The most wonder-full feast of the year is almost here! When it comes to hosting, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but--gobble, gobble! I was cooking the bulk of my family’s annual feast by the time I was in high school, and I have since hosted Thanksgiving almost every year of my adult life. In different years, I’ve fed as few as two people and I’ve fed over fifteen. I’ve toyed around with limited menus and ridiculously extensive ones. I’ve tried no less than six dressing recipes and gotten really comfortable with how to spatchcock a turkey. I always make my cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and cream of mushroom soup from scratch, even though my mother always exasperatedly declares that no one makes cream of mushroom soup from scratch. What can I say? It’s the food Olympics!
Through the years, I’ve realized that the most important part of the holiday is spending quality time with your family and guests. A common mistake made by novice and pro hosts alike (myself included) is fussing around in the kitchen too much on Thanksgiving and not visiting with folks enough. Below are five things I’ve learned to do in order to maximize my time and make the most delicious feast possible. Whether it’s your first or fortieth time hosting Thanksgiving, I hope that you will find something on this list to make pulling it off just a little easier. Now, let’s talk turkey!
Rachel’s Top 5 Turkey Day Tips
- Plan your menu-There’s a reason football is associated with Thanksgiving, and it’s because you need a game plan! Check out some of our prepared offerings like cranberry compote, savory corn pudding, or glazed sweet potatoes to make this holiday even easier.
Novice Tip: Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Get a head count and don’t be shy about asking people to bring stuff (most people will offer anyway, so graciously accept the help!). Figure out if you want to cook a turkey, buy a precooked one, or serve an alternative like ham or rack of lamb (if you have a flair for the dramatic). Make larger portions of fewer dishes rather than trying to make every dish ever. Think quality over quantity.
Pro Tip: Have fun planning your menu! Family recipes are great, but you’re a pro so try something new. Switch up your stuffing recipe or try a new technique for brining your turkey. Go even bigger and pick a food theme, for example one year my menu focused on foods that originated in the Americas.
- Go shopping-Now that you know what you’re making, figure out where you’re going to get it. And remember, you can purchase pastured turkeys from our friends at The Spotted Trotter or directly from White Oak Pastures!
Pro Tip: Organize your list by grocery department (produce, bread, dairy, etc.) so that you’re not wandering around in there.
- Have a plan for your dishes-There’s nothing worse than being elbows deep in casserole while rummaging through your cabinet for a Pyrex dish.
Novice Tip: Write each of the recipes you’re making on a little slip of paper, and put them in the corresponding dishes you plan to use. This is a great way to make sure you have plenty of pans!
Pro Tip: You’ve probably got oodles of serving dishes by this point, so focus on selecting the ones you want to use together. Haul out that heirloom gravy boat or any other special pieces to make your table feel more special.
- Don’t wait until the last minute-There are a lot of things you can do ahead of time to get ready for the big day! Don’t forget to have a plan for thawing or brining your turkey if necessary.
Novice Tip: Mise en place makes cooking a breeze! Set up your recipes like our meal kits. Do all your chopping on Tuesday, and measure ingredients out ahead of time. Cook as much as you can on Wednesday, so you’re just basting the bird and warming stuff up on Thursday.
Pro Tip: Maybe you’ve known about this for a while, but last year was the first time that I cooked a couple side dishes in slow cookers. It reduced the number of pans on the stove or in the oven, and I made a fantastic sweet potato gratin. “Set it and forget it” is a very real thing!
- Don’t burn the rolls-Serving Thanksgiving dinner can be a bit like herding cats, but keep your eye on the ball!
Novice Tip: Check on the rolls.
Pro Tip: Seriously, set a timer.