Will this be your first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Is this your maiden Turkey Day voyage in your new home? Or are you just on the prowl for Thanksgiving tips to help the day stay on course? Never fear. We’ve got you covered.
If your past Thanksgiving dinner experience begins and ends with making a green bean casserole and showing up relatively on time—and now it’s your turn to host the whole kit and caboodle—there are a few things you should know before the 24th rolls around.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is Thanksgiving dinner.
- No matter how small or simple you try to make it, Thanksgiving dinner is a sizable undertaking. But there are ways to ensure your meal goes smoothly.
- Order your turkey (now!) or purchase it one to two days in advance for fresh, at least three days early for frozen.
- Know how long it takes to thaw a turkey, and plan accordingly. (It’s longer than you think!)
- Plan your menu in advance. Want to cook a favorite family dish? Be sure you get the recipe before the big day, and do all the grocery shopping you can several days before.
- Lots of dishes can be made well in advance. Doing so will make Turkey Day less stressful, and oven space more plentiful the day of.
- Let people bring something. It shortens your to-do list, helps you stay on budget, and allows others to share their own Thanksgiving traditions.
- Plan out seating arrangements (if desired) and make sure you have enough seating, plates, utensils, glasses, etc. (Baking dishes, too!)
- Set the table(s) before Turkey Day as much as possible.
- Start clearing out your fridge (eat those leftovers!) so you’ll have room for your upcoming feast.
- Keep decorating simple.
Let’s Talk Turkey
Inevitably, cooking a moist, tender, perfectly done turkey is near the top of the priority list when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu. There’s a lot that can go awry, so here are some tips to help ensure a gobble-worthy turkey:
- Plan for one pound of turkey per guest. (Adjust for smaller appetites and big eaters.)
- There are three methods for safely thawing a frozen turkey. Plan ahead!
- Be sure to remove the neck and giblets before cooking the turkey.
- For food safety reasons, do not stuff your turkey until you’re ready to cook it.
- Cook the turkey breast side up.
- Use a meat thermometer. It’s the only way to ensure your turkey is cooked well. 165˚ is the magic number – in the thickest part of the breast, inner part of thigh and middle of the stuffing inside the turkey.
- Experts recommend basting every 30-45 minutes.
- Tent your turkey with aluminum foil when it’s about 2/3 done cooking to keep it moist.
- Let your turkey stand for 15-20 minutes before carving. Be sure to include this time when you’re calculating when to put your turkey in the oven.
Above all else, keep expectations in check.
Between the seemingly perfect Thanksgiving dinner your mom/aunt/grandma has pulled off every year and the (mostly internal) expectation of creating Norman Rockwell type memories, hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful. Planning ahead and maintaining a good sense of humor are your best friends. And know that previous Thanksgiving dinners weren’t always perfect—they weren’t! Be sure to ask your mom/aunt/grandma about her first Thanksgiving dinner. We bet there’s a story there!
For more Thanksgiving tips, check out these links below.
T-day on a budget
Dos and Dont's
First Thanksgiving tips