Here Are 7 Easy Steps To Thanksgiving Appetizer Greatness

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For Bon Appetit, by Claire Saffitz.

Like an athlete, I spend a lot of time thinking about my pregame strategy. Especially at Thanksgiving. Given the energy it takes to plan and prepare the turkey, the stuffing, and the pies, the last thing I want is for people to ruin their appetites on cheese balls. And yet, appetizers are the fun part! This year, think of hors d’oeuvre hour not as a burden but as an opportunity. With the rest of the menu more or less set in stone, appetizers are the place to get creative. Here are my guidelines to ensure that the annual eating marathon starts out on the right (and kind of light) foot.

<p>It's impossible to only eat one of these <a href="" target="_blank">Figs with Bacon and Chile</a>. </p>

It's impossible to only eat one of these Figs with Bacon and Chile.

1. Give the People What They Want

And that is something salty, fatty, and spicy, but not so intensely salty, fatty, and spicy that it’ll kill their appetites. These juicy bacon-topped figs with red pepper flakes — our play on the ever-popular bacon-wrapped dates — land right in that sweet (salty, fatty, spicy) spot.

<p><a href="" target="_blank">Cacio e Pepe Chips</a> are the go-to snack we always want to make.</p>

Cacio e Pepe Chips are the go-to snack we always want to make.

2. Everyone Needs a Back-Pocket Appetizer

It’s a cruel reality of Thanksgiving that cocktail hour coincides with the host’s frantic attempt to get everything on the table — hot. This five-minute do-ahead snack is exactly the thing you need to keep the throngs at bay while you whisk the gravy.

Get the recipe: Cacio e Pepe Chips

<p>If you want everyone to be pleased, hit them with the <a href="" target="_blank">Relish Tray with D.I.Y. Eggs</a>.</p>

If you want everyone to be pleased, hit them with the Relish Tray with D.I.Y. Eggs.

3. Make. It. Ahead.

There are certain components of the meal that have to be executed at the last minute (like carving the turkey, for example). Appetizers should not be one of them. In this spin on the traditional relish tray, homemade pickles become colorful and crunchy toppings for soft-boiled eggs.

4. The Oven Is Not Your Friend

You might notice one thing that these hors d’oeuvres have in common: Very few require an oven, and when they do, it’s only for a quick trip. Whether it’s for reheating all the sides or finishing the stuffing, the oven is in high demand leading up to the meal — and there just isn’t going to be the time or the space to bake a hot appetizer.

<p>Our <a href="" target="_blank">Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip</a>, in all its glory.</p>

Our Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip, in all its glory.

5. If You’re Bringing an App, Bring It

How can you be a gracious guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving? Offer to bring a swanky hors d’oeuvre, of course. You can’t go wrong with this smoked salmon starter — think of it as a tuxedo-clad version of classic seven-layer dip (that’ll make the bagels and lox fans in the crowd go wild).

6. Some Things Are Just Too Good To Serve

As the host, you are the shepherd of your guests’ appetites. As such, there are certain foods that, while suitable for a stand-alone cocktail party, you should think twice about serving when there’s a giant meal on the way. These include: Anything that resembles a mini sandwich; baked brie or other large quantities of cheese; warm, gooey dips, such as spinach-artichoke.

<p>Perfectly crunchy <a href="" target="_blank">Tajín-Seasoned Vegetable Spears</a>.</p>

Perfectly crunchy Tajín-Seasoned Vegetable Spears.

7. Crudités... with One Caveat

A platter of raw veg always seems like a good idea, but between scrubbing radishes, peeling carrots, and prepping dips, crudités can be deceptively time-consuming. What if you could get the same crunchy, refreshing result without any of the fuss? That’s the idea behind this cucumber and jicama snack.

Related: Oh, you want turkey? It’s time for our Bourbon and Brown Sugar Glazed Turkey.

More from Bon Appetit:

14 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes