5 Dishes to Absolutely Outsource This Thanksgiving — Plus, the Ones You Ought To Make Yourself

Finally, the answer to the annual "What can I bring?"

Thanksgiving dinner on table with wine glasses
Photo by Meredith. Photo: Meredith

If you're hosting Thanksgiving, you need to prepare for the inevitable question: What can I bring?

If you're hosting for the first time, you'll quickly realize that the answer is more complicated than you may have initially thought. Thanksgiving involves a lot of dishes, and letting other people bring some of them can take a lot of pressure off of you. At the same time, everything on Thanksgiving Day comes back to the ever-important oven schedule, so you'll want to make sure you're communicating with the people contributing things about how they expect to use your kitchen. Here are my tried and true tips about how to answer that question, and how to communicate once you've made your assignments.

Outsource: Appetizers

Best Spinach Dip Ever
Best Spinach Dip Ever | Photo by Charlie Brown.

Pick your friend or family member who is most likely to be early, and give them the assignment of the turkey-day appetizer spread. There's one hard rule for this one: Appetizers cannot go in the oven. Let them know ahead of time that there will not be space in the oven and let them plan their choices around that. Cheese is great here, as is a nice charcuterie board or a simple, warm dip (as long as it can be heated in the microwave.)

Outsource: Drinks

Tart Apple-Ginger Shrub in a cocktail glass
Tart Apple-Ginger Shrub | Photo by Allrecipes. Allrecipes

If you have an uncle who knows a lot about wine, or a cousin who is into cocktails, consider giving them the assignment of managing drinks. Wine should be bountiful and varied to account for everyone's different tastes, and cocktails should be batched, so you're not fighting for counter space. Just make sure you've got a couple of bottles of wine on hand in case your drinks person is running late.

Outsource: Salad

Pomegranate Spinach Salad
Allrecipes Magazine

Let someone else deal with all the chopping in the comfort of their own home, and tell them to bring everything un-mixed so you can dress and toss at the last minute. A salad might not seem like the most essential Thanksgiving dish, but trust me, you'll want something bright and fresh to offset all the richness on the table.

Outsource: Pie

pumpkin pie with whipped cream

People like to flex their own baking chops on pies, so let them. My rule is that anyone who wants to bring a pie is welcome to do so, but I usually do one myself as well (apple!). There's no such thing as too much pie, and lots of people who rarely bake get inspired around this time of year, so it's fun to have a big selection and taste all of them. Plus, pies are better when premade, so this is a good way to remove a very labor intensive activity from your own list.

Outsource: Casserole

white casserole dish with green bean casserole with a serving spoon in the dish
Allrecipes Magazine

If your family is anything like mine, there are going to be a lot of people who feel strongly about a single side dish. In my family, there are two biggies: corn pudding and green bean casserole. Both are delicious, and both are great for someone else to bring. Just make sure they're mostly cooked and don't need more than a little time in the oven to reheat.

Make yourself: Turkey

Roasted whole turkey on a table with apple, pumpkin and figs for family Thanksgiving Holiday
Edalin/Getty Images

There are so many reasons the turkey should be brined and cooked in the same house where it's going to be served. For one, turkeys are heavy and difficult to transport. You don't want anyone dropping the thing on their way up your driveway! The other thing is that the timing of the turkey is an incredibly important element of how you'll organize the rest of the day...so if you outsource the preparation of the turkey and then the person bringing it is late, you may have an issue on your hands. Plus: the smell of roasting turkey is key to the Thanksgiving vibe, you don't want someone else roasting it in their house and bringing it over.

Make yourself: Gravy

turkey gravy in saucepan
Kathryn Gamble/Allrecipes

If you're hosting Thanksgiving, you're probably a pretty good cook, which means you should maintain control of the gravy. Great (and bountiful) gravy can fix a lot of other Thanksgiving problems, so make it ahead, and make extra. If you can do the gravy right, everything else will be perfect.

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