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8 Tips for Hosting Your First Thanksgiving Dinner



It seemed like such a great idea at the time. But now that you’re facing the reality that you need to cook enough turkey (and stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and…) to feed a small army, you’re suddenly wishing that you hadn’t so eagerly offered to host Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time is definitely a little daunting—especially if you’ve never even cooked a turkey before! But the satisfaction of seeing your favorite people crowded around the table, bellies full, will make it all worth it. Here are our top tips for hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner—without losing your mind.

Set the Menu
Start off by writing out your dream Thanksgiving dinner menu. Raid your mom’s cookbook collection, scour the internet for tips, or call on your old friend Martha Stewart for some tantalizing recipes.

Now, assess the list before you—it’s time to do a little editing. For your first Thanksgiving dinner, try to include a few sides that are easy to make and that you’ve cooked before. When it comes to different dishes, sometimes less is more—remember, the more recipes you have, the more cookware is required and the more dishes there are to do!

Plan the Turkey
A lot of turkeys are going to be eaten over the weekend, so don’t be left without one. Most grocery stores accept orders for turkeys weeks before Thanksgiving. Book one for your party to avoid missing out.

If you missed the turkey boat (or aren’t a fan of turkey), opt for something less traditional but equally delicious, like a roast chicken, Cornish game hen, or some ham.

Go Shopping
Aside from the turkey, you’ll have a long list of groceries to pick up for your feast. Get all your recipes together and make a big list of everything you’ll need. Check your current kitchen inventory to see what you already have—this is a good time to realize that you’re almost out of flour or salt. Go early—the popular ingredients are going to run out fast.

Set a Schedule
Timing is the key to a successful dinner. Start with your goal dinner time, and work backwards to figure out when you need to start on your recipes. See if you can scatter your recipes so that you’re not burning the roasted veggies because you needed to be continuously whisking the gravy. Consider what foods can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

Thaw the Turkey
Avoid the most common Thanksgiving day blunder by giving your turkey plenty of time to thaw. Frozen turkey requires days to thaw, so check out your bird’s weight and thaw it out accordingly. Your turkey recipe might require up to a day to brine—don’t forget to account for the timing required to do that.

Set the Table
Getting the table gussied up is part of the fun. It’s also something that you can do ahead of time, so get it out of the way in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. You’ll have enough to do the day of.

Be Realistic
Alright, the practical stuff is taken care of—now, it’s time to prep yourself mentally. For your first Thanksgiving dinner, be realistic with your menu. Offering 15 side dishes might be a little ambitious—and if you have to buy pre-made pie dough over handmade, that’s perfectly acceptable. Be realistic with your menus and goals and remember: there isn’t much that can’t be masked with lots and lots of gravy.

Accept Help
“Let me know if there’s anything I can bring/do/help with!” Always accept help when it’s offered! Ask someone to take care of bringing dessert. Phone a guest to see if they can pick up a missing ingredient on the way over. Delegate the centerpiece to your super crafty friend. If everyone pitches in, Thanksgiving dinner suddenly becomes a lot more manageable—and less stressful for you.

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