Thanksgiving is a time for joy and togetherness. But preparing your first Thanksgiving meal may bring just as much stress as happiness. Step one: Take a deep breath. Preparing a successful holiday meal is within your reach.
Keep reading for our tips on making the big day run smoothly.
Make a list and check it twice
Staying organized is half the Thanksgiving battle. Make a list of all the food you’re making, print out recipes (easier day-of than finding URLs and switching back and forth between browser tabs), and make a shopping list. Head off the holiday crowd by getting your shopping done as early as possible, and start prep ahead of time on any components or recipes you can. Some ideas: Toast breadcrumbs, make dessert, prepare a casserole. The night before, put out your ingredients, serving dishes, pans and everything else you need to get cooking.
Get ahead of the game
Get any non-food tasks out of the way before you dive into cooking. Clean the house, gather all the dishes and linens and set the table ahead of time. This is also a great time to enlist help from friends who don’t cook. Ask one of your guests to come over early in the week to help you clean up. Task a friend with making a playlist, buying drinks and ice or setting the table.
Go with what you know
Trying new recipes can be risky — adding uncertainty into an already daunting list of kitchen duties. Skip the fancy new turkey technique or finnicky pie dough, and stick with tried and true recipes. What if you don’t have any? Ask friends and family for their favorites, or find highly-rated recipes online and scan the comments. Other home cooks often leave helpful tips or adjustments that you won’t have to learn on a test run.
Don’t do it all
The mark of a successful Thanksgiving meal isn’t whether every single item was homemade. If there’s something you don’t like cooking, don’t have a good recipe for or just don’t care much about, outsource it! Buy a pie from your favorite bakery (most require pre-ordering), order sauces or dressings from an upscale grocery store and grab your favorite frozen dinner rolls.
Simplify your menu
Skip the appetizers. Turkey, potatoes and all the fixings are filling enough. Put out something simple — think nuts or crackers and dip — for your guests to munch on if you must.
Take help where you can get it
Finding tasks for those who want to help can sometimes be more stressful than doing it all yourself. Have a few easy chores ready for eager party-goers to tackle: serving drinks, chopping crudité to set out before the meal, opening wine bottles or stowing away coats and bags. The last thing you want to do is rush around when the turkey’s ready to come out!