This Thanksgiving Planning Guide Will Keep Your Holiday Stress-Free

These 2019 holiday rules will make your day so much easier.

By Madeline Merinuk
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Get Cooking on Your Thanksgiving Feast With Daphne Oz’s Veggie-Packed Stuffing (2:45)

Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to be spent reflecting on what you're thankful for and relaxing with friends and family, but sometimes the stress can pile on if you're in charge of cooking the big meal. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a huge responsibility, and it can be hard to know where to start. You might call your friends and family to ask for help — or you could check out Dr. Oz and "The Dish's" new Thanksgiving planning guide.

Keeping yourself organized on Thanksgiving day is a task in itself; watching my family members plan dinner all these years has me dreading the day I have to do it on my own. How do you know what kind of turkey to buy? How many side dishes you should make? How long should you cook the turkey? All of these questions can make even an experienced Thanksgiving chef feel overwhelmed. Read on for tips on how to prepare and cook your turkey and side dishes, and how to ensure your guests are blown away by your dinner planning expertise.

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The Bird

When someone mentions Thanksgiving, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Chances are it's a big, roasted turkey. Turkeys are the center of practically every Thanksgiving dinner table in America, but they're also the hardest item to prepare and cook. But before you start prepping and cooking your turkey, you have to buy it. So what's better: a frozen turkey or a fresh one?

According to Daphne Oz, getting a frozen turkey will save you money and the meat will be more tender, whereas having a turkey bought from a butcher could be more expensive, but you'll get fresher meat. However, there's no difference in taste between the two. If you're buying a fresh turkey, Dr. Oz recommends requesting the butcher to spatchcock or butterfly it, which is when you remove the backbone of the bird and lay it flat to cook and will ensure fast and easy cooking. If you choose a frozen turkey, you should set aside ample time to let it defrost: 24 hours for every five pounds of meat, according to Dr. Oz.

Now that you've purchased your turkey, you need to know how long to cook it for (trust us, this is really important.) According to Daphne, a 12 lb. butterflied (aka spatchcocked) turkey should cook for about an hour, but the trick is to reduce the temperature about halfway through. It should cook for 20 minutes at 450°, and then reduce the temperature to 400° for the remaining 45 minutes.

If you're cooking a non-butterflied, traditional 12 lb. turkey, it could take up to four hours of cook time because you're cooking for 20 minutes per pound — so if you're looking to reduce the time it takes to cook it, try purchasing a butterflied turkey this year. When you take your turkey out of the oven, stick your meat thermometer in the thigh. According to Daphne, it should read 155° F, regardless of whether your turkey is butterflied or not.

The Brine

According to Daphne, brining your turkey gives it more moisture and flavor, which is important when you're considering how long you'll be leaving it in the oven and how long you'll be leaving it on the table once it's ready. There are two ways you can brine your turkey: wet or dry. How do you know which method is right for you?

According to Daphne, wet brine will keep your bird moist but won't make the skin crispy — whereas a dry brine will keep your bird moist but make the skin crispy and golden brown, and the seasoning will seep all the way to the bone. Dr. Oz also says that the dry brine is easier, but ultimately, it's up to personal preference. This recipe for dry brine is Dish-approved and one of the easiest ways to get a flavorful turkey.

The Sides

Thanksgiving certainly wouldn't be complete without an array of side dishes. There are so many delicious ones out there to choose from, but how do you keep them all warm before you start putting everything on the table? There's only so much room in your kitchen, but Daphne has the solution. If you make two warm sides and one cold side, you can manage them a lot better. If you put one warm side in the oven, one warm side on the stovetop, and a cold third side, like a salad, that you can keep in the fridge, you can make the most use of your time.

There are lots of things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, and now you can add this guide to your list. Use it during the holidays or share it with the party planner in your life. Now, the only thing you have to worry about is cleaning up the mess afterwards (we believe in you).

Related:

How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Spiking Your Blood Sugar

Dr. Oz's Holiday Eating Plan

The Healthy Turkey Buyer's Guide

Article written by Madeline Merinuk