So you’re doing it—-you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year. And doing it without ordering the meal on Seamless. By now, you may have invited a few people over, maybe even sent out an eVite with a date and time and a cartoon of a dancing turkey. But you’re looking around your house, wondering how you’re going to fit a turkey and trimmings in your oven and seat more than 2 people around your cozy apartment. Don’t fret, I’ve got some easy to follow advice.
E and I have hosted Thanksgiving just about every year we’ve been together. From that we’ve created memories, deepened friendships and perfected recipes, all with a bit of trial and error. No matter what’s on the menu, how big your kitchen, or how large your guest list, you can do the same. Just remember these seven key tips for your most awesomest Thanksgiving ever.
- BUY ANYTHING NON PERISHABLE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE: We start our shopping on Nov. 1. We set our table two weekends in advance. Anything in a can or a bag—flour, sugar, salt, cranberries, pumpkin pie filling—or equipment, like roasting pans, aluminum foil, serving spoons, and a meat thermometer, should be bought early on in the process. Don’t forget table decor: napkins, place cards and candles.
- SET YOUR TABLE AS SOON AS MOST GUESTS HAVE RSVPED. We set our table two weeks out. It looks pretty and gets us in a festive mood, and it’s one less thing we have to do on the big day. Seems a bit early, but then you can see if you have enough silverware, napkins, and seating for your guests before they show up at your door. If you’re missing items, go shopping.
- START DEFROSTING THE TURKEY A WEEK OUT. Your turkey should be in your refrigerator defrosting no later than Monday. Turkeys need one day of thawing time per 4 pounds of weight, so for a 20 pound bird, you need 5 whole days of thawing time. (E and I get ours fresh, so we pick ours up Monday morning).If your bird’s still frozen on Thanksgiving, you can still cook it, it will just take longer. Also by Monday, all veggies, fruits, milks, and herbs should be in your fridge by now, too.
- TELL GUESTS TO BRING WINE OR DESSERT. One less thing for you to buy. And, friends know exactly what they can bring to be helpful. Tell people not to bring anything that needs to be cooked. They want to bring a pie, it needs to be ready to serve. Any friend who shows up to your house with a box of Duncan Hines cake mix and a bowl and says they’ll whip it up at your place should be disinvited. Your oven will be filled with turkey and trimmings on a tight cooking schedule, and it’s rude for anyone else to come into your kitchen and start cooking. And lazy. And thoughtless. Here’s an idea: tell someone to bring Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie to dinner, and have someone belt out high notes like the guy in this video.)
- HAVE ACTIVITIES ON HAND TO KEEP PEOPLE BUSY WHILE YOU COOK. This will also keep them out of the kitchen and getting in the way of your work. Set out a deck of cards, dominoes, backgammon or a Playstation 4. Watching your cousin play Jenga while tipsy on Pinot Noir will keep everyone entertained.
- THE MENU: I’ll make it easy for you: Turkey, one green (in salad form or veggie form), one stuffing, one potato (sweet or mashed), one cranberry sauce (if you do the can, fine. But homemade cranberry sauce takes 10 minutes. See our recipe for a ginger cranberry version). Next year, add an additional stuffing and both types of potatoes. People can’t get enough of both. And it’ll give guests something to look forward to at your next Thanksgiving.
- SERVE BUFFET STYLE. Takes up more time to personally plate each guests meal. Plus, people are picky. Let them serve themselves and get what they love most. You’ve worked hard enough. Now, sit down and enjoy.