Putting on Thanksgiving dinner can be tricky. Too many people dread the holidays because of the stressful dinners they feel they must host. But with a little ingenuity, your Thanksgiving can be more enjoyable. Here are 13 tips to streamline the day.
1. Keep Décor Simple
When the pressure’s on for a perfect Thanksgiving meal, the table setting is just as important as the food. But elegance doesn’t have to be complicated. Don't go out and buy a new set of dishes or napkins to set the table.
Get creative with what you already have. Select a theme that will pull together your eclectic décor. Or better yet, make everything white. A white backdrop is clean and elegant but easy to achieve. And it lets the food be the star of Thanksgiving dinner.
2. Get Help
Nobody would disagree with you that preparing Thanksgiving dinner is all consuming. Determine what is most important to you to make yourself then get help with the rest.
Help can come in many ways. Don’t feel bad about ordering the pie from your favorite bakery. Dress up boxed stuffing or add a small personal touch to an appetizer tray from the deli.
Potluck Thanksgiving dinner takes the full weight off you and lets other members of the family get involved. Just be sure you assign the appetizer to someone who won’t be late. If you must have grandma’s pumpkin pie but don't have time, give the recipe to your sister--and don't blow a gasket if she goes out on a Pinterest limb and explores new recipes.
3. Spread Out Tasks
When you cook or clean before guests come, you see things that you might not otherwise pay attention to. The water stains on the dining room windows suddenly seem very pronounced when you are looking through the eyes of your guests.
When it comes to cleaning and even some of the cooking, get started as early as possible. Give special attention to your cooking and eating spaces. Starting with a clean working space will make a difference. Now is a good time to give your granite countertops a deep cleaning and brighten up the grout on the floor.
4. Ditch Traditions
Will anyone even notice if you forego the cranberry sauce? Admit it, there are some items on the Thanksgiving table that are only there to hold up tradition. Which tradition could you do without this year? It will save you a little time and hassle and hopefully no one will notice until dinner is over.
If turkey is not your favorite thing to cook, maybe it’s time to do something you’re good at instead. If your beef roast is far better, do that instead. It will go down in history as the year of that delicious beef rather than the year of the really dry turkey.
5. Roast the Turkey the Day Before
The turkey is the most time consuming part of Thanksgiving dinner. If you do it the day before, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and oven space.
Thanksgiving morgning, take it out of the fridge, carve it up, and place in a crockpot. Wrap it in foil to keep juices in. It definitely helps to brine the turkey before roasting to ensure it stays moist through the second heating. If you’ve done a good job, no one even has to know the turkey came early to the party. Always observe safe food handling standards to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
6. Plan Activities for Kids
It’s hard to wait for Thanksgiving dinner to arrive on the table, especially for the youngsters. Plan some activities to keep them busy and out of the kitchen until dinner is ready. A little craft or a favorite movie are good options.
If the weather permits, set up an obstacle course or abstain form raking up the leaves in the yard and let them go nuts.
7. Consider Buffet Style
Putting all food on the table can be a burden. A buffet makes more room for elbows and décor at the table and still makes a beautiful presentation. Everyone can have as much or as little as desired and you can concentrate on great conversation. With all the food in one place, it makes it much easier to refill dishes and make sure everything stays warm.
8. Keep Things Warm
Keeping everything warm can be tricky. Your new best friend is the crockpot. Borrow as many as you can and invest in the smaller versions for side dishes. Look for ones with warming settings and snug lids to keep warmth in. Though your china serving dishes look beautiful, they don’t provide much insulation and food gets cold quickly.
You can also take a page out of the caterers’ book and elevate your food and put a Sterno candle underneath. You don’t have to have the fancy catering gear. You can just get disposable aluminum-ware for the same effect.
9. Use Disposable
Maybe it’s not acceptable to slap down paper plates for Thanksgiving dinner, but you could save yourself considerable cleanup time if you use the disposable aluminum cookware/serving-ware instead of your grandmother’s china.
Just scoop out leftovers, rinse, and toss into the recycling bin. No overcrowded dishwasher or piles of dishes to wash when you’ve already been on your feet for most of the day.
10. Get Yourself Ready First
When you get up in the morning, before you ever enter the kitchen, get yourself ready as much as possible. If you try to save your shower for later after you’ve slaved over the stove, chances are something will come up that will push that shower off until the last possible second.
Don’t serve another Thanksgiving dinner in your sweats without makeup. Put yourself first so you won’t be caught off guard.
11. Don’t Overtax the Oven
Planning out what needs to cook when and for how long is time well spent. The oven can only hold so much. If the turkey is in there, don’t plan on trying to cook anything else at the same time.
For sides, you can pop in several things at 350 degrees F. Just make sure to set separate timers so they come out of the heat before they get dry or overdone. Remember that having a full oven will add some time to final cooking times.
12. Label Glasses
Even with a small group, it’s easy to get glasses mixed up. Try labeling them to get rid of the confusion. You can even buy some cheap stemmed glasses and etch names or initials for a more upscale look. At the very least, have many glasses on hand so there is always a clean glass in case someone misplaces theirs.
13. Never Skip Appetizers and Drinks
When things don’t go quite as planned in the kitchen or guests arrive a bit too early, appetizers and drinks will save the day. They cover up the fact that you’re not quite ready. They keep everyone busy and curb hunger until you can get that golden turkey on the table.
Self-serve drinks in punch bowls or pitchers make it so no one has to man the drinks. Simple cold appetizers are no-fuss but satisfying. You buy yourself an extra half hour when you put out appetizers and drinks.
Make your Thanksgiving dinner a success with a few tricks. It makes your day more enjoyable and you can still put an epic meal on the table. Bon appetit!