Thanksgiving Do's and Don'ts From Sam Sifton of the New York Times

Tips and rules from Sam Sifton's "Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well."

ByABC News
November 16, 2012, 2:06 PM

Nov. 16, 2012— -- Sam Sifton, the national editor of The New York Times, has a new book out called "Thanksgiving, How to Cook it Well" in which he cleverly outlines the do's and don'ts for a perfect Thanksgiving feast.

"Thanksgiving is scary for a lot of people. It's a holiday that's filled with a lot of stress," Sifton told ABC News. "Do I have enough plates? Do I have enough glasses? Am I really going to have a tablecloth? What is a tablecloth? Can I use a sheet? That's cheap. Maybe I should -- well, maybe it's good. What do I do about Uncle Morty who's an alcoholic? He's gotta be there -- but then he gets drunk!"

Sifton's secret: Thanksgiving doesn't have to be so complicated.

"I thought it might be helpful just to say – everything's gonna be OK," Sifton said. "It's a pretty simple meal when you really think about it. You're roasting a giant chicken. You're mashing some potatoes. You're mashing almost everything. It's basically piles of mush on a plate with slices of big chicken."

And while some of today's cooking icons offer extravagant menus, Sifton's goal is to maintain simplicity.

"Well, I love Martha Stewart," Sifton said. "Between us, I'm a little scared of Martha Stewart too. And I love Rachael Ray. I don't think I'm scared of Rachael Ray, but I love both those women and they're accomplished cooks and accomplished entertainers. I'm much more low bar than those beautiful women. I'm just the guy saying, 'Hey, let's roast a turkey and make it really delicious.'"

Sifton grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where his appreciation for food began at a very young age.

"I spent my childhood driving around with my father looking for different products. ... We would come back and make these great big feasts in the house," Sifton said. "So from a very early age, I was kind of fascinated by the diversity of foods in the city and how you can get them and what it tasted like and how much it mattered that this pizza was better than that pizza."

Sifton spent two years as the restaurant critic for The New York Times, dining out all over the city and beyond, refining a 25-year passion for food and cooking. In what has become a trademark of his writing, he wittily lays down some "rules" in this new handbook to Thanksgiving:

1. Use lots of butter."Let us speak plainly about butter. There's gonna be a lot of butter. I think it is not incorrect to lay in at least two pounds of butter for the day," Sifton said.

2. Cranberry sauce and gravy are necessary side dishes."At the very center of all this – are the cranberry sauce and the gravy."

2. You must have pie."You need to have pie at the end," Sifton said. At least the three most important ones: apple pie, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. "There's no place for chocolate at Thanksgiving. Chocolate – it's good for depressing nights. For unfortunate birthdays, for New Year's Eve spent alone – things of this nature. It's not for Thanksgiving."