Nothing tests your culinary and kitchen management skills like hosting Thanksgiving dinner at home. For Americans, it is arguably the most important meal of the year and certainly has the potential to be the most memorable. Your family and guests are gathering to give thanks and fill their bellies with holiday cheer and you aim to deliver. Ease your game day burden with this 5 step survival guide for your home cooked Thanksgiving.
Step 1: Make a Plan
Make some lists, check them twice, and think it through to the last bite. Plan to shop at least several days in advance so that you have time to pick up the invariably forgotten ingredient. Figure out what needs to be made on the big day and what can be made ahead. (More on that later!) Allow time for defrosting if needed, brining if desired, and plenty of time to rest and carve your bird. Don’t be afraid to stray from classic sides or add a new twist to a time honored favorite.
Step 2: Take Stock
Inventory your cookware and serving pieces. With starters, mains, sides, breads, and desserts on a typical menu you want to be sure you have enough on hand to handle it all. Don’t forget glassware for the bounty of wine. Clear some space in the fridge and clean out the coolers for chilled drinks.
Step 3: Delegate
If guests have offered, now is the time to delegate. If no one has offered, now would be a great time to ask! Most holiday guests are thrilled to contribute and off loading a few things will allow you to focus on those dishes that you really want to shine. Remind your partner that the cook will not be doing the clean up.
Step 4: Make Ahead
The days leading up to Thanksgiving could be your busiest but the effort will pay off as you will be able to focus on the main attraction and enjoy your guests more on Thanksgiving Day. Pie crusts and bread dough keep beautifully in the fridge though bear in mind it is best to limit refrigeration to 48 hours. Mashed potatoes, yams, butternut squash and other starchy delights can either be entirely made ahead and refrigerated or boiled and made ready to mash, bake, etc. Cranberry sauce is a definite on the make ahead list.
Step 5: Be Present and Enjoy the Day
Above all else, you should aim to enjoy the process, your guests, and the day. Set a relaxing and festive mood to keep your spirits high. Turn on the Thanksgiving Day parade, stream music, get pumped about that upcoming football game... whatever mood says Thanksgiving to you, tune in and get your party started. Put on your favorite apron and pour yourself a glass of wine. Space out your kitchen time so that you get frequent breaks from cooking to touch base with your guests. Follow your plan but be flexible. You deserve some grace today and everyday.
Planning and delivering the biggest meal of the year can be daunting to say the least, but there is no doubt you will survive to cook another meal! As you prepare your home cooked Thanksgiving this year, know that it will all come together in the end. You have that, and so much more, to be grateful for.
If you could use even more tips for a successful holiday feast, download The Chopping Block's free Thanksgiving Survival Guide. It's full of recipes your family will love and even comes with a shopping list to make your planning easy.