Hosting Thanksgiving is intimidating. At least I know that the first time I did the job, I was intimidated. That was when I was just 3,000 miles from my family in California at a college. I could not go home for Thanksgiving because I flew home for Christmas just one month later. Instead, I could either persuade a friend to bring me to his family for Thanksgiving, or I could throw one for myself and anyone else who has no room. Armed with the confidence of a 21-year-old (and a medium-sized kitchen), I decided to take up the challenge. I figured that if I used what I learned from my Thanksgiving mother's reverence year after year, it was impossible to be tough .
I realized early in the process that I was completely wrong and totally over my head. I did not have to pay much attention to my mother because I had no idea what I was doing. I spent too much time with my turkey and not enough with my other dishes. I did not have kitchen utensils of which I had no idea, such as cake pans, meat thermometers, and frying pans. and I seriously outperformed trying to prepare dishes that would have been ambitious even on a normal day.
The first year was … interesting. Although perhaps it was not the tastiest, I learned a lot and I learned more and more about what it takes to have a great Thanksgiving every year that I wish I could tell my younger self. If I'm a time machine These are all the tips I would give myself before I organized my first Thanksgiving.
Do not do it alone!
If you can not find someone to help you throw, it's worth considering if you ever want to throw it. I've found that it's impossible to do it all on my own if I want to organize a large crowd, especially if you've never done it before. If you are just you, you are personally responsible for every dish that makes it to the table (or fails), and that's a lot of pressure! On the other hand, having a partner in crime is a lot of fun and less stressful because you have someone with whom you can share the duties and laugh when things are not going as planned (as is often the case). , Even if you can not find someone who is willing to split the work, it can be more than enough to put a friend in a court or two to make your job easier. Pro Tip: Have a bottle of bloody Mary mix ready while you and your co-host spend the Thanksgiving preparation time – in the end, it could be more fun than the actual dinner!
Create a (very detailed) menu, shopping list, and schedule.
Before I even think about turning on the oven, I start a Thanksgiving Google document that helps me keep track of everything I want to do and how and when I can do it. Because it's easy to share, working together is child's play – you do not even have to be with your co-host IRL to get some planning done.
When it comes to my real kitchen, I stick to the old school pen and paper. After a few short conversations between my computer and wet ingredients, I switched from digital to analog. If my to-do list gets dirty, I can just write a new one, but if my laptop gets dirty, I could spend a thousand dollars, and that would definitely not be a budget-friendly Thanksgiving . Not to mention that nothing is more satisfying than physically shaking things off a physical to-do list, especially on a day like Thanksgiving.
I do it all the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I know what dishes I have to prepare a few days ahead and exactly what I have to do that day. Instead of remembering everything myself, I can just look at my to-do list instead, so nothing is forgotten and my mind is free to listen to music. Another pro tip: Snake a few great podcasts that you can listen to during the cooking process. This will make time much faster!
It does not have to be fresh out of the oven – make your way to the front of the recipe.
If there were not Recipes my Thanksgiving table would be a sad sight. It's physically impossible for me to do anything I want in the day-19459004 because there's just not enough room in my oven . Fortunately, even prescriptions that are not billed as a make-ahead usually include make-ahead instructions and last at least a few days. For example, I do not do any of my desserts a day. Most cakes stay in your fridge for at least three or four days, which means the weekend before that is the best time to make cakes. And if you want to serve them warm, you can put them in the oven a few minutes before serving and no one will suspect they are not fresh.
Desserts are not the only thing you can prepare. even though. There are many supplements that pass the test of time. Cranberry sauce is best served cold, so you can enjoy the days in advance and not have to worry. Although you just want to add the marshmallows just before serving, you can prepare the rest of your sweet potato casserole a day or two ago. And that goes for most side dishes on casserole. Do not add anything that might make it mushy too early (like those marshmallows for example), but otherwise you should be good. And if you are not sure what to do, check the recipe. There are almost always make-ahead instructions, especially if the recipe is for T-Day.
Choose simple recipes that easily feed a crowd.
Another reason is the casserole is great because they easily feed a crowd, and you do not have to dirty a bunch of dishes to prepare them. Avoid tricky recipes that need to be prepared one at a time. For one thing, they probably will not cook as much as family food, and there will be a lot of extra work for you. Make things as easy as possible.
In this sense, you should not make dishes that you have never made – now is not the time to become experimental.
If you've never had Thanksgiving before, it's easy to create brand new recipes. But if you have ever seen or your family did the same thing every year, then stick to this recipe! Do not make simple things too complicated. Your guests expect you to make mashed potatoes and not reinvent the wheel. Experimenting is good for occasional gatherings, but not if you have ten employees and you know that they are starving for certain things. If you can not only keep your job simple, but also work, you can actually save money, because specialty ingredients are often the main reason why things get expensive.
If you are hosting for the first time, you may need to buy a few new kitchen tools.
If you prepare all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes (turkey, casserole, pie), you will need some equipment that you may not yet have. For one, a meat thermometer is essential. So you know exactly when your bird can be eaten safely and . You also need a large roasting pan for your turkey. Depending on the cooking method chosen for your bird, you may also need a turkey bast and oven bag. The first time I hosted T-Day, I had a casserole dish, but I planned to make four casseroles, so I had to buy a few more to accomplish that – i. Pie shapes. To be sure that you have everything, you should check all your recipes in triplicate before you go grocery shopping.
Luckily, most supermarkets sell disposable versions of all these tools. Normally, I would not recommend to buy disposable kitchen items (because they are environmentally friendly). However, if you do not cook that often (especially in such large quantities), it may be better to buy a cheap aluminum turkey pan that you can throw away later than an expensive frying pan that you can only use once a year.
Abbreviations are absolutely fine and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Confession: I love and use Trader Joe's boxing as the basis for my stuffing. I'm upset with fresh vegetables, home-made bottom and lots of herbs, but the Boxed Mix saves me time that I would otherwise have to make homemade croutons. Croutons (which are just dry, old bread) do not have to be fresh to be the best, especially when drowned in broth and butter, as in a filling recipe. Commercially purchased items that I think are also free: Libby's pumpkin puree from the can for pumpkin pie (most professional bakers say it's better than your own pumpkin puree!), Dinner and frozen pie crusts.
Limitations in mind.
While I'm not sure if any of my guests have any dietary restrictions, I always try to put some vegetarian and vegan options on the table (just in case). It is only obliging! I even take a dish containing meat and half a vegetarian. For example, I love bacon in my sweet potato casserole, but I know that is not the case for everyone. Therefore, I divide the casserole into a vegetarian half and a non-vegetarian half. To distinguish them, I decorate each page with marshmallows that point in a different direction – this way, nobody accidentally eats the wrong one.
Do not think about the turkey.
Despite what you've heard when you make a turkey is not difficult. And even if it were, your guests will not appear for the turkey, but for the pages. Choose a simple recipe (I like this from the Barefoot Contessa [19459004(19459055] which calls for citrus fruits and herbs and a simple salt, pepper and butter coating), make sure you take it at least four to five days to thaw ( this depends on the weight of your turkey, which you can learn more about here .) But at the end of the day, if it's not perfect, do not stress it. As long as it's safe to eat and be there, your guests will surely be busy with other, lighter fare.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
Even if you are not actively working with a friend To organize Thanksgiving, you can still ask your friends for help. Tell them to bring things! This gives your table some variety and gives your guests, who like to cook, the opportunity to improve their skills – maybe they wanted to be hosts, but they could not find anyone with whom they could do that! And always, always, always, make sure that your guests take care of the non-alcoholic and not soaked drinks. If you spend so much on all the other ingredients, you should not be interested in buying drinks anymore.
Basically, keep things simple, involve your friends, and give yourself enough time for all the unexpected mistakes that inevitably happen. If you do, you have it completely in your pocket.