12 Guy Fieri-Approved Tips To Make Your Holiday Meals So Much Easier

When it comes to the holidays, nobody does it better and tastier than Food Network chefs. And of course that means Guy Fieri always takes his special sense of holiday flair to Flavortown. While it would be amazing to spend your holiday time off watching Food Network, you might just be the one stuck at home doing the cooking this year for all your family. If that's the case, the mayor of Flavortown can help you out in a different way.

As a professional chef, Fieri is no stranger to having to cook for the holidays. Chances are he has cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for much larger groups than you are going to have to deal with. So, if you're feeling anxious about your upcoming holiday meal plans, or just want to make this year easier and less stressful, all you have to do is follow Fieri's tips. These cooking tips will help you prepare better so that you can have a relaxing holiday break, where everyone still gets to ooh and ahh over what you made. And the best part is each one of them is Guy Fieri-approved. Here are a dozen ways to make your fun and festive gathering easier and more fun for the chef in the kitchen.

Don't be constrained by tradition

With all the cooking you wind up doing for the holidays, every year can start to feel like the same thing. Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions die hard, but they can be monotonous. Though, when it comes down to what's for dinner, if you are in charge of the kitchen, that means you can make some choices to spice things up. You know, some of the most delicious holiday dishes come from experimenting and thinking outside the bun that we call tradition.

Guy Fieri argues that Thanksgiving, and all the other stressful holidays that involve cooking for your in-laws, will be a lot easier when you just let go. In other words, don't be restrained by tradition. In the Fieri household, they keep some traditions — he always cooks Dungeness crab (via New York Post) — but as holiday specials from his show's can attest to, cooking is always more fun with flair. And bacon. Whether it's ditching a core dishes like sweet potato casserole (a dish the chef told Time he hates), or leveling up an old classic with new ingredients, don't be afraid to trust your culinary instincts this holiday season.

Recipes don't always increase by scale

Holiday vacations don't always turn out as planned. Weather will change travel plans, people get sick, and sometimes you end up needing to prepare food for twice as many family members as you thought. Last minute guest surprises can be one of the most stressful parts of hosting for the holidays, especially if its a whole other side of the family that's coming. Luckily, Guy Fieri has one surefire tip to make sure you don't completely botch recipes you thought you had down pat.

In his time in the restaurant business and preparing cooked food on a large scale for disaster relief efforts, Fieri knows a thing or two about cooking for a crowd. When it comes to adapting a recipe for a large party, he offers the reminder that not all recipes increase by scale. Fieri elaborated to Eater, "You can't just take something and multiply it by 10 or whatever." Do some extra research and keep that in mind when preparing your next holiday feast. 

Make your own stock beforehand

Okay, so this might not be the easiest option in totality. It is perfectly tasty and acceptable to buy vegetable or chicken stock (or whatever you plan on using) from the grocery store. However, with a little work beforehand, and a bit of planning, you will be able to level up your holiday meal with this one trick. How to do it? Take some time a few days before you need to do your holiday cooking and prepare a homemade stock for your main course.

Stock is one of those things it's easy to find at the market, but professional chefs insist that making your own will result in a much more flavorful meal. In the Eater interview, Guy Fieri said you have to make "your own stock, you can't use jarred stock." He continued, "Listen, this is the big day. It's the big game day for family cooking." If there is one thing you can do to go the extra mile and impress your family, it is taking the time to cook up some homemade chicken or turkey stock. Since making stock usually results in a large portion, there is honestly no better time to try it.

Try something new, like lamb or goose, as your main course

There is a fine line you have to walk to balance tradition and modernity for the holidays. This is especially true if you're an ambitious cook who has to prepare the family dinner. But common holiday main dishes, like turkey and ham, are often derided for various reasons. So, if you're thinking of preparing something instead of turkey this holiday, Guy Fieri has a couple suggestions you might want to pay attention to.

In a 2018 Eater interview, Fieri was asked about trendier birds that have been on the menu for chefs to cook up for the holidays. "A lot of chefs are really embracing the whole field-to-table mentality and doing great things with doves, hens, geese, you name it," the Food Network star said. In the more recent Eater piece, Fieri admitted that ham was his go-to for Thanksgiving dinner, but he also recommends trying lamb for your holiday meal. The chef says that he thinks lamb is a good stand-in for turkey and that "it's special because it's something that you don't have very often."

Practice your recipes

It can be easy to get caught up in the planning for your holiday cooking and hosting. But Guy Fieri reminds us that practice makes perfect. If you are going to try making something new for the upcoming holiday season, it is a good idea to make sure you give it at least one trial run.

Perhaps you are a bit shaky on the stuffing, or have a new turkey cooking method you read about online that you are dying to try out. Getting these things wrong on game day can be disastrous, which is why Fieri insists that you give everything a practice run. "It's not like you wouldn't love to have some stuffing in the middle of the week on cold winter nights, so go do that," Fieri said in an interview with Eating Well. "Maybe don't do a full mock Thanksgiving, but giving everything a run-through is a good way to keep yourself from getting hung up when it's game day." He makes a point. What better excuse is there to eat stuffing and mashed potatoes in October?

Shop for your leftovers ahead of time

Without any doubt, this is one of Guy Fieri's best tips. Like many great cooking hacks, this one is all about preparation. If you have family traditions, or even just annual patterns you fall into, you will usually know what the plan is for all the leftover food from the big holiday meal.

Whatever Thanksgiving leftover recipes you like, whether it's turkey or ham sandwiches, or you are one of the blessed few that can turn out a stuffing waffle, you probably know what everyone likes. If not, it might not hurt to ask them before this year's celebration. Fieri says that it's best to shop for what you want to accompany your leftovers ahead of time. This way, you won't have to run to the grocery store the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas.

"You do have to know what you're going to do with your leftover food," Fieri said in an interview with All Recipes. "The key is being prepared [and] having the other ingredients on hand that you need — like beans so you can take your leftover ham and that hambone and you can make yourself some soup." Remember, it doesn't have to be as complicated as making soup from the leftover bones — for you, this preparation could just mean getting the right kind of bread for sandwiches. 

Use leftovers to eat healthier between the holidays

While you are shopping in preparation leftovers, you might want to think about working some healthier options into the menu. Between Thanksgiving in November and the December holidays, you can wind up eating a lot of heavy food followed by days snuggled up on the couch. So, it is only natural to look towards a way to eat healthier between celebrations, potlucks, and cookie parties. Guy Fieri thinks it's a good idea, at least. 

The chef and Food Network host personally likes to take it easy and eat lighter during this time of the year. "You're going to be indulging, [so] I think it's time to get some more vegetables in there and definitely do some more roasting of vegetables and not eat as heavy," Fieri told Eating Well, "that's usually what happens with me." The celebrity chef recommends throwing leftover ingredients into a salad. He mentions farro salad with cranberries being a great option for the holiday season. If you have leftover green beans consider sautéing them instead of just making another green bean casserole. There are plenty of healthy options that will help clear out your pantry and fridge after a week of hosting family. 

Always score your holiday bird

No matter what kind of bird you are making for the holidays — turkey, goose, duck, or what have you — you have to know how to properly prepare it. This is the first rule of cooking for the holidays, and this quick tip will make sure that whenever you are cooking a bird for your family, it will always be as rich and flavorful as possible. 

Before cooking any kind of duck or bird that has a side of fat you need to score it. This means you have to make cuts 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep on the skin of the bird in order to release the grease and flavor the whole bird. This is a technique that comes up time and time again on Food Network and on shows Guy Fieri has hosted. You can see him talking to a Disneyland chef about the importance of scoring the holiday goose in a Food Network holiday special that took Fieri and his family to Disney (via YouTube). In order to ensure the dish doesn't come out too dry or bland, this technique helps develop moisture and flavor. 

Get up early and have a cup of coffee before a long day of cooking

Like many of Guy Fieri's tips for holiday cooking, this one is all about preparing and setting yourself up for success. In the case of cooking a meal for whatever you are celebrating this December, this means taking the time to go about your morning ritual before starting a long day in the kitchen. For Fieri, this means waking up at 4 a.m. to get your morning cup of coffee, as shown on 2008's Food Network Holiday Extravaganza. Making sure you are awake and ready to go is the key to ensuring you are fully focused on your recipes. 

If that means caffeine for you, set aside a few extra minutes in the morning to make that cup of coffee or tea. If coffee is not your cup of tea, it will likely still help to engage in whatever daily rituals you have before stepping into the kitchen. Consider it a day of work. If you wouldn't dream of going into the office without getting your morning cup of joe, you aren't going to want to go anywhere near the Christmas ham before you've had your coffee.

Take a break to freshen up for dinner after you've done the majority of the cooking

Getting up and getting prepared for the day is key to making a great holiday meal, but don't forget about taking a little me time before all your guests arrive. One of Guy Fieri's best tips for the holidays has nothing to do with being in the kitchen. In fact, the celebrity chef encourages you to take a break from a long holiday's worth of cooking to catch your breath and allow yourself to truly enjoy the meal you've spent all day prepping.

On the "Very Fieri Thanksgiving" episode of Food Network's "Guy's Big Bite," a special where Fieri invited a group of guest chefs to cook Thanksgiving dinner at his home, he gave this unique advice. He said that, after you have done most of the cooking that needs to be done — and the labor heavy stuff — take a break before getting everything ready to serve. Now is the best time to go take a step out of the kitchen, take a shower, and freshen up so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. When you are no longer feeling tired and hot from being in the kitchen all day, you can finally wind down and truly enjoy dinner. Also, don't be afraid to ask for extra help from family members to get dinner over the finish line.

Don't let your dog eat the turkey

Sometimes celebrities really can be just like us, and for celebrity chefs, this includes starting fires, ruining dishes, and — in the case of Guy Fieri — letting the Thanksgiving turkey get devoured by the family dogs. Let the story of the time someone ruined a Fieri family Thanksgiving be a reminder that whatever mistakes you make in the kitchen this year, it will definitely not turn out this bad.

Keep in mind that Fieri loves Thanksgiving, hosting dozens of people for his annual feast. So, naturally, he is going to have to make a lot of food, and a lot of turkey. He even goes as far as to cook extra turkey every year for leftover sandwiches. But one year, this plan got botched by an unfortunate, yet unnamed, friend or family member of the Fieri's. "Someone handed the wrong bag to the wrong person, and the turkey ended up being left outside overnight," Fieri told Eater. "The next morning we went outside and saw that the dogs had a buffet. It was turkey everywhere, a turkey massacre." According to Fieri, there was a lot of finger pointing but nobody confessed to leaving the turkey out for the dogs to have a late night snack. Fieri maintains, though, that it was definitely not his fault. "I'm the cook, the master of ceremonies, and I don't participate in the cleanup. I'm as far as I can be from the cleanup. It was definitely not me."