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Which Thanksgiving Dishes Should You Just Buy From the Store?

‘For the love of god, do not feed me or anyone a packet of that dry bullshit from the soup aisle’ — a chef on store-bought gravy

Ah, Thanksgiving dinner — a ludicrous smorgasbord of largely mediocre dishes that are downright painful to cook. Yum…? 

In all seriousness, if there were ever a time to give yourself and your oven a break, it would be this Thanksgiving. But which dishes are worth grabbing from a store or restaurant instead? Chef Jorge Busso, who shaved down his own Thanksgiving menu from Grandma’s Cooking Gauntlet to something simpler but flavorful in an effort to save time and stress, takes us through the most popular Thanksgiving side dishes — and turkey, too — one at a time.

The Dish: Turkey

Should It Be Outsourced?: Probably not. “Unless you have a local butcher taking orders in advance for high-quality, smoked ‘Toms’ ($75 to $100 is still worth it), then this one is not worth outsourcing,” Busso says. “A simple brine recipe from the side of a Morton salt box can be executed the night before cooking, and cooking it is as easy as putting your bird in the oven and drinking the next four hours away.”

The Dish: Stuffing

Should It Be Outsourced?: Eh, probably. “I hate to say it, but Stove Top rarely disappoints,” Busso admits. “I typically make my own stuffing only when I have a reserve of time, bread heels or stale baked goods.”

The Dish: Gravy

Should It Be Outsourced?: Hello no! “For the love of god, do not feed me or anyone a packet of that dry bullshit from the soup aisle,” Busso emphasizes. “You just pulled your amazing turkey out of the oven. Sauce pot. Three tablespoons flour. Three tablespoons butter. Low heat. All your drippings and chunks. Water to balance taste and thickness. Seven minutes of your time, and watch eyes roll into the back of their skulls in delight.”

The Dish: Cranberry Sauce

Should It Be Outsourced?: You betcha. “As a chef, I do appreciate a beautiful, clove-heavy, red-wine-based holiday dressing,” Busso explains. “After an hour of waiting for cruciferous fresh cranberries to soften in scalding-hot wine and sugar, however, I realize I still have to bloom gelatin, reduce for another hour, chill and dish. I’m a chef, and I hate the process. Ocean Spray makes a damn good product available in both chunky and jellied.”

The Dish: Veggies

Should It Be Outsourced? No! “Don’t go too crazy, and keep it seasonal — people are only eating them out of guilt,” says Busso. “A basic green salad or some veggies baked off at high heat for a short amount of time gives color to the table and plate while offering textural variety. Add a nice butternut squash vinaigrette to cut through the fat and salts of the meal.”

The Dish: Rolls

Should It Be Outsourced? Yeah, unless you know how to bake. “Unless you’re ready to understand yeast and dough compositions like grandma did, you may want to outsource these to King’s Hawaiian,” Busso says. “What the mouth really wants is chewy, warm and slightly sweet.”

The Dish: Deviled Eggs

Should It Be Outsourced? Only in hell! “The perfect appetizer and always best made at home,” Busso says. “The store versions of this make me want to puke every time.”

The Dish: Dessert

Should It Be Outsourced? That depends. “It makes more sense financially to make these at home, as the holidays are a notorious shakedown of cash from unsuspecting consumers trying to ‘feel the holiday’ with a pumpkin-flavored something at an inflated price,” explains Busso. “The markets know you’re coming, and they have shitty pumpkin-flavored sweet things, made with low-quality ingredients, just for you. Take some time to either support a local artisan baker, or try your hand at whipping up a pumpkin roll. Your guests will appreciate something original or high-end.”