Giada DeLaurentiis' Top Tips to Take the Stress Out of Thanksgiving

Including the one ingredient you should buy in bulk.

Giada DeLaurentiis holding a plate of chicken thighs.
Photo: Dotdash Meredith

The holidays are no doubt one of the most stressful times of the year, especially in the kitchen. Thanksgiving turns up the heat even more, making for one of the most high-pressure meals on the calendar. It's occasions like this that we look to experts and chefs for any and all advice on how to alleviate that pressure. Giada DeLaurentiis is certainly an expert in the field.

In addition to being an Emmy award-winning television personality and bestselling cookbook author, Giada has also been cooking and teaching people how to cook for years. Now, she's filling pantries across the country with the best products Italy has to offer and teaching you how to cook your way through them with her website Giadzy.

We sat down with Giada at Allrecipes HQ to chat about all things Thanksgiving entertaining and cooking. Here are her top tips to take the stress out of Turkey Day.

Giada DeLaurentiis' Top Tips for Thanksgiving

Pick a Potluck

For Giada, the easiest way to minimize stress during the holidays is by divvying up the work. "I like a potluck because I like everybody to feel like they're part of Thanksgiving," she says. "And I don't want to do all the work myself!"

Giada confesses she still likes to "direct" the potluck by assigning dishes; that way you can play into people's strengths and preferences while still maintaining a sense of the overall menu. "I think Thanksgiving is one of those times where everybody wants to feel like they're part of the celebration."

Keep It Simple

Whether you cook the whole meal yourself or just one dish, don't go overboard. For Giada, there's no need to overcomplicate or overthink things. For all holidays, she keeps the menu streamlined and tries to pick dishes that are simple to make with a few ingredients, or even ones that can be made in advance.

"The timing has a lot to do with anxiety that people have," Giada explains. She asserts that it's better to keep things "as simple as possible" rather than overshoot and end up with cold or unfinished dishes.

Stock Your Pantry

For Thanksgiving and beyond, Giada keeps her pantry well-stocked throughout the busy season. "I try to have my pantry stocked at all times; for emergencies, for people stopping by, for gifts, for anything!"

Of course, that means lots of shapes of pasta (her daughter, Jade's favorite), but also a variety of olives, sweet and savory spreads, and different types of crackers. That way she can throw together an antipasto board at the drop of a hat for guests, and only needs a few supplemental cheeses or meats. Her motto is, "a well-stocked pantry should be something that is ongoing."

Giada adds that Italian spice kits, olive oils, and vinegars can all add intrigue to the standard dishes. Keeping a few of these items on hand can go a long way; she explains, "It's these little things that add so much uniqueness to the food."

Chicken Broth Is the MVP at Thanksgiving

Speaking of pantry pulls, one thing Giada keeps on hand in droves at Thanksgiving is chicken broth. "I rely heavily at Thanksgiving on chicken broth. Whether you make it or buy it — whatever you want to do — you better have a lot of it around."

She explains, "When things get dry, that's the best way to bring them back to life."

And psst — if you're looking to prep ahead of time for Thanksgiving, making and freezing a flavorful stock or broth is one of the best things you can do up to weeks ahead.

Use Visual Cues

Post-it notes are Giada's best friend when it comes to staying organized during the holiday high season. While she says she uses them for to-do lists, she also uses them to remind her how she plans to break up complicated processes and days into parts.

"Even though I do it every year — and for any of us who cook for a living — there are still moments where life gets hectic and you space out."

Giada also recommends pulling and labeling platters for every dish ahead of time. "You can put them in a laundry room or powder room if you don't want them in your kitchen," she says, "but they should be somewhere — they have to be somewhere."

That way you can not only identify if you need to buy or borrow additional dishes, but it also guarantees that when people want to help get everything on the table in the last minutes, everything's laid out for them.

Don't Forget to Rest the Turkey

In all the hubbub, it's easy to get caught up and forget basics, especially if you have hungry family members watching over your shoulder. One thing you shouldn't forget? That turkey (and any meat!) needs to rest.

Don't let one little mistake ruin the bird that you worked so hard on. "You can't just like take it out of the oven and cut it," she adds, "People under pressure forget some things that later, when you remind them, they're like, 'Yeah, duh!'"

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