We are just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, and preparations are in full swing. Hosting Thanksgiving at our house is like an Olympic event. It’s probably my husband’s favorite holiday. What man doesn’t love stuffing himself with amazing food all day, and watching football, am I right?!
But he treats Thanksgiving much like Bob does from Bob’s Burgers! He’s infatuated with Thanksgiving. Thankfully, though, he does not talk with our bird like Bob does on the show! But, he gets just as excited!
We’ve hosted Thanksgiving for the last several years for our family, and I’d like to share with you the many things we’ve learned over the years about hosting. It’s not an easy task, honestly. And, I have the “Martha Stewart everything must be perfect” complex, which quite frankly, isn’t real life.
I’ll take you through my 2 week pre-Thanksgiving countdown, so that you can hopefully relax and eat and enjoy the big day with your guests, instead of feeling like a chicken with your head cut off. Or, a turkey with its head cut off! 😂
2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving
*Clean House Thoroughly
A week or two before the “Big Day”, I do a thorough cleaning of our house. I’m talking washing the linens, mopping the floor really well, steam cleaning the carpet, dusting the baseboards, wiping off the cabinets, cleaning out the fridge, knocking down all the cobwebs, changing light bulbs, etc. The kind of thourough cleaning you may or may not typically do on a regular basis.
To read more about my Weekly Home Cleaning Routine, click here!
* Make Shopping List
This kind of goes hand in hand with Making A Menu, which we’ll discuss soon. But look around your house. Do you need napkins, disposable cups, toilet paper, foil, condiments, or other goodies? Make out a list of anything and everything that you might need. It’s better to have it than not.
One year I realized I didn’t have enough glasses for everyone, so I was glad I had a bought some of those red plastic disposable cups just in case. You just never know.
* Stock Up On Non-Perishable Items
Once you make your master list and your menu, stock up on non-perishable items like paper goods, canned items, chicken stock (to revive a dry turkey 😉), coffee and hot cider k-cups, beverages etc. This will take any added pressure off by not needing to purchase so many things when you go back to the store right before Thanksgiving Day…cause let’s face it, last minute grocery shopping before Thanksgiving can be a nightmare!
* Complile Needed Dishes, Serving Pieces, Glasses, & Silverware
Make sure you go through your dishes, silverware and serving dishes and make sure you have a dish for everything you plan to serve, and a plate for everyone that plans on eating this feast at your home.
One year I ran out of silverware, so we learned this the hard way. Thankfully our family was pretty go with the flow. 😜
* Confirm Guest List
And speaking of family, discuss who’s planning on coming to your Thanksgiving dinner. Nail down the guest list, and plan on everyone coming and then some. Better to have more of everything, than not have enough.
* Ask Guests to Bring a Dish to Pass
Most guests will offer to bring something, and this could really help offset some of the pressure and stress of cooking such a large meal for a multitude of people. Ask your guests to bring something they really enjoy making, or something that is their specialty. Or, ask them to bring something that will keep your oven free and clear, like a pie for dessert or rolls or beverages.
* Finalize Your Menu
Once you know how many guests you’re planning on having, and you know what they plan to bring, it will be easier to finalize your menu and know exactly what you’ll need to make. In our house, our guests usually bring the homemade stuffing, the very berry cranberry sauce, rolls, pies, honey baked ham (we like 2 meat options 😉), and pies for dessert.
So, I fill in the gaps of the menu with a Turkey, of course, sweet mashed potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. Not too bad, right?!
And, I make several cheesy dips for the football game. We don’t go too crazy on appetizers. I’ve found people fill up on the apps, and then aren’t hungry for the big meal.
On a side note: I try to pick side dishes that require the same oven temperature and similar cooking times, so that I can throw them all in the oven at the same time while the turkey is resting, and then everything can be served together nice and hot from the oven.
* Write Out Your Game Plan
I like to Time Block Plan the whole day, from when I’ll get wake up, to when I’ll put the turkey in the oven, to when I’ll need to put everything else in the oven, to when guests will arrive, to when the meal will be ready to enjoy.
Of course, my beautifully written out plan doesn’t always work out, but it’s worth it to spend the time planning out exactly when certain things should get done, so the day doesn’t get away from you.
1 Week Before Thanksgiving
* Maintain the Clean House
“Yeah right!” Insert eye roll. I know some of you are thinking this. I know easier said than done. But, if you can maintain that deep, thorough clean you did last week, it’ll make it so much easier as you near hosting the Big Event. So, try to maintain some cleanliness and order.
I’m talking about clearing out the clutter, dusting, vacuuming, basically general cleaning. Nothing too outrageous. 😉
* Do the Grocery Shopping
We try to do the grocery shopping during the week before Thanksgiving. We also try to go on a weekday and avoid the weekend nuttiness. I already can’t stand going to the grocery store. I don’t know what’s wrong with me….but I loathe it with a passion. But, going during the holidays, makes me wanna run my cart into people’s Achilles when they get in the way and so on. So, it’s probably best if I stay clear of the grocery store as much as possible. 😂
* Wash the Dishes & Serving Pieces
Now is the time I focus on washing whatever dishes I plan on using. If they’ve been packed away, now’s the time to A.) Find them 😊 and B.) Get them ready to be used. Just one less thing to worry about leading up to the day, right?!
* Final Touches on Decor
This is also the time I focus on last touches of decor. We generally do not decorate for Christmas until after we host the family for Thanksgiving, because we host a Christmas gathering also. And, I love fall decor so much, that I’m not quite ready to pack it all away just yet.
So, if you’re in the same boat, or if you’re in the middle of decorating for Christmas, try to finish as much decorating as possible before the final preps begin for Thanksgiving.
Remember our final goal here, is for you to not only host a wonderful gathering, but actually be able to enjoy it as well.
1-2 Days Before Thanksgiving
* Touch Up Cleaning
Hopefully if you’ve been keeping up on the cleaning in the previous weeks, you won’t have a ton of cleaning to do the couple days before Thanksgiving. This should be like touch ups, nothing too major…you’ve got a million other things to worry about!! 😉
* Get Any Last Minute Groceries
As you begin to prep, you may notice you’re missing a single ingredient. That’s why I prep as much food as possible ahead of time giving me ample opportuniy to run to the store if need be. Nothing stinks worse than cooking everything on Thanksgiving and realizing you’re missing something when little to no stores are open.
* Buy A Fresh Turkey
We go the day before Thanksgiving and purchase a fresh turkey from a local poultry farm. To us, a fresh turkey tastes better! And, double bonus, it doesn’t need to sit and thaw in my fridge for a week.
The night before, we give the turkey a nice bath in the sink and clean out the “guts”. This, to me, is a husband job. It grosses me out to much. 😝 After the turkey is rinsed, we pat it dry and salt the skin really well. I set it in the roaster and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
We do not brine our turkeys, but you could certainly do that. We’ve found that typically there are whole hearted brine people, and others who loathe it. We follow a recipe by Michael Symon from The Chew, and he is anti-brine. So, therefore, we are anti-brine. I salt the skin pretty good and let that salty goodness soak in overnight. That’s enough for us.
*Prep As Much Food As Possible
I make every side dish and appetizer the night before, that way they are ready to pop in the oven the next day once the turkey is done. Then, I have little to nothing really to do on Thanksgiving but man the oven and the guests.
The only thing that does not get done the night before are the mashed potatoes. However, we cut and peel the potatoes, which is enough work for an army of men, I tell ya! We love mashed potatoes, apparently. They soak in a water bath overnight with everything else in the fridge.
Then, when the other side dishes go in the oven right before dinner, the potatoes are drained and rinsed, and then boiled in whole milk. This is another Food Network recipe by the mad scientist chef, Alton Brown. 😉
* Do the Dishes
Once the prep cooking is done, I wash all the dishes, and make sure I have an empty dishwasher for the next day. That way, as dishes are dirtied, I can throw them in the dishwasher and get them out of the way.
* Leave the Kitchen as Clean as Possible
Since everything should be done basically, besides putting things in the oven, I do a final clean up in the kitchen. One last quick wipe down of the counters, and a quick sweep and mop with the Swiffer should be all you need to do.
* Set the Table
We end up having to set up extra folding tables and chairs for our family and friends because we don’t have a table long enough to seat everybody. There have been some years we’ve hosted almost 30 people for Thanksgiving. So I try to set everything up the night before. Once again, it will be one last thing on your checklist for the morning.
* Prep the Turkey
The first thing we do the morning of Thanksgiving is feast on cinnamon rolls and watch the Thanksgiving Day parades. We have the unique privilege in Detroit, Michigan to host the America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and a Lions football game. So, most of the day we are glued to the TV.
The second thing we do in the morning, is begin prepping the turkey. After it’s long night in the fridge, it should be dry from its bath. To get it ready for the oven, I stuff onions, lemons, garlic, and poultry herbs into the cavity. I then chop up some poultry herbs, and combine them with room temperature butter, and then get up close and personal with the bird. I insert pockets of butter and herbs under the skin, and then give it a butter massage. I coat every inch of the turkeys skin in butter.
We then melt a stick of butter (yes, more butter! 😂) on the stovetop and add onion, lemon, garlic and herbs. Next, we soak a cheesecloth in the melted butter mixture, and then drape the butter soaked cheesecloth over the entire turkey. I then pour the remains of the butter over the top of the covered turkey. This gives the turkey a crispy brown skin, and prevents us from having to baste it while it’s cooking.
We insert a meat thermometer…a life savor on a day like Thanksgiving, and let it bake. Turkeys in my new oven don’t seem to take as long to cook as I remember my mom cooking hers when I was a kid. I try to always have chicken or turkey stock on hand to pour over the meat once it’s carved and ready to serve. No one likes a dry turkey, and the broth/stock soaks into the meat and revives and reheats it quickly right before serving.
* Wipe Down the Bathrooms
Next we tackle (had to throw in a football pun) getting ready for the day. This doesn’t take long, cause in our opinion Thanksgiving is a day for fat pants and coziness. 😊 After getting ready, I quickly wipe over the bathroom and make sure the toilets aren’t disgraceful. This is the last place in the house that should need a touch up at this point. Except for the kitchen, but it will be a lost cause the entire day anyways! 😉
* Set Out the Appetizers
Just about the time that the Lions game starts, our family begins arriving. I serve simple easy to make ahead queso dips that reheat in a crockpot. I don’t go overboard on appetizers because I’ve found that everyone fills up on them too quickly. So, I do a white queso dip, a bean dip, and a cheesy broccoli dip served with tortilla chips. Perfect for scarfing down on the go while catching up and watching the big game.
* Get Ready to Celebrate
Once the turkey is carved, and all the fixings have come out of the oven, I set up the grand meal buffet style. After saying grace, it’s ready to serve and enjoy.
I love Thanksgiving probably just as much as my husband. And, the best part of the day for me, is when everyone’s gone back home, we’ve had a wonderful time making the memories, the dishes are loaded in the dishwasher and the kitchen is semi back together, and I can finally sit down with a piece of pumpkin pie and watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special on TV….another yearly tradition.
Hosting Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. With a well thought out plan, and adequate preparation, hosting family can be really fun and rewarding. I hope this step by step guide helps you host the Thanksgiving Day of your dreams. 😊
Happy Turkey Day!