BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Kitchen

Thanksgiving hosting tips with our baking expert

Expertly reviewed by Andrea Boudewijn

Thanksgiving can be one of the most challenging holidays of the year to host. This is because it involves cooking a wide variety of dishes for a large number of people; you’re not just making spaghetti and meatballs.

However, there are things you can do that can make hosting Thanksgiving much easier. If you have a strategy in place and you do a few simple tasks in preparation for the event, you can have as much fun as your guests.

If you have a strategy in place, there are things you can do to make hosting Thanksgiving much easier.

In this video

BestReviews’ cooking and baking expert Andrea Boudewijn joins Scott Moak to discuss holiday hosting tips for Thanksgiving.

The easiest way to decorate your Thanksgiving table

It’s Thanksgiving. The focus of the holiday is a lavish spread of food. Your table is going to be filled with serving trays and bowls. The trick is to get all the food on the table while keeping the space looking festive. This is actually much easier to do than it sounds.

First, make sure you have room for every serving tray and bowl on your table. As much as you want the table to look great, if there’s not enough room for the food, you will lose some hosting points.

Next, consider any space between the trays and food. You want to fill those areas with fall decorations. You can use pine cones, wheat stalks, flowers, wrapped candy, mini pumpkins, artificial leaves, greens, figurines and more. There is no real limit. However, Boudewijn does caution against using a particular decor item in the middle of your table. “No candles for anybody to burn their sleeves on,” she said. “I like candles, but you might want to avoid them, especially if you have dried things in the middle." Stick to a harvest theme, use colors that complement the tablecloth and other decor and let your imagination run wild.

Thanksgiving cooking hack that will cut your work in half

Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey is a matter of pride. It is the main event of the holiday. If you are hosting, it is a given that you will make the turkey. The stuffing and any traditional family recipes should also be homemade. However, the same does not necessarily hold true for other dishes. 

Consider cooking only half of the meal yourself, whether it is appetizers, special dietary requests, desserts or other side dishes. “This way you can have a little wine, you don’t have to stress out about the turkey getting dry, about getting eight dishes on the table at the same time, maybe 14, depending on how many people you’re having. Just make the main things,” Boudewijn said. Order the other half from your favorite restaurant. With this method, you can still have a home-cooked meal but with less stress and less work, which means more energy for Black Friday shopping.

What is brining?

The key to getting a tender, flavorful turkey is brining. Brining involves submerging the meat in a solution of water, salt and other spices and seasonings. The salt allows the turkey to retain more moisture, which causes the muscle fibers to swell and unravel, making it tender. Additionally, the water trapped inside the turkey can’t evaporate, so the meat is juicier. 

To make this whole process easier, brine your turkey in a food-safe bucket with a lid. “So, let’s say you’ve got your turkey in here with your whole brining thing, cover it all with ice water. Put some apple cider in there if you want a little extra, a little zhuzh,” Boudewijn said. “Put the lid on, put it in the fridge; let’s keep it food safe.”

Quick and easy Thanksgiving brining recipe


  • Water (enough to submerge the turkey)
  • Salt (1/4 cup salt per quart of water)
  • Peppercorns
  • 3 to 5 lemons
  • Honey
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • Bay leaves
  • Two halve garlic heads


  1. Remove the neck and giblets, and pat the turkey dry.
  2. Place the turkey in a large container.
  3. Add peppercorns, lemons, honey, thyme, parsley, bay leaves and garlic.
  4. Warm 1 quart of water in the microwave, and stir in 1/4 cup of salt.
  5. Pour water over the turkey.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the turkey is fully submerged.
  7. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  8. When you are ready to cook, carefully remove the turkey from the solution and pat dry.

Shop this segment

LifeFlex 5-Gallon Bucket and Lid
This durable food-safe bucket is BPA-free and has an airtight lid. It is manufactured using virgin materials, so it doesn’t alter the taste of the food. The ergonomic metal handle makes transporting easy.
Sold by Amazon

Renawe Set of 2 Acacia Wooden Serving Platters
These food-safe serving platters are durably made, so they can support food dishes, fruits, desserts, salads or whatever else you would like to place on them. They are high-quality items made with nontoxic materials (no glue, PVC or toxic finishes).
Sold by Amazon

Mora Ceramics Ceramic Bowl Set
The bowls in this set are lead-free and feature an all-natural glaze. They are manufactured to be scratch resistant and durable, so they last for years. For convenience, these bowls are microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe.
Sold by Amazon

DII Tablecloth
This high-quality tablecloth comes in a variety of sizes and colors, so you can choose the one that is best for your Thanksgiving needs. It is machine-washable on the gentle cycle and dryer-safe.
Sold by Amazon

HansGo Artificial Pumpkins and Gourds Set
For a festive atmosphere, you’ll want to add harvest decorations. This expansive set of 50 items comes with artificial pumpkins, artificial leaves, artificial acorns, artificial pine cones and a mesh bag for storage. The decorations are handmade, lightweight, nontoxic and odorless.
Sold by Amazon

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals. 

Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

Share this post: