With the holiday coming right up, today I wanted to share some of my tips for hosting a successful Thanksgiving! I’ve been hosting and cooking Thanksgiving for family and friends every year for the past 10 years, so at this point I feel that I have developed a pretty solid routine. I’ve found that with a little practice and planning, it’s actually fairly easy to put together a large meal and entertain…and you truly can have a no-stress Thanksgiving. Today I wanted to share my tips and I also included my checklist to help you host your best Thanksgiving!
Shop in advance
While this includes food of course, don’t forget all the little extras like tablescape, kids table, florals, entertainment, decor, etc. Cute fall themed decor and dishes are often going on clearance and selling out in early November. This makes it a great time to buy now – but don’t wait much longer! You will also want to put together your menu early and make a shopping list of all the groceries you are going to need.
Practice and/or get help with recipes in advance
If you’ve never made a turkey or a certain dish you want to try, you probably don’t want to be attempting it for the first time when you are hosting a lot of people on a day that is already hectic with tons of other dishes to make! Reach out to friends or family who have experience & get their advice and consider doing a trial run now so that you feel confident on the big day. I also love watching all of the Thanksgiving specials on the food network to get new ideas and tips!
Prep the kitchen
Make sure you have all of the cooking utensils you need for the foods you are making well ahead of time (roasting pan, casserole dishes, meat thermometer, cooking twine, etc). You will also want to make sure your oven is clean and make room in your fridge for everything! I try not to buy a lot of extra groceries in the days leading up to Thanksgiving so I have room for the turkey and all of my assembled casseroles.
Start prepping food 2 – 3 days in advance
They key to pulling off Thanksgiving dinner is prep. You can’t possibly make the entire meal on the day itself (unless perhaps you wake up at 1 am!). So much of the food can be made a day or two in advance, and I also complete all of the tedious work like chopping ahead of time. Most casseroles can be completely assembled the day before, and then just popped in the oven on Thanksgiving. I’ve often had guests ask me how in the world I’m managing to make all this myself & am I sure I don’t need help?! The trick to making it look easy is that the 1-2 days before are usually quite hectic with tons and tons of prep.
Use shortcuts where you can
While I personally love to make the majority of our Thanksgiving dinner from scratch, there is a motto of Ina Garten’s that I love … “store bought is fine.” Don’t feel like you have to make every single thing from scratch. One area where I always buy store bought for Thanksgiving is what I like to call “cheater crusts.” Pies are actually really quick and easy when you don’t have to make crust as homemade crust can be quite time consuming. I also buy chestnuts for my stuffing pre-roasted and shelled, which is another huge time saver. Sometimes I will even buy already whipped, whipped cream from Whole Foods along with my turkey (it’s way better than the canned stuff!), and while it is easy to make, it’s just one less thing to worry about.
Involve the kids
Keeping kids busy is hugely helpful and makes the whole day a lot more fun. I like to put together fun activities to entertain them (bingo, coloring placemats, crafts), plus I also get them to help me in the kitchen! My little one makes butter which is super cute and my big one can almost completely independently make simple dishes like cranberry sauce and this year he’s making pumpkin pie too! (Here’s a post I shared last year about making Thanksgiving fun for kids.)
Timing is everything
The hardest thing about Thanksgiving is timing everything to be finished and ready to eat at the same time. This took me a few years of practice to get this completely down, and this is really key to a successful dinner. Warmers are hugely helpful by allowing you to make things early in the day, and then keep them warm until dinner. For example, I typically make the mashed potatoes a few hours early, and then pop them in my crockpot on warm while I finish with dinner!
I’ve put together a checklist of everything I do to stay on track to share with you, and I hope you find this helpful!