In sitcoms and movies, hosting Thanksgiving is always disaster. Luckily, the real world does not follow sitcom rules. With a few helpful tips, your Thanksgiving meal can be both delicious and stress-free.
- Plan your menu in advance. This is not a day to wing it. Plan out your menu, including the main dish, sides, desserts and beverages. Make a list of the ingredients needed for each menu item. Grocery stores may run out of popular items, so don’t wait until the last minute to go shopping. While planning your menu, talk to your guests about any dietary restrictions they may have. Read through each recipe ahead of time to avoid any surprises.
- Thaw the turkey. If you buy a frozen turkey, remember that you need to thaw it before you put the bird in the oven. The USDA recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator as the safest method. This takes one day for every four to five pounds, and you can safely keep a thawed, uncooked turkey in the refrigerator for two extra days. This means you should start thawing a 16-pound turkey four to six days before Thanksgiving.
- Invest in a meat thermometer. This is a good idea even if your turkey comes with one of those cheap pop-up timers. You don’t want to undercook your turkey, which can expose your guests to food poisoning, or to overcook it, which can make the meal dry and unpleasant. According to the USDA, the minimum internal temperature needs to reach 165°F. Also make sure that stuffing cooked in the bird reaches a minimum of 165°F.
- Ask people to bring specific items. Preparing the entire feast on your own is quite an undertaking, and most people don’t mind bringing an item. Just make sure you talk to your guests ahead of time so you don’t end up with six different types of cranberry sauce. Good items for guests to bring include beverages, pies and pre-meal snacks. Check whether guests will need to heat any items before serving, as space in your oven may be limited.
- Buy some dishes already cooked. It’s not cheating. Okay, maybe it is cheating, but we won’t tell. Consider buying an item or two – bread, pies or cranberry sauce, for example – from the store, leaving you more time to focus on everything else.
- Prepare some items ahead of time. Certain items, including pies and sweet potato casseroles, are fine when made a day early. You can also prepare parts of recipes, such as sauces, early.
- Create a schedule for your oven. Otherwise, you might end up with more items than you can fit in your oven, or with items that need different temperatures. If your oven space is limited, consider using other cooking tools, such as crockpots, when possible.
- Provide snacks. You don’t want your guests to get cranky if you’re slightly delayed. Offer light snacks to appease them.
- Plan entertainment. While you can hope that the conversation will be entertainment enough, you probably shouldn’t count on this. In addition to watching football or the parade on television, consider organizing a variety of games for your guests.
- Beware of fryers. Every year, deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
With these tips in mind, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!