All holidays are about the food on some level, but Thanksgiving is really about the food. Whether you’re a seasoned host, a first-timer, or somewhere in between, it never hurts to do a little advance strategizing. These are our 10 best tips for successfully hosting the biggest food holiday of the year.
Plan your menu to perfection
As the big day draws near, you’ll want to finalize your menu and start planning out a prep schedule. A Thanksgiving menu is highly personal; the specific dishes you choose will always depend on your family’s preferences and traditions. No matter what kind of vibe you’re going for, these four key tips will help you plan a delicious and well-balanced spread.
- Don’t be afraid to change it up: You don’t have to eat the same exact thing every single year (unless that’s exactly what you want). Personally, we think appetizers and sides are the perfect place to experiment a little.
- Appetizers are everything: The appetizer spread sets the tone for the rest of Thanksgiving. A healthy mix of bite-size snacks, cheeses, spreads, and dips, plus plenty of carbs and crudités, is a must. For small bites, we love our Easy Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms and Fried Oysters; for dips, try our Skillet Cheesy Clam Dip. It’s familiar enough to be a crowd-pleaser, but different enough to stand out.
- Two stuffings are better than one: If there’s a single iconic Thanksgiving dish besides the turkey, it’s stuffing. So why not make two? We recommend our classic Oyster Stuffing alongside any recipe your family already knows and loves. If you’re already an oyster stuffing family, well, the more the merrier!
- Salad is underrated: Don’t underestimate the power of a simple green salad with fresh veggies and a bright, acidic vinaigrette. It cuts through all the rich flavors of a Thanksgiving meal and provides some welcome nutrients.
Give yourself a head start
Thanksgiving prep can officially begin whenever you want it to, but you can’t exactly roast your turkey and bake your pies weeks in advance. With that said, there are certain tasks you can check off your to-do list long before you settle on a guest list or menu.
- It’s never too early to sharpen your knives: If you sharpen at home, getting this task out of the way early will make prep much easier; if you take your knives to a pro, getting them in early will beat the Thanksgiving rush.
- Turkeys need days, not hours, to thaw: The USDA recommends thawing frozen turkey in the refrigerator to ensure the bird stays at a safe temperature the entire time. For every 4-5 pounds of turkey, allow one full day in the fridge.
- You can always serve a smoked turkey: Smoked birds come fully cooked, and they’re always incredibly flavorful, moist, and juicy. They’re also super popular, so plan to order yours at least two weeks in advance.
- Pick up extra food storage for leftovers: Whether you plan to keep all the leftovers for yourself or you’d rather send them home with your guests, extra containers with leak proof lids are a lifesaver.
Stay focused in the kitchen
Cooking for a big crowd can be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re preparing a meal with as many dishes as Thanksgiving dinner. Focus is everything—but you don’t want to focus so hard you forget to take care of your own needs. Make sure you’re taking the time to fuel up before you start cooking and while you’re in the kitchen.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: If you’re spending the entire day fussing over a hot stove and an even hotter oven, it’s crucial to drink enough water.
- Don’t forget to eat: Taste tests are not a meal! Start your day with a nutritious breakfast so you have enough energy to carry you through the rest of Thanksgiving.
Armed with these tips—and a little luck—you’ll be in for a successful Thanksgiving. We hope you have a wonderful, relaxing, and of course, utterly delicious holiday!