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Food Network's Top 2019 Thanksgiving Trends

Tips for a tasty, stress-free meal

table set for Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, cornbread and more

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Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner or joining loved ones as a guest, the stress of coordinating a tableful of dishes can overwhelm even the most capable home chef.

According to a recent Food Network survey, more than one-third of Thanksgiving hosts feel stress and anxiety leading up to the big day — and nearly half (43 percent) plan on spending at least $200 on the meal.

But Thanksgiving expert Michelle Buffardi, Food Network's vice president of digital editorial, says there's no need for bad feelings or a blown budget to spoil the holiday spirit. Here are her top tips for tasty dishes and a worry-free celebration:

In with the old (and with the new)

Call this one an anti-trend: Buffardi says that classic dishes and familiar flavors — oven-roasted turkey, your grandma's pumpkin pie — are as popular as ever.

"We find that people want to eat their old favorites,” she says. Plus, “people want to make the classics that their families expect.”

Though she doesn't recommend overhauling much-beloved recipes against family wishes, Buffardi says pressure and intimidation shouldn't hold home chefs back from breaking with tradition if they want to.

One easy way to try new flavors is a more-is-merrier approach: Have one person bring the family favorite, like classic green bean casserole, and another person take charge of an updated alternative, like stuffed mushroom casserole.

Or approach classic flavors in new ways with recipes like Food Network's cranberry pie, which features a tart — not treacly — fruit filling, or the network's butter-blanketed turkey, which takes standard oven-roasted turkey to the next level (think luscious flavor and extra-crispy skin) with a simple butter basting technique.

It's all about the apps

In contrast to the main menu, which is typically set in advance, “appetizers are a really good place to experiment,” Buffardi says. “Anything goes."

The renewed interest in appetizers coincides with another trend Buffardi points out: A growing number of Thanksgiving hosts are inviting guests over hours before the main meal for pre-dinner mingling. Having a hearty selection of appetizers on hand is crucial to keeping people satisfied before the main event. Buffardi says hot and cold dips, crudités, and “anything wrapped in bacon” are perennial crowd-pleasers.

For guests who are bringing an appetizer or two to dinner, Buffardi says to think in terms of portability. Choose a dish that you can transport easily and that can be served at room temperature or reheated easily on arrival.

New gadgets, new techniques

Thanksgiving flavors might be on the traditional side, but Buffardi says she's seeing a whole new approach to cooking classic dishes.

Sheet pan cooking, for example, a trendy technique that involves simultaneously roasting the different components of one meal on a single baking tray, is a great option for small parties or cooks who hate cleanup duty.

Cook sweet potatoes and stuffing on one pan, green beans and dinner rolls on another, and you've practically got the entire meal taken care of — with far fewer dishes to worry about at the end of the night.

Buffardi says there's no reason to keep newly popular appliances like pressure cookers or air fryers sidelined, either. Pressure cookers in particular can be used to speed up the cooking process, like cutting the time to make creamy mashed potatoes down to 20 minutes — no boiling or draining required!

Preparation is key

If cooking is half of the Thanksgiving battle, timing is the other.

Nearly two-thirds of the hosts Food Network surveyed said they start cooking the day before Thanksgiving, but Buffardi recommends buying dry goods and nonperishables (canned pumpkin, bread for stuffing) and prepping side dishes that can be reheated (like rolls and corn bread) a few days in advance.

"Planning ahead is one of the best things you can do to eliminate stress,” she says. Avoiding a last-minute grocery run means you'll beat the crowds and minimize the chances of eleventh-hour recipe changes because of out-of-stock ingredients. You can even set the table the day before the meal (just give plates a final wipe-off before guests arrive).

Careful planning can help ward off kitchen nightmares (like forgetting to defrost the turkey), but in the event of a culinary emergency, resources like Food Network's new Kitchen app, which offers live Q&As with experts, cooking website Food52's online advice forums, or the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL) have helped countless home cooks overcome disaster and get dinner on the table.