There’s no denying that Bob’s Burgers does holiday episodes especially well. Whether it’s a gingerbread-house massacre or a genuinely spooky haunted house, the Fox animated series has consistently churned out memorable holiday episodes year after year. But nothing compares to the Thanksgiving episodes, which first started airing during the show’s third season and have become (for many fans) as beloved a viewing tradition as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The allure of the Thanksgiving episodes is rooted in one of the great joys of Bob’s Burgers: despite his restaurant’s lack of financial success, Bob Belcher is truly passionate about cooking good food for people. Coming up with a new burger of the day or getting to add rare mushrooms to a recipe excites him and helps give his life meaning. This is never more clear than on the food-focused holiday of Thanksgiving, when we get to see Bob’s single-minded obsession with the meal (especially the turkey) reach new extremes. As a character who often plays the straight man to the rest of his family, he’s fun to see in all of his eccentric glory. In addition to highlighting Bob’s enthusiasm, the best Thanksgiving episodes of the series take place on Thanksgiving Day and include members of the Belchers’ extended family, like their best friend Teddy and Linda’s sister Gayle. As is the case with the Bob’s Burgers series as a whole, it’s best when it’s a family affair.
Just in time for Turkey Day, we opted to take a thorough look at all 11 of the show’s Thanksgiving episodes. Season 14 marks the first time in over a decade that the series will forgo an episode specifically pegged to Thanksgiving, so a rewatch might be in order to help fill the void. From a deadly turkey trot to a snow day for the ages, here is every Bob’s Burgers Thanksgiving episode, ranked.
“Putts-giving” (Season 13, Episode 8)
“Putts-giving” takes a standard Belcher-family plot — they have an expiring coupon to go mini-golfing, the kids break part of the course, Linda is bad at the game but gets competitive anyway — and half-heartedly tacks it onto a Thanksgiving episode, only really bringing in the themes of the holiday to bracket the beginning and end of the episode. It makes Thanksgiving secondary (maybe even tertiary, since Tina’s aspirations to attend a weekend party with high-school boys take precedent), a cardinal sin in the world of Bob’s and a move that’s antithetical to the pedestal that the show has spent the past decade putting the holiday on. It could be easy to blame it on later-season fatigue, but the series pulled off an incredible Christmas episode just weeks later, so it appears to simply be a rare miss.
“Diarrhea of a Poopy Kid” (Season 11, Episode 7)
About once a season, Bob’s Burgers has a storytelling episode wherein each of the Belcher children take turns coming up with an extravagant tale featuring people in their life set in cinematic plots. The episodes are fun enough, but often feel like filler — making it an unfortunate match for the annual Thanksgiving episode. In “Diarrhea of a Poopy Kid,” Gene is bogged down by some gastrointestinal issues and relegated to the apartment’s lone bathroom on Thanksgiving day. In an effort to help him not miss food so much, Tina and Louise (and eventually Bob, who is excited about his new innovative menu) tell stories of culinary villainy. Sweet and punny, the episode is charming but ultimately forgettable.
“The Quirk-Ducers” (Season 7, Episode 6)
One of the pleasures of Bob’s Burgers is that it takes big swings when it comes to being weird. The kids are odd, and so are Bob and Linda — and so are we viewers, the people who love them most (other than Teddy). But “The Quirk-Ducers” is an admittedly quirky one that doesn’t quite pull off its premise (even if there’s some irony in criticizing it). Frustrated with having to sit through an annual Thanksgiving show at school the day before the holiday, the kids decide to put on a musical based on Tina’s erotic holiday fiction about an outcast turkey. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Louise stuffs the turkey costumes with actual exploding meat guts meant to soak the audience in an effort to be released from school early. While there are a lot of little gems throughout the episode, including Bob’s realization that he’s never asked the kids if they like school, the non-Thanksgiving-related B-plot wherein Linda becomes infatuated with a potato that resembles her late grandfather is more entertaining than the main story.
“I Bob Your Pardon” (Season 9, Episode 7)
When the Belchers head out the day before Thanksgiving in “I Bob Your Pardon,” they have two goals: to see the mayor at a turkey pardoning (cue Linda’s love of “the mayah!”) and to get real cranberries for Bob’s cranberry sauce so that they don’t end up eating the canned stuff. The afternoon devolves into chaos when the deputy mayor shows up instead and the kids overhear a plan to send the pardoned turkey to a slaughterhouse. The family members, along with a local reporter, set off in hot pursuit of the turkey and even manage to save it (and get Bob to a cranberry bog). It’s an intriguing change-up to the typical Bob’s Thanksgiving plot, but in taking the Belchers out of Thanksgiving day and away from the kitchen, it sacrifices some of the necessary hallmarks and cohesiveness of the series’ best Thanksgiving episodes.
“Stuck in the Kitchen with You” (Season 12, Episode 8)
The Belchers opt to shake things up in “Stuck in the Kitchen with You” when they volunteer at a retirement home early on Thanksgiving before their own festivities. The kids put on a parade for the seniors and Linda helps Sergeant Boscoe communicate with his mother, but the crown jewel is Bob. Although initially eager to return home and work on his maple glaze, he giddily steps in to cook for the entire establishment in an emergency. The episode is a great example of a later season trying something fun and new while still honoring the roots of what makes these specials so wonderful. It’s also important because it’s the first time that Bob comes to recognize that he might not be the easiest person to be in the kitchen with on Thanksgiving, infusing a little compassion into his obsessive antics.
“Thanks-Hoarding” (Season 8, Episode 5)
When Teddy’s family Thanksgiving gathering gets unexpectedly rerouted to his house the day before the holiday, he asks the Belchers for help getting ready. While Bob tries to teach Teddy how to cook a turkey, Linda and the kids attempt to clean up Teddy’s place — only to discover that he’s a hoarder. “Thanks-Hoarding” becomes both an effort worthy of Extreme Home Makeover and a pseudo-therapy session for Teddy, culminating in the Thanksgiving Day realization that he keeps broken stuff hoping that he can fix it like he was unable to fix his family when his parents split. The episode gets some flack for being sad, but the ending is actually quite hopeful (also, isn’t part of the holidays learning the occasional devastating fact about your loved ones?).
“An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal” (Season 3, Episode 5)
The first ever Bob’s Burgers Thanksgiving episode does a great job of setting up the parameters of what Thanksgiving means to the show, the Belchers, and Bob specifically (viewers get to witness his religious experience picking out a turkey at the grocery store). In “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal,” landlord Mr. Fischoeder asks the Belchers to pose as his family on Thanksgiving in order to entice an ex-flame with a penchant for home-wrecking. In exchange, they won’t have to pay rent for five months. It’s too good to pass up, according to Linda and the kids, but Bob has some resistance and only gives in after the kids agree to keep up with their traditions. The evening falls apart as an absinthe-soaked Bob becomes jealous, and it eventually ends in gunfire (the first of multiple gun-related incidents with the Fischoeders), making a truly unforgettable Thanksgiving for all.
“Now We’re Not Cooking With Gas” (Season 10, Episode 8)
When Bob finally gets his hands on a pricey Riverbrook Lake Farms heritage turkey after five years on the waiting list, his usual Thanksgiving antics are heightened in “Now We’re Not Cooking With Gas.” But tragedy strikes when a main-line leak leaves the entire block without gas on Thanksgiving Day. Unable to use Teddy’s oven, Bob constructs a makeshift firepit in the alley and attempts to cook the turkey against all odds. A dwindling supply of kindling, a persistent fire department, and eventual rain force the family to call it quits (but not before we get to see a desperate, shirtless Bob hunched over the turkey as it falls into the fire). Ten seasons into the series, the episode manages to prove that there are still new, entertaining heights to Bob’s Turkey Day fugue state.
“Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled” (Season 6, Episode 4)
After putting the turkey in the oven on a snowy Thanksgiving Day, Bob leaves to quickly pick up Gayle. When things take longer than expected and the car gets snowed in on Gayle’s street, Bob and his sister-in-law must walk back to the Belchers’ apartment. The catch? Gayle’s ankle is (allegedly) injured, so Bob must drag her and her cat through the snowy street in a kiddie pool tied to his waist. Complications arise, of course, including the cat’s escape, and Bob is forced to ask Linda to take the helm on Thanksgiving. Linda is horrified (and very ill-equipped to cook a turkey), but she enlists the kids and they try their best — even if their best results in an undercooked turkey that is sewn together with needle and thread. “Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled” smartly takes Bob out of the kitchen without severing his seemingly cosmic connection to the turkey and gives the rest of the family a chance to prove why they’re not the ones typically tasked with Thanksgiving food prep.
“Dawn of the Peck” (Season 5, Episode 4)
When Linda and the kids opt to go to a festival on the wharf on Thanksgiving, wherein Linda will get to run a turkey trot with 500 live turkeys, Bob takes the news about as well as they expected: He throws a fit and vows not to cook Thanksgiving dinner. The event takes a frightening turn when the birds begin to attack the runners, leaving Linda and Teddy to take shelter and save the kids, who are stuck on a spinning “scramble pan” ride. While the rest of the town lives through a horror plot, Bob stays home getting pleasantly drunk and listening to Donna Summer. He has a dramatic moment with his turkey baster and comes to realize that he’s being ridiculous by withholding cooking (“I’m Bob, I make dinner!”) and ventures out to the grocery store to buy a turkey. There, he teams up with his family and watches as Linda valiantly gets to the top of the pecking order and saves them all. Creative and genre-fusing, “Dawn of the Peck” is unlike any other Thanksgiving episode on TV (and still manages to bring the Belchers home in time for dinner).
“Turkey in a Can” (Season 4, Episode 5)
Nothing comes close to “Turkey in a Can,” a culmination of all of the things that make both a great Thanksgiving episode and define Bob’s Burgers as one of the best animated comedies of all time. When Gayle and her cats come to stay with the Belchers ahead of their big Thanksgiving celebration with Teddy and their next-door neighbor Mort, Bob decides to try out a fancy three-day salt-rub brine on the turkey. The only problem is that each night, someone takes the turkey from the fridge and leaves it in the toilet, forcing a paranoid Bob to start the process all over again. Every plot is pitch-perfect, from Gene and Linda’s Thanksgiving songwriting attempts to Louise’s investigation, but nothing compares to Bob’s daily trip to the grocery store, where he accidentally strikes up a flirtation with the man working behind the deli. Everything comes together with an unexpected, ultimately sentimental mealtime revelation set amid all of Bob’s loved ones, their best Thanksgiving to date.