Is this your first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner? It can be thrilling, exciting, overwhelming and down right scary all at the same time. We’ve been there before so we are rounding up the common questions and concerns as well as our favorite tips and tricks for a stress-free Thanksgiving Day.
Help! I need a full Thanksgiving dinner menu
Preparing a Thanksgiving meal is a big undertaking so don’t overthink it. Stick to a classic Thanksgiving menu: roasted turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.
How many pounds of turkey per person?
The turkey is the main event of the Thanksgiving meal so you want to be sure you have enough to properly please your guests. Plan for roughly1.25 lbs per person. Let’s break that down: 6 people = 8lbs; 8 people = 10 lbs; 10 people = 13 lbs; 12 people = 15 lbs; 15 people = 20 lbs; 20 people = 25 lbs.
What is a brine? Why do you brine the turkey?
In the very simplest terms, brining a turkey is soaking it in salt water and seasoning for 12-24 hours. Why? Because it adds moisture to what can be a dry meat when finished cooking. And no one wants a dry turkey breast on their Thanksgiving plate. If you are new to brining, we have a couple options for you:
- What the NY Times claims to be the BEST turkey brine and recipe after testing it against 28 other recipes. Find it here
- Or you can make it especially easy on yourself with a turkey brine kit like this one.
Stuffing inside or outside of the bird?
We all have our personal preferences here, but for the purpose of this blog post we are going to turn to food safety experts. The Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cooking stuffing separately from the turkey. The concern is the stuffing inside of the turkey won’t reach a high enough temperature to be eaten safely. Save yourself the stress and cook the stuffing separately.
Buy pre-made appetizers
No matter how well your prep and plan the perfect Thanksgiving day, the last hour before dinner will be stressful. Guests are arriving, timers are ringing in the kitchen, everyone wants to chat but all you want to do is make sure nothing is catching fire in the oven. Distract. Distract your guests with drinks and pre-made appetizers from your local grocery or speciality store. Set up the food and drinks outside of the kitchen so you have the room you need to take a deep breath and power on with your plan.
What food can I prepare ahead of time?
Mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, candied yams, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole all work well when prepared ahead of time and kept warm in a slow cooker. In fact, many of our favorite mashed potato recipes are made in a slow cooker — here, here and here.
How long do Thanksgiving leftovers last in the fridge?
Feel free to enjoy the fruits of your Thanksgiving labor for 3-4 days after the big day. You can stretch the delicious meal even longer by freezing your leftovers. They will last in the freezer for up to 6 months.
With all of this said, what is our very best advice for a perfect Thanksgiving Day? Don’t expect perfection. It won’t be perfect. Take time to prepare so you are giving yourself the best chance for success but don’t stress if something goes wrong. If something goes terribly wrong, throw it in the trash and move on. What matters most is that you are surrounded by family and friends. Have a glass of wine and count your blessings.