You’re Going to Host the Best Thanksgiving Ever. Here’s Your Gameplan.

tutorial for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

You’re hosting Thanksgiving. Maybe for the first time. You’re feeling a little overwhelmed (or a lot overwhelmed). It’s a big meal, and a holiday. And you don’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday.

The good news is: You’re not going to ruin anyone’s holiday. They are so glad you are hosting and they can’t wait to see you. The other good news: You’ve got plenty of time to prepare. The bad news? Turns out there is no bad news! It’s going to be great.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) Getting the turkey done right will definitely help this be the best Thanksgiving ever. Here is a clear, helpful, informative guide on roasting the most delicious turkey you’ve ever eaten. And here are suggestions on how to garnish the turkey for serving.

Warm Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Pecans and Parmesan | Design Mom

2) Decide on a your side dishes. Tradition says you’ll need stuffing — here’s a crowd-pleasing, adaptable recipe. Typically, there’s also a green vegetable — try Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Parmesan, and a squash or sweet-potato dish as week, like this.

how-to-make-a-thanksgiving-centerpiece 10

3) Make plans for the easiest, prettiest Thanksgiving centerpiece. Anyone can make this — no florist skills needed. And when Thanksgiving is over, you can eat the produce and compost the greens.

4) You get huge points for upping your pie crust game. Also, a variety of pies is recommended — pumpkin, pecan, berry, something chocolate, maybe a banana cream. And throw in some cheesecake too.


5) Do a quick kitchen inventory now while you have plenty of time to place online orders. Do you need a tablecloth? Napkins? Do you have enough plates and silverware? What will you serve drinks in? Are there any spares for last-minute guests? Think about serving dishes and trays too, and make sure there enough seats at the table. If you’re feeling creative, you can make a tablecloth (this one was stamped with bubblewrap), or even sew gorgeous linen napkins.


And look at that. The menu is decided. You’ve got solid sources on turkey roasting and pie-crust making. You’ve got an easy way to prettify the table. And you just placed an order for some extra plates. Now you get to relax for a few weeks. Go you!

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear: What’s your typical menu for the big day? Do you like to try new recipes each year? Or do you stick with old faithfuls? (And speaking of old faithfuls, if you have a link to a go-to recipe, please share!) Also, what time to you like to serve the Thanksgiving meal? Mid-day? Evening? Late afternoon?

14 thoughts on “You’re Going to Host the Best Thanksgiving Ever. Here’s Your Gameplan.”

  1. Any tips for navigating two families in the same city? We have been eating two Thanksgiving meals for 6 years now and it never gets less grueling! Especially when we are asked to bring a dish to both.

    My ideal Thanksgiving meal takes place at about noon, so there is plenty of time for games, naps, maybe a movie and of course leftovers.

    1. The closest thing we’ve come to what you’re describing was our time in Colorado. Our cousins would host us and a huge group of 25 or 30 people. Tons of food, tons of great conversation, all done fairly casually. It was great!

      But I also love a good sit-down dinner. Something that feels very traditional, and allows me to set a pretty table. : ) So when we lived there, one year, we had a traditional meal at our house around noon, and then went to the cousins for second Thanksgiving. But on the other Thanksgiving, I believe we just did our own at home (with a few friends), and then hung out at the cousins house that evening.

  2. Everything looks and sounds so delicious! This is the first year I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving with my family (and I’m in a different country, so I also have to work that day), and I’m feeling especially nostalgic.

    We always celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom’s parents, her sister and family, and our family. Our menu is the same each year: turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce (from the can), my grandpa’s fresh delicious dinner and cinnamon rolls, banana bread, my grandpa’s homemade vanilla ice cream and pie. We usually have at least 3 pies, usually pumpkin, apple, and berry (sometimes berry + rhubarb).

    We usually eat a bit later than normal, around 4 PM, because my family’s church hosts a community Thanksgiving dinner and we often help out with that, then eat our own meal later, but it depends.

    I’m certainly going to miss celebrating this holiday this year!

    1. Oh! I’ll be thinking of you. I hope you get a little taste of something American that day, at the very least.

      And we eat later than normal too. 3:00ish seems to be about usual.

  3. I always make Southern Living’s sweet potato casserole. They have several but I make the one that alters mini marshmallows and cornflakes on top. I also add about a cup of OJ. It changes the flavor and it’s amazing. It also doubles as a dessert!

  4. I have hosted many Thanksgiving dinners so here goes some suggestions. A turkey is just a very big chicken so don’t freak out too much. Buy a meat thermometer to check for internal temperature. Don’t forget to take it out of the case first to use it:) Cooking stuffing in a separate pan means the turkey will cook faster. Limit sides. Have people bring food, in my case it’s always pies. I have to cook gluten free and have found great stuffing mixes at Trader Joe’s and Aldi. I saute onions and celery in butter and then follow directions on the package throwing in some dried cranberries too. I spray muffin tins and portion my stuffing into them and cook it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. I also thicken my gravy with cornstarch for less lumps and to keep it gluten free. Have fun!

    1. So many good tips! I fully agree on the keeping the stuffing separate — I’ve never tried muffin tins for it, but I’m intrigued! And I especially love this advice: “A turkey is just a very big chicken so don’t freak out too much. “

      1. Susan, I also Cook gluten free and I have stuffed my turkey with a quinoafilling. (sauteé onion, garlic, herbs, diced Apricots or cranberries and a dash of rum or wine and then mix with boiled quinoa.) And under the skin I put a garlic, parsely and lemonzest butter. Supertasty! But I admit I live in Sweden and maybe this sounds a bit crazy to you.

  5. I like the less is more approach, but it is hard when everyone has their “must-haves”. I try to reduce our must-haves and tell guests to bring the thing that they must-have. But, the list is still long. Our baseline turkey dinner is turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, rolls (bought or homemade) canned cranberry sauce, a vegetable, and like a zillion homemade pies. Obviously my “must-have” is pie, and lots of it!

    1. I think my must-have is pie too! And when I host, I do the same thing. I make a baseline menu, and then ask people to bring anything that it would bum them out to miss on Thanksgiving.

  6. Dressing secret: Bacon grease. I use Mrs. Cubbison’s packaged dressing, following the recipe on the box, plus water chestnuts for crunch. I saute the celery and onions in bacon grease, then add the grease and veggies to the mix. You don’t want the bacon flavor to dominate or for anyone to even think “bacon,” but mixed in with all the other flavors, dressing lovers go, “Mmm. That’s good, isn’t it?”

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