10 Tips for a Foolproof Thanksgiving Dinner from Alex Guarnaschelli

10 Tips for a Foolproof Thanksgiving Dinner from Alex Guarnaschelli
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10 Tips for a Foolproof Thanksgiving Dinner from Alex Guarnaschelli

Read on to learn chef and Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli's tips to pull off a memorable Thanksgiving dinner.

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Go For a Small Menu

Alex believes that many people create overly elaborate menus for Thanksgiving, which is something you should actually avoid. "I would say write a smaller menu, and add stuff if you find yourself with extra time," Alex advises.

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The must-have dishes

If you're paring down the menu, Alex says there are a few dishes that should make the cut. "The trifecta, the Thanksgiving Holy Trinity, is stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes," Alex says. "I quite frankly think that you need those things. It’s a textural thing; it’s all the flavors. You’ve got the tart fruit, you’ve got the kind of caramelized onion (and whatever else) stuffing, and then you’ve got the creamy mashed potatoes. I just think that turkey needs all that," Alex explains. "I like to put those three things down, and then lay my turkey on top of them."

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Provide Cold Snacks

"Having some snacks ready when people arrive is underrated," Alex says. She recommends making cold snacks. "Don’t try to make hot food for the snacks. People come so hungry that they’ll love whatever you make, and they love that you’re cooking."

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Make a Schedule for Your Oven

If your menu requires more than a few dishes to be cooked in the oven, Alex suggests mapping out a plan. "I would say to sketch ‘the day in the life of your oven,'" she shares. "Just look at the choreography of what you need the oven to do, so that you’re not worrying while the turkey’s cooking that you should have 400 things in there with it."

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Don't Overload The Oven!

Along the same lines, Alex recommends that you make sure not to overwhelm the oven either. "If you load the oven up when the turkey is cooking, the turkey doesn’t cook as well ... Give your oven over to the turkey. Pre-make other things, make stovetop side dishes. Stay away from the oven if you have to, or make a chart," Alex recommends.

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Dock Pies Wisely

"Docking" means to prick a pie crust with a fork to let some of the steam escape while it cooks. However, when it comes to some pies, Alex suggests that you skip the practice to avoid a dessert disaster. "Don’t dock pie crusts that have sugary fillings ... because the corn syrup and sugar leaks down underneath the crust where you docked, and makes the pie stick," she shares.

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Store-Bought Items Are Fine

"Don’t be afraid to buy a few store-bought things to take some weight off your shoulders," Alex shares. "There’s nothing wrong with a few store-bought things if it helps you make the dinner you want to make and not freak out."

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Start Prep a Few Days in Advance

Alex is mindful that there are a few things that can be done in advance to avoid stress on the actual holiday. "Two days before, you can make the cranberry sauce and prep some of the stuff for the stuffing," she suggests. "It makes the process more enjoyable on Thanksgiving Day."

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Defrost the Turkey Early

If you're using a frozen turkey, you shouldn't wait until the night before to start thawing it. "Defrost your turkey for two days in the refrigerator, nice and slow," Alex suggests.

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Don't Forget That Guests Are Appreciative

"People that are coming for dinner love that you’re cooking, and that goes a long way. I feel like we don’t talk about that a lot," Alex says.

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As executive chef of New York City's Butter Restaurant (and a crowned Iron Chef), Alex Guarnaschelli knows a thing or two about working her way around the kitchen efficiently. So it should come as no surprise that when we asked Alex if she has any great tips for planning one of the biggest meals of the year, she gave us plenty of fabulous advice.

From the "trifecta" of must-have Thanksgiving dishes to what you should and shouldn't put in the oven on the big day, Alex revealed her best tips for making the holiday one to remember.

Check out the slideshow above for Alex Guarnaschelli's 10 best tips for a foolproof Thanksgiving dinner. Then, discover 10 things you didn't know about the chef, her favorite Thanksgiving traditions and her secrets to being a great home cook!

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