Take the pain out of prep work this Thanksgiving with these seriously simple hacks from food blogger Gaby Dalkin.
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Smaller gatherings and limited travel in 2020 means that this year, more people than ever before are going to be first-time Thanksgiving chefs. But don't panic. The secret to a seamless Thanksgiving holiday? Preparation. The team at AllRecipes sat down with chef and cookbook author Gaby Dalkin from What's Gaby Cooking to talk about Thanksgiving planning and how to prepare like a pro.

Gaby Dalkin
Credit: Photo Credit: Matt Armendariz

She offered five Thanksgiving prep principles for a stress-free holiday:

Clean

"Clean out the fridge the week before so you have plenty of room once you do your grocery shop," Dalkin says.

Yes, that's right, start cleaning for an easier holiday. There is nothing worse than seeing an ingredient you need in your refrigerator, not buying it, then realizing it's gone bad on the big day. Avoid any storage or ingredient mishaps by cleaning and clearing out one week ahead of time.

Plan

"Plan your menu well in advance and read all the recipes start to finish so there are no surprises like random resting times that are going to put a crimp in your game plan," Dalkin shares.

Now is the time to start organizing all the saved recipes on Pinterest and dog-eared pages of cookbooks. Make a list of what you need (and when), and create an outline of Thanksgiving Day to streamline the entire process from start to finish. Stuck on sides? Gaby's guide to Thanksgiving side dishes to the rescue!

Shop

"Speaking of grocery shopping, get it done early. I'm talking like 4-5 days ahead of time for everything except the produce. And make a list so you can go in and get everything efficiently," Dalkin says.

Grocery stores will be crowded the week of Thanksgiving, so have a complete list of ingredients at-the-ready to get in and out easily.

Thaw

"THAW YOUR TURKEY. It takes a while to thaw one of those suckers, so thaw it on Monday so you'll be safe come Thursday," Dalkin explained.

Be sure the big bird gets thawed safely and don't forget a tasty brine!

Work Ahead

"Prep as much ahead as possible. Cranberry sauce can be made weeks ahead of time. Brussels can be halved and stored in the fridge. Green beans can be trimmed and refrigerated, too. Make your life as easy as possible," Dalkin said.

Try not to save everything until the day of, or the kitchen may become chaotic. Create a timeline leading up to Thanksgiving Day and allocate something to prep each day. For "the big event," utilize the outline created while menu planning.

Still feeling completely overwhelmed at the prospect of preparing Thanksgiving? Gaby's ultimate menu and prep plan spells it all out and she provides a day-by-day outline.