By Tanya Steel, Epicurious.com
For many of us, planning the Thanksgiving menu dredges up images of Katie Holmes in Pieces of April, scattered, overwhelmed, and racing about, trying to cook a turkey in any functioning oven. Thanksgiving is the one meal that just about every American partakes in, and can cause great consternation for the cook. How do you roast a stuffed turkey without drying out the breast? How do you get all of the dishes ready and finished at the same time? How do you stop yourself from slamming the door while yelling, "feed yourselves." The answer lies below; avoid these five most common mistakes when planning the menu.
Related: Epicurious's Guide to Thanksgiving
1. Too Little Turkey, Too Much Pie: Very often, home cooks miscalculate the ratio of how much turkey to stuffing to veggies the average person will eat. Oftentimes, the stuffing and breast are gobbled up first and there is nothing for leftovers the next day. Just go by the golden rule--1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person, if you want leftovers. (See our handy chart for what size turkey to buy for the number of guests.)
2. There's No Accounting for Taste: These days everyone has a dietary restriction. They won't eat wheat, sugar, fat, or meat. So, when you send out your invite, ask people to let you know way in advance if they won't eat one thing or another. If they don't reply, you can't be held accountable. However, to ensure happy (and clearly forgetful) guests, always have fresh veggies and fruit and a vegetarian entree on hand so that dieters and vegetarians have something to snack on.
3. Keep Kids in the Calculus: They make Thanksgiving memorable and fun, but can also make it noisy and chaotic, so have foods and age-appropriate activities at the ready for them.
See also: Our Complete Guide to Making Perfect Pies
4. It's Not the Day to Show Your Chops: It's important not to road test an entirely new menu on Thanksgiving. There are two reasons for this: The first is that unless you've made something before, you can't be sure it will come out exactly the way you like it. If you are going to introduce a new stuffing or pie, make it the weekend before to test it out. The other reason is that people have favorites they are expecting to eat, and will be sorely disappointed if Aunt Emily's brown-sugar sweet potatoes or your bourbon-laced cranberry sauce isn't on the table.
5. Timing is Everything: If you don't have the benefit of two ovens, then ask some guests to bring a dish fully cooked and hot and kept warm in a thermal storage bag. And, stagger the cooking times so that items like pies and rolls can be baked beforehand. Choose a veggie that can be cooked on the stove. Finally, consider grilling or deep-frying your turkey.
For more Turkey Day advice and dozens of recipes and menus, see Epicurious' complete guide to Thanksgiving.
More from Epicurious.com:
• Bobby Flay's Thanksgiving
• Thanksgiving on a Budget
• One-Dish Wonders: Our Favorite Casserole Recipes
• The Best Fall Recipes
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