Five Thanksgiving Prep Tips from Melissa Clark

updated May 12, 2022
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Starting to plan ahead for Thanksgiving? We’re right there with you. Here are five very helpful tips from Melissa Clark, New York Times food writer, to tackle the bewildering array of tasks you face on the big day. These are all from Melissa’s new book, which we reviewed last week (two thumbs up!). Take a look at these five very sensible and helpful tips for pulling off Thanksgiving (or any big feast) without losing your mind.

  1. Pie Crust Extravaganza: Take an hour in November, before the holiday rush commences, to zip together four batches of pie crusts one after the other in the food processor. Just flatten the dough into discs, wrap in plastic, and freeze until needed (or refrigerate for up to 10 days). Only one clean up necessary – always a plus!
  2. Prep, Prep, Prep – in advance: Make up biscuits or rolls in the morning (or even the night before) and refrigerate right on the baking sheet. Pop them in the still hot oven after the turkey comes out. Biscuits will come to the table piping hot while the turkey has time to rest before carving.
  3. Cater for the masses: If you have a bigger crowd than usual at your holiday table, consider roasting two normal-sized birds rather than one that’s extra-large. This way the meat is in less danger of drying out and there will be twice the number of drumsticks.
  4. Holiday food is comfort food…but NOT a time to experiment: And not an ideal time to try out new twists on beloved family classics. Every year I appease my creative desires by trying out new recipes as an appetizer. If they meet with general approval they earn their place on the table for next year. And if they don’t, family squabbles are avoided.
  5. Melissa’s number one recipe tip? – It’s all about marketing. If you’re making a dish that doesn’t come out just the way you expected, don’t despair. Just re-name it so your guests think the defect was on purpose. I’ve served bitter eggplant salad, burnt ends onions, and wilted salad to rave reviews. It’s all about expectations.

Thanks so much, Melissa! Great tips!

Readers, how are you planning ahead for Thanksgiving? Any time-savers you’re working on now? We’re thinking about making (and freezing) our gravy ahead of time; we’ll tell you all about that next week!

More from Melissa:
In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite: Melissa Clark’s Chicken Thighs with Green Tomatoes, Basil, and Ginger
• Kitchen Tour: Melissa Clark’s Revamped Kitchen
• Melissa Clark Writes a Recipe
• Rattles and Renovations: Melissa Clark’s New Kitchen

(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan; Martha Stewart)