At first glance, hosting Thanksgiving can seem overwhelming. From roasting the bird (here’s our all-encompassing turkey guide) to mashing the perfect potatoes to pulling out all of our Test Kitchen’s must-know cooking tips—there’s so much to do in so little time. That’s why we put together this handy guide that covers everything to ensure your holiday goes off without a hitch.
Do you have a tip that changed the way you cook Thanksgiving dinner? Share it with us below.
How to Plan the Perfect Thanksgiving
The perfect meal starts with a plan. You’ll want to start prepping weeks (if not a month or two) before the big day. Come up with a game plan for inviting guests, hitting up the grocery store and securing a few extra chairs for your table. Before you start day-dreaming about how much stuffing you’re going eat this year, check these must-dos off your list:
- Finalize the guest list
- Plan the menu
- Ensure you have enough plates, chairs, flatware, etc.
- Go grocery shopping (this is the worst day to go, by the way)
- Determine what menu items you can make ahead
More Planning Tips:
Let’s Talk Turkey
For many hosts, the turkey is at the top of the “I don’t know what I’m doing!” list. Luckily, we’re here to lend you a helping hand. (Er…wing?)
There are many delicious ways to prepare your holiday bird. And whether you opt to grill it, slow-cook it or roast it in the oven, we know it will turn out delicious. All you need is a little confidence and our most dependable turkey recipes as a guide.
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Our Favorite Apps + Sides
For many people (myself included), sides are the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. After all, there are so many delicious options! Here are a few of our favorites:
- Mashed potatoes
- Cranberry sauce
- Dinner rolls
- Green beans
- Macaroni and cheese
- Brussels sprouts
And before the main meal begins, consider tiding over your guests with a round of delicious appetizers. We have recipes that are meant for a crowd, super easy or perfect for anyone watching the big game.
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Who Wants Dessert?
Thanksgiving is the one day a year where it’s perfectly acceptable to don stretchy pants and indulge in every. single. dish. So even after three helpings of turkey and all the fixin’s, your guests will still have room for dessert. Pie is the classic post-dinner treat. But cake and cheesecake are good options, too.
Thanksgiving Dessert Tips:
Give Your Home a Refresh
While planning the menu may be the most important aspect of hosting Thanksgiving, you want to make sure your home is looking its best, too. Stick to our holiday cleaning checklist to ensure your space is sparkling. Then, set out some festive decorations to set the scene.
More Holiday Home Tips:
Must-Have Thanksgiving Gear
The last thing you should be worrying about on Thanksgiving is whether or not your roasting pan has enough life left in it to cook one more bird. Stock up on the essentials (and a few splurges) before the big day.
More Must-Have Thanksgiving Items:
Q: How much food should I make?
A: The answer depends on two things: how many guests are coming to dinner and whether or not you’d like a lot of leftovers. For a party of 10, for example, plan to serve 5 bottles of wine, 15 pounds of turkey, 7 1/2 cups of stuffing and 2 pies. If you have a post-Thanksgiving casserole you make every year, up the amounts a bit more to ensure you have ample leftovers. If you’re still not sure, consult our guide that outlines how much of every holiday dish you should make.
Q: What’s the best way to cook a turkey?
A: While there are many options for cooking a turkey, our favorite (and the most popular) method is to roast the bird in the oven. We outline the entire process here, but the main steps include thawing the turkey, preparing it for the oven, roasting and carving.
Q: Should the kids eat a separate table?
A: While there are strong arguments for both sides of the kids’ table debate, it’s entirely up to you and your family. Check out one writer’s consensus here. If you’re having trouble deciding, chat with some of the other parents (and your own kids!) to see what they’d prefer.
Q: How long do leftovers last?
A: Has the gravy gone a little gray? Or is your stuffing smelling a little funky? To avoid anyone in your family getting sick, it’s important to know how long holiday leftovers last. Our Thanksgiving leftover food storage guide breaks down the longevity of each item, but it’s important to use your own judgment, too. Check items for signs of spoilage, including discoloration, unusual smells and signs of mold. Remember: when in doubt, throw it out.
Share Your Best Tips
Next: Check out our top 100 holiday tips to make your season merry and bright.