25 Tips for Hosting a Perfect (and Stress-Free) Thanksgiving
Rule 1: Take a chill pill
So you volunteered to host Thanksgiving this year. Instead of freaking out and running around like a turkey with its head cut off, take a deep breath. You got this. From setting the table to making dishes ahead of time, we bring you 25 tips for a stress-free holiday dinner.
1. Start planning your menu, like, now.
2. Keep the menu simple. Don’t try to tackle ten new recipes in one Thanksgiving. Trust us, you’ll rip your hair out if those dishes get out of hand.
3. Don’t try to cook everything yourself. Have guests bring their favorite side dish, dessert or bottle of wine. And ask them to commit to a specific dish ahead of time so you can make sure the menu feels complete.
4. Think through everything you’ll need and make a list. It’s so easy to forget things like a meat thermometer, turkey baster and disposable turkey pan—all of which could be a real buzzkill the day of.
5. Don’t be afraid to borrow. Ask guests to bring over folding chairs, serving dishes, wine glasses or anything else you’re a little short on.
7. Start thawing the turkey in the fridge as many as five days in advance. No one wants to wait an extra few hours while a still partially frozen turkey cooks in the oven.
8. Just say no to deep-frying the turkey, no matter how much your significant other begs you to do it. Potential grease fire + burned patio = so not worth it.
9. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Hosting require a lot of energy.
10. Do a gravy practice run (and be sure to have a jar of backup gravy on hand just in case things go sideways).
11. Set your table the night before.
12. Plan the oven and stove-top timing in advance to avoid gridlock. And check out our handy guide to oven rack placement. (Delicate pies in the middle rack, people.)
13. Stuff that oven. Throw in all dishes that cook at the same temperature at the same time.
14. If you’re a guest, make sure the dish you’re bringing is ready to go so you don’t have to bug the hostess for a serving dish, utensils, extra salt or butter. It’s one way to guarantee an invite again next year.
15. Pressed for time? Use boxed stuffing mix and add a few special ingredients to make it your own. Shhh. No one will know the difference.
16. Make drinks in big, punch-bowl-sized batches so you don’t end up playing bartender all evening.
17. Come up with a few craft ideas to keep the kids occupied and out of the kitchen. Set up a small table with supplies and snacks and we promise you won’t hear a peep out of them.
18. Plan some me-time on Thanksgiving Day when you can kick your feet up. You’ll need all the steam you can get once the guests arrive.
19. Wear something comfortable—tight pants are a no-go on Turkey Day. A casual dress with sparkly flats = festive + functional.
20. Have a few appetizers and drinks ready when guests arrive and encourage mixing and mingling. This will buy you an extra hour of kitchen time.
21. Stack a tray with dessert plates, forks, spoons and coffee cups and set it aside in another room. That way, you’ll be ready for sweets as soon as the dinner dishes are cleared.
22. A few store-bought goods or restaurant dishes are A-OK. We promise the guests won’t judge if you outsource the turkey or pumpkin pie…or all of it? Do you, girl.
23. Stock up on takeout-style containers so you have plenty of plastic to send guests home with leftovers.
24. House rules: The cook does not clean. Make sure your guests (or your spouse and kids) know they’re on dish duty.
25. Treat yourself to a glass of bubbly before the guests arrive. You deserve to cheers all of your hard work!