So you plan to host Thanksgiving this year? For a lot of folks, the thought of hosting can be quite overwhelming! I've found that the key to keeping it low-stress (regardless of the size of the gathering or how many dishes you're preparing) is having a plan! Tackling the things that can be done ahead of time prior to Thanksgiving day will go a long way towards lightening the load!
Decide what kind of gathering you'll host.
Asking yourself these questions in advance will help you adequately plan for the day. It will determine if you need to design a tablescape, need more plates, or more seating. It will also determine how many dishes you need to prepare.
- Size: Small and intimate or large and feisty?
- How Formal: Will you being eating on paper plates or special China?
- Who's Cooking: Is it a pot-luck or are you preparing the whole meal?
Decide on your menu 1 to 2 weeks out.
Specifically, what you plan to make. Print off your recipes and start your grocery list. Make sure you have all the kitchen tools you'll need: enough casserole dishes, roasting pan, a meat thermometer, and plenty of measuring spoons and cups! Not sure what should go on your menu? My typical lineup includes (but not limited to 😂): Turkey, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Cornbread Dressing, 4 or 5 casseroles (Sweet Potato, Squash, Broccoli, Green Bean and Macaroni and Cheese), Rolls, and 2 or 3 desserts (Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and Apple Crisp are some favs).
Buy your turkey a week in advance.Most turkeys are sold FROZEN so make sure you give yourself 5 - 7 days to let your turkey defrost in your refrigerator.
Create a food prep schedule.No matter how many dishes you're preparing, it can be helpful to make a schedule for what you're cooking and when. Here's my tried and true formula for the week of Thanksgiving:
Monday: Grocery shop (for everything but the turkey - since you already got that! 😉) and make the cornbread for the dressing
Tuesday: Make the desserts, chop the onions or other vegetables
Wednesday: Assemble the casseroles (don't bake them though), and peel and cut the potatoes (keep them in a pot of water in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them)
Thursday: Roast the turkey, make the gravy, bake your casseroles, cook and mash your potatoes, and heat your rolls
Friday: Kick your feet up and eat leftovers all day!
Plan out your oven usage.If you only have one oven, it is super important to plan out when you will bake each of your dishes. Making your desserts ahead of time is one way to free up space, but those sides and turkey can take quite a while to cook! I always cook my turkey first, starting it early in the morning since most turkeys take at least 4 hours to roast. Next up I bake my casseroles! Regardless of time and temperature suggestions, I've found that baking all of my casseroles together at 350 for around an hour will do the trick! Keep the oven light on and stay close by making sure they are baking evenly. You can also use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached 165 to be sure they are done. When my casseroles are fully baked, I PLACE THEM IN A COOLER. That's right - the same cooler that keeps your drinks cold will keep your casseroles warm! Using casserole dishes with lids will help you stack them up. Keep the cooler closed until you're ready to serve! Lastly (and right before it's time to eat), I heat my rolls.
Here's a sample baking schedule:
8:00 am - Start roasting your turkey
12:00 pm - Turkey done (make sure the internal temp is 165) - cover with aluminum foil to keep warm
12:15 pm - Start baking your casseroles
1:15 pm - Casseroles done - place in cooler to keep warm
1:45 pm - Heat up rolls
2:00 pm - Time to eat!
Looking for a few new recipes for your Thanksgiving table? Here are a few from our team!
No matter how big or small your Thanksgiving meal, adding a measure of intentionality and planning can help you host with ease!
We wish you all a stress-free Thanksgiving!