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'Alexa, Set a Turkey Timer': 10 Ways to Use Your Amazon Echo This Thanksgiving

Alexa has surprising and useful tricks to make this holiday run smoother than ever.

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Katie Teague Macy Meyer
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Katie Teague Writer
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Macy Meyer Editor I
Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
Expertise Macy covers a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, smart home tech, fitness, nutrition, travel, lifestyle and more. Credentials Macy has been working for CNET for coming on 2 years. Prior to CNET, Macy received a North Carolina College Media Association award in sports writing.
5 min read
Thanksgiving meal

Use Alexa to make this your best Thanksgiving ever.

Chris Monroe/CNET

We're less than two weeks from Thanksgiving and there's a lot you need to do in the meantime. Between work or school and just the general chaos of life, it can feel overwhelming to be prepared from grocery shopping to cooking the turkey. The good news is you can delegate that work to your trusty Amazon Echo device. 

Alexa can be of service to you if you need last-minute pointers on cooking a tasty turkey, planning a drink menu, recommending delicious side recipes and so much more. Instead of losing your sanity, let Alexa assist so you can focus on gathering with family and friends instead of worrying about burning the turkey because you forgot to set a timer. 

Here are 10 clever ways Alexa can help you out on Thanksgiving Day. Plus, check out our guide on nailing your Thanksgiving holiday with tips ranging from how to defrost turkey to the best place to buy a turkey online for Thanksgiving and so much more. 

Grocery list on the Alexa app

If you want to see your grocery list, you can view it in the Alexa app. 

Screenshot by Katie Conner/CNET

1. Create a grocery list for Thanksgiving

By now we hope you know everything you need, but if you don't, you can quickly create a list to beat the grocery store crowd.

Alexa can easily keep a running shopping list for you. Just say "Alexa, create a shopping list" and then you can start adding items as you remember them, even adding on if you've forgotten something.

If you want to know everything you've added to the list, you can either ask Alexa what's on your grocery list or you can view it in the Alexa app on your phone.

2. Make a Thanksgiving Day to-do list

As with a grocery list, Alexa can also keep a to-do list for you on the big day. Just say "Alexa, create a to-do list" and name it "Thanksgiving" so you can easily find it. Then you can add your tasks for the day, like making the sides and setting the table. When you're ready to hear what's on your plate for the day, just say "Alexa, what's on my to-do list?"

Keeping all the things that need to get done on Thanksgiving Day in one place can help you cut through or delegate the seemingly never-ending list in no time. 

3. Explore tons of last-minute recipe ideas

One area of Alexa's skill catalog that is particularly rich is recipe and cooking skills. Five of the most notable are Allrecipes, Best Recipes (from Hellmann's), Betty Crocker and Food Network.

Not only will these skills offer up some recipes to try, they will tell you the ingredients needed and walk you through the process. Food Network lets you look up recipes by chef or TV show. Allrecipes will send directions to your phone. Betty Crocker will tell you how long it will take to cook a ham. And Best Recipes will give you recipes for the ingredients you already have.

turkey on a roasting rack in the oven

"Alexa, add thaw turkey to my to-do list."

Chris Monroe/CNET

4. Let Alexa help with the Thanksgiving turkey

If something happened to your bird and you need to rush out and get it, choosing the right size is difficult -- will there be enough, or far too many leftovers? The Turkey Planner skill can tell you how much turkey you need based on the number of guests coming over. It will also let you know how long you need to cook it. 

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Just say, "Alexa, ask Turkey Planner how long it will take to cook a 12-pound turkey," or, "Alexa, ask Turkey Planner what size of turkey is needed for 10 people."

For more pointers on perfecting your Thanksgiving turkey, read our guide on the best way to roast a turkey

5. Set multiple timers

Setting timers on your stove, microwave and phone can be a nightmare -- especially when you're trying to figure out which timer goes to the ham and which one goes to the pie. So when you go to set the timer, think twice about using one of those and use your Amazon Echo device.

Not only can you create several concurrent timers, but you can name them so you can easily keep everything straight. Say "Alexa, start a three-hour turkey timer" or "Alexa, create a stuffing timer for 30 minutes." To check on your timers, just say "Alexa, how much time is left on the turkey timer?"

6. Make tasty Thanksgiving drinks

Whether you're hosting or coming as a guest, you'll still have a few hours to second-guess yourself and get more drinks -- a selection of wine, spirits, beer, you name it. With skills like The Bartender, What Beer? and MySomm, you can easily find drinks that go best with the food you'll be serving -- or make spur-of-the-moment cocktails to welcome the festive mood.

redball cocktail

Make sure there are drink options for everyone.

Bryan VanGelder/CNET

7. Get the kiddos to nap while you cook

Preparing a huge meal for a group of people is already arduous -- but add an energetic kid who wants to help you cook can make you crazy when you're strapped for time. Let Alexa assist you by telling your kid(s) a short bedtime story to get them sleepy enough to snooze

8. Set the mood with on-theme tunes

Unlike Christmas or Halloween, Thanksgiving doesn't exactly have a specific type of music to go along with it. But that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't play music. There are plenty of great Thanksgiving playlists to choose from on Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Prime Music. Just say, "Alexa, play Thanksgiving music."

10 Thanksgiving mistakes you don't want to make

See all photos

9. Order last-minute essentials

If you're too busy to run to the store (again) before Thanksgiving, use Alexa to quickly order last-minute essentials. You can order everything from cling wrap to a new turkey baster. All you have to do is ask.

If you have Prime Now in your area, you can have whatever you need shipped to your door same-day (this requires an Amazon Prime account). Just say "Alexa, I'd like to purchase [item]" and then say "Buy it now" to confirm your order. You'll need to enable voice ordering and 1-Click ordering to make purchases through your Echo device.

To set up Voice Purchasing, first open your Alexa app. Next, tap Menu > Settings > Account Settings > Voice Purchasing. Toggle on Voice Purchasing. Finally, go to 1-Click Preferences on the site and set up a payment method. You can also create a voice code so that only you can make Amazon purchases using your Echo.

10. Create a Black Friday plan

Finally, if your family has a tradition of going shopping after scarfing down Thanksgiving dinner, you can use the Black Friday Calendar skill to check store hours for Black Friday. (Let's be honest, we're also checking for Thanksgiving Day hours now).

Just say "Alexa, ask Black Friday Calendar for Target hours." It works for major stores such as Walmart, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, GameStop, Home Depot, Lowe's and many more. Here are the best Black Friday deals already available now. Plus, the best early Black Friday deals from Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart

Bonus: More Alexa commands to use this Thanksgiving

  • "Alexa, what is Thanksgiving?"
  • "Alexa, what are you thankful for?"
  • "Alexa, show me Thanksgiving recipes."
  • "Alexa, tell me a Thanksgiving joke."
  • "Alexa, give me a Thanksgiving limerick."
  • "Alexa, what did the corn say to the butter?"
  • "Alexa, tell me a turkey joke."
  • "Alexa, how much time is left on the turkey timer?"
  • "Alexa, play Thanksgiving music."

Need more Alexa tips to get you through the holidays? Check out how to use your Amazon Echo in the kitchen and every Alexa command available right now.