaurant and on my aunt’s instruction, I went out to my aunt’s horse pasture and dumped the oil onto a fire ant nest. Pest and waste oil disposal in one. Not ideal and probably not legal.

This is the Dope so we need to get our terminology correct. I have used a charcoal grill and wood chips to cook several spatchcocked turkeys. To my mind though, I was grill roasting them at a relatively high temp of 300 to 350 degrees. They came out absolutely gorgeously and it’s one of my favorite ways to cook a turkey if I have the time.

BBQing is done at lower temps (190 to 230 degrees) and some will argue turkeys are incompatible with true BBQ. I’ve never attempted this.

My sister makes the turkey the night before and carves it. On turkey day she heats it up.
We all bring something (I bring pumpkin cheesecake and make some snacks)


My parents one year cooked the turkey a day or so ahead of time, and carved it, and put the platter in the refrigerator. To cut down on the work and rushing around. But there was no delicious turkey-in-the-oven smell in the house, and it had that ‘reheated’ taste, and was kind of dried out despite moistening with broth after slicing.

I’ve just about got my wife convinced to let the grocery store do the cooking for us this year. Thanksgiving dinners usually wind up being such a cluster**** at our house that I’m ready to give up cooking it altogether. It’s either that, or there will be a new rule this year: if you don’t bring a prepared dish, don’t bring anything. (In past years one or the other of the stepkids has showed up late, with a sackful of ingredients, and expected us to hold up dinner while we wait for them to make whatever they we’re supposed to make ahead of time.)

Typically, turkeys are cooked in a smoker rather than on a BBQ grill. The bird stays in the smoker for many hours while it slow cooks and absorbs flavors from the smoke. It is a great alternative to using the oven, but you should not have your first experience with a smoker be making turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s not hard, but there is a bit of art to managing the heat and smoke, and the cooking time can be highly variable.

If you need free up your oven, I would recommend a newbie go with frying over smoking. Frying is more straightforward and reliable, and a newbie is more likely to end up with a good final result over smoking.