It’s that time of year again where we get together with our closest friends and family to pig out on a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing (among other family favorites). It’s an enjoyable gathering that brings people together, but if you are the host, it can be quite stressful. Especially if you are a first-time host.
Whether you just moved into a new place and invited everyone over so they could see it or are ready to give the whole hosting thing a try, it’s important to plan ahead. After all, you don’t want missing ingredients or time restrictions to hinder your ability to enjoy the day with everyone else.
To help make sure Thanksgiving goes off without a hitch, let’s keep the following tips in mind as you get ready for the big day.
A meal like this is not something you can throw together at the last minute. At a couple weeks out, preparations should be started.
This begins with the turkey. According to MarthaStewart.com, you probably want to order your bird about two weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. Because turkeys are being purchased all over the country for this one day, you want to make sure your grocer or farmer will have one available.
Before placing your order, however, the Food Network suggests pulling together a count of your party so you know what to get. Generally, says the Food Network, you will want to order 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey for each person coming, plus a few extra pounds to account for bones. You also may want to start planning the menu and purchasing items that won’t spoil by the big day, recommends the Food Network’s Thanksgiving Planning Guide.
Food and home preparations can begin a few days before Thanksgiving and include cleaning, grocery shopping and turkey thawing, says MarthaStewart.com. You should thaw the bird in the fridge one day for every four pounds of turkey meat to prevent food poisoning or illness, says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As you prepare your home for guests, clean up the kitchen (including creating room in your refrigerator) and pull out the cookware, dishes and table settings you will need the day of, adds MarthaStewart.com.
To really get ahead of the game, Real Simple suggests preparing dishes the Sunday before so all you have to do for some is heat them up. That allows you to focus on the turkey on the actual holiday, minimizing some of the little cooking details. Then, on the day before Thanksgiving, TheKitchn.com says to set your table. According to MarthaStewart.com, this is also a good time to make pies, but wrap them well in plastic to help keep them fresh.
If you have properly planned your dinner party in the days and weeks before, Thanksgiving Day might be less hectic. To set yourself up for an enjoyable and not overly stressful day, make sure you get up early and set a schedule for cooking and preparations as they relate to the time you are expecting guests, says Real Simple. Plan to be ready for the guests at least an hour before they arrive, adds the magazine, so if you have any delays, you won’t fall too far behind. If everything does not happen perfectly on schedule, MarthaStewart.com says it helps to put out some simple snacks when guests arrive to help curb their hunger.
When it’s time to cook the turkey, put it in the oven about four hours before dinner (if you’re making an 8- to 12-pound bird), says MarthaStewart.com. Please keep in mind that larger turkeys will require a longer cook time. For a safe turkey, make sure the bird is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees at the thickest part of the breast, says the USDA. Then, pull it out of the oven about an hour before dinner, says MarthaStewart.com, and cover with foil. A few minutes before dinner is served, ask someone to carve the turkey for you so you can get all of the sides in order, suggests TheKitchn.com.
Hosting your first Thanksgiving should be more exciting than stressful. While cooking for a large group doesn’t always go perfectly, you can still enjoy your day. Remember these tips for hosting Thanksgiving as the day approaches, and focus on what the holiday is really about: recognizing what you are grateful for and sharing it with your loved ones.
Looking for a quick recap? Check out our handy timeline below for a guide on preparing your first Thanksgiving dinner.