Ina Garten Reveals Her Easy Tips for a Perfect Thanksgiving

Ina Garten has some easy Thanksgiving tips that can really dial down the stress of cooking a big meal. The Barefoot Contessa star has figured out the best approach to juggling everything and shared some of her best Thanksgiving tricks for flawless entertaining.

Ina Garten wears a blue shirt while smiling and toasting with a glass of wine
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/Getty Images

Easy Ina Garten Thanksgiving tips make holiday entertaining stress-free

During an interview on the Cooking Up a Storm with Al Roker podcast, the host talked with Garten about the Thanksgiving holiday. Roker asked about one aspect that many people find challenging: “How do we time Thanksgiving dinner so that everything comes out together?”

Garten, who has many years of experience hosting dinner parties and holiday gatherings, said she leans on her organizational talents.

“The way I do it — and I do this for dinner for four, or I do it for Thanksgiving for 12 — is I make a schedule,” Garten shared. “So I, literally, when I’m doing the menu, I write out a schedule: ‘At 3:00, turn on the oven. At 3:30, put the turkey in the oven.’”

Garten’s method is no joke, with very precise instructions that reduce the stress that sometimes accompanies holiday cooking. “I literally do when I should start making something and when it should go into the oven, when it should come out,” the Barefoot Contessa star explained. “And then I know that everything’s done at 7:30, when everybody arrives.”

She also does some prep ahead of time to minimize the pressure of getting the timing right. “Thanksgiving’s actually a good one to do because you can make the turkey early,” Garten noted. “Very often, you can make the vegetables in advance to reheat. And while the turkey’s resting — which is about a half an hour — everything goes back in the oven to be reheated.”

The Barefoot Contessa star added, “So there’s a timing thing that works really well. And then everything goes on the table.”

Garten said Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday

Since their discussion was about Garten’s Thanksgiving tips and recipes, Roker asked the Barefoot Contessa star if it’s her favorite holiday.

She’s a fan because the meal is the focus and brings people together. “Absolutely,” Garten said. “I just like that, unlike Christmas, which has so much going on — it’s just your favorite people invited for dinner and everything is absolutely delicious.”

Garten shared one of her go-to recipe ideas to replace traditional stuffing. “Instead of stuffing for the turkey, I make a savory bread pudding,” she explained. “I mean, stuffing’s delicious. But when you make a bread pudding instead, it’s creamy on the bottom and crispy on the top, so it’s got more texture.”

She said she enjoys preparing a leek and mushroom bread pudding or an apple and herb bread pudding, both of which have “lots of flavors and textures.”

The ‘Barefoot Contessa’ star prefers a buffet-style presentation for Thanksgiving

Roker was also curious about Garten’s preference for serving Thanksgiving, either buffet-style or a sit-down arrangement. The Barefoot Contessa star said a more casual buffet presentation is more her speed.

“I like buffet-style because I think then everybody gets up and gets what they like and they can pass up what they don’t like,” Garten explained. “And then they can come back, and they can go have seconds — and it’s no big deal.”

She said that she usually entertains guests with a buffet arrangement — and often, the dinner is in her kitchen. “I’ve always done buffet-style,” Garten explained. “And usually, in the room, you know? So, very often, we’ll eat in the kitchen, so I’ll do [the buffet] on the kitchen counter. And sometimes things can just sit on the stove, just bubbling away.”

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