Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time can be so intimidating, but have no fear. I’ve got some great advice to help you navigate your way to Turkey Day success.
1. Think (and do) ahead. Decrease the stress of the day by doing as much in advance as possible. Mashed potatoes, soups, salad dressings, and dips are great to make up to three days in advance. Pies can be made in advance and frozen too, then thawed on the counter about 24 hours in advance.
2. Create a kitchen schedule. When it comes to the big day, do yourself a favor by writing down everything that needs to be prepared, cooked, baked, and re-heated. For the oven, try to arrange your schedule in order of increased oven temperatures. If you need to double-up and cook two things at once, keep in mind that it could affect cooking time. Allow extra time and keep close tabs on your dishes.
3. Do your turkey homework. A delicious, juicy turkey is actually very simple, as long as you prepare it right. If you use a frozen turkey, give yourself plenty of time to thaw it (approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds) before brining and cooking. I highly recommend this great brine recipe and tips for a perfect turkey.
4. Ready, set the table. Don’t let the table be an afterthought. Have fun setting the stage for your special meal and set the table as early as possible. You can find endless inspiration for decorations and designs on Pinterest. Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune to set it, though. For example, if you don’t have enough tableware for all of your guests, try integrating a second (or third) set to fill in the gaps. You can create a cohesive look by placing things in a pattern, then using fabrics, flowers, or accessories to tie it all together.
5. Let others contribute. If your guests offer to bring something, let them. It will lighten your load and it will help them feel involved in the meal.
6. Plan on appetizers. Prepare simple appetizers that can be set out as soon as your guests begin arriving. Munching on something will keep guests occupied and buy you any extra time you may need in the kitchen.
7. Dress the part. Don’t forget to schedule time to get yourself dressed and ready before guests arrive. Decide on a dress code in advance and inform your guests. Nobody likes feeling over- or under-dressed, so don’t assume they will know what to wear. Invest in a nice apron that you can keep on as you cook and greet guests.
8. Prepare something to say. More than just preparing food and providing a place to eat, guests look to the host or hostess to lead when it comes to things like saying grace or making a short speech on gratitude. Since your mind will likely be on all the little details like oven timers and refilling glasses, prepare your thoughts in advance and write them down.
9. Provide doggie bags. One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is leftovers, so purchase some small, disposable containers and bags for guests to load up before they leave. Keep a marker nearby to write names on them.
10. Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry if everything doesn’t go exactly right. It rarely does, even for the most seasoned hostess. Try to relax and enjoy the moment. If you need an extra set of hands, ask for them. If you burned the rolls, toss them out and forget about it. Your guests will feel and feed off your energy, so focus on being present and enjoying the company of your loved ones.