Hosting Your First Thanksgiving? 9 Tips and Tricks You Need to Know
Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a big deal — especially in 2020. With a year like this one, everyone needs a little good cheer in their lives, not to mention some good food to go with it.
And while the CDC does advise against large gatherings — particularly those indoors — small dinners, ideally outside, are still on the table.
Planning to host a few people for Thanksgiving? These tips and tricks can make your get together a success
1. Cut & prep a day or two early.
You’re going to have enough to do on the big day, so make sure to do as much prep work as you can ahead of time.
In the days leading up to the event, you can:
- Cut veggies and store them in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Make your pies, cookies, or other desserts.
- Defrost your turkey.
- Prepare any sides that can be refrigerated and reheated (cranberry sauce, dressing, mashed potatoes, etc.)
You should also be sure to shop for groceries ahead of time, too. Stores tend to get very crowded as you get closer to Thanksgiving, and they may even run out of important ingredients if you cut it too close.
2. Use your dishwasher to clean your veggies.
Don’t want to hand-wash every potato, ear of corn, and stalk of asparagus? Stick them in your dishwasher instead. Just lay them out on the top rack, and put it on a quick rinse cycle. (Make sure that heat dry is turned off, too. You don’t want them cooking in there!)
3. Microwave your garlic.
If you’re adding garlic to anything, then this hack’s for you. Just put your cloves on a microwave-safe plate, and zap them for a quick 15 seconds. This steams the skin and makes them super easy to peel. Just be careful when they first come out; the cloves can get hot very quickly.
4. Think about the kids.
Are the grandkids, nieces, or nephews coming over? While having a kids table set aside is a great idea, you’ll also want to have an activity or two planned to keep them entertained. One option is to use butcher paper as a tablecloth, and then put a bowl of crayons down as your centerpiece. Then the kiddos can draw, write messages, or even play hangman while the adults catch up.
5. Keep things warm creatively.
Don’t let your stove get overcrowded with pots of potatoes, gravy, and other items that need to be kept warm. Instead, use crockpots for items like corn, mashed potatoes, and dressing, and put gravies and sauces in an insulated thermos to stay warm. This will clear off your stove and make for easier serving, too.
You can also wrap dishes in foil and place them in a cooler to keep warm. This works with both standard coolers and the foam, disposable ones you’ll find at most grocery stores.
6. Invest in some rectangle-shaped pans.
Circle-shaped pans make it impossible to use all your oven space. Instead, use rectangle- and square-shaped options, and let geometry work in your favor.
A nice bonus? These bowls are also easier to arrange on the counter and table, too, making for a much easier serving situation.
7. Divide and conquer.
You don’t have to do it all alone. Ask your spouse to pitch in on the prep work, and get your kiddos involved, too. They can set the table, mash the potatoes, and take on other smaller tasks to lighten your load.
You might also consider asking guests to participate as well. Maybe your mom can come over a few hours early to help you get things ready? The more help you can get on the day of, the better it will be for everyone.
8. Stick to the basics.
Now isn’t the time to be trying a fancy new recipe you’ve never made (let alone eaten). Not only will it make your day harder, but it increases your chances of error, too. You could find yourself with a burned turkey or just an all-in-all bad dish.
On Thanksgiving, it’s best to stick to the old crowd-pleasers you’re used to cooking. Save the adventuresome recipes for another time.
9. Set the table the night before.
If you’re planning a nice tablescape, then set aside some time the night before to do it. Leaving this until the day of will only add stress and make it harder to get the look you’re going for.
Worried about the kiddos messing it up before guests arrive? Plan a picnic breakfast in the backyard for the next day, and keep them clear of that dressed-up table.