What Should You Buy or DIY on Your Thanksgiving Menu? Mashed Potatoes, Rolls, Cranberry Sauce & More

If ever there is a day to cheat a little bit in the kitchen, it’s Thanksgiving. Here, Rachael Ray Every Day editors share their opinions on when it’s OK to go store-bought and when only homemade will do.
Author:
Publish date:
cranberry sauce from a can

Buy: Cranberry Sauce

Every year on Thanksgiving morning, my mother and I have the same fight: She asks me to make fresh cranberry sauce, and I begrudgingly agree—so long as we can still have the canned stuff on the table. No matter how many splashes of orange juice or handfuls of spices I throw in, the homemade kind just isn’t as satisfying as that store-bought cylinder. It’s festively jiggly, sweetly nostalgic, and perfectly sliceable for post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Besides, you already have a whole bird and a slew of sides to worry about. Just get your cran from the can! —Christina Izzo, features editor

store bought rolls

Buy: Rolls

Homemade rolls on the busiest cooking day of the year? Give yourself a freakin’ break. I guarantee the bakery down the street (or inside your supermarket) can bake up a better batch of rolls than I can. This is what bakeries are for, people. Heck, this is what ready-to-bake rolls from the freezer aisle are for. Plus, if your family is anything like mine, a roll’s destiny is to be savagely torn up and dragged through the last tasty morsels on your plate. It’s an absorbent vehicle for all the other delicious stuff you should actually be spending your Thursday morning cooking: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, turkey. Not rolls! —Grace Rasmus, associate digital editor

homemade mashed potatoes

DIY: Mashed Potatoes

Of all the dishes on your holiday table, potatoes are the simplest to make and the most satisfying. The microwaveable and from-a-box options often give you one of two textures—gloppy or runny—and can taste fake, because, well, they are. So while there are many things you can take the easy way out on (and I’m right there with you), this isn’t one. They’re the glue to the meal, kinda literally, throw those potatoes into a pot of water, and do your thing. —Tara Cox, managing editor

Recipe: Try Our Buttery Mashed Potatoes

homemade stuffing

DIY: Stuffing

Until I was about 25, I was pretty sure that I hated stuffing. Why? Because I’d eaten only mushy, slimy, salty store-bought versions that landed on my plate with a moist plop. Then I tried stuffing that someone made from scratch with cornbread they had cut up, toasted, and tossed with crumbled cooked sausage. It was moist, but not too moist, with lots of crispy bits. Since then I’ve been a stuffing convert. It’s easy to make and can be customized to fit your family’s taste. And leftovers make the perfect landing spot for poached eggs on Friday morning. —Nina Elder, executive food editor

Recipe: Try Our Simon & Garfunkel Stuffing

Buy or DIY: Pie's a tie!

pecan pie

Every fall, I aspire to a glorious Thanksgiving pie reveal: The feast is behind us, and everyone’s basking in a gluttonous tryptophan daze while I parade my handmade masterpieces to a symphony of oohs and ahs. That’s the fantasy. The reality is, either the family is too glutted or my pies don’t live up to my expectations. I’d rather focus on the savory stuff, and having my family gathered in one spot for Mom’s stuffing is sweet enough for me. But the experience is much different for Janet Taylor McCracken, our test kitchen director, who spends the weekends prior to Thanksgiving blissfully prepping her perfect pie dough, which then chills out in the freezer until the big day. For people like Janet, pie-making is meditative, relaxing, and joyous—they’d never consider store-bought. The truth is, you’re either a baker or you’re not. And the holidays aren’t the time to change that. —Alexa Weibel, senior food editor

Recipes: Try our Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes, including this Pecan Pie with Bourbon Ice Cream Recipe