Last Updated on October 20, 2022 by Share My Kitchen
Okay, so you’re hosting Thanksgiving. Even though you haven’t planned the menu as of now, you are already feeling stressed. Relax, take a deep breath, and get the help you need to get through it. You will learn how to make Thanksgiving stress-free using proven hacks that have been tested and are family-approved.
If you spent the morning looking for recipes for the big Thanksgiving Day dinner and realized that a 20lb turkey is necessary to make sandwiches for your family of, say, 10, you will definitely feel the first sign of stress. It will take you 4-5 hours to cook this turkey according to the Butterball website.
Then, you must have dinner on the table by 2:00 PM and allow 30 minutes for rest before carving, which means the turkey should be in the oven no later than 8:00 AM. This doesn’t include the preparation time! It will be an early morning, and the stress is building.
You will start to notice the impact of the volunteer work as you begin to plan the Thanksgiving dinner. Although you probably knew it would take a lot of effort, you just didn’t realize how much.
However, relax and take a breath. It will be a stress-free and wildly successful Thanksgiving. Here’s how.
1. Plan Ahead
First, start planning your guest list, menu, and shopping list a couple of weeks before the event.
You can buy your non-perishables well in advance and save the perishables shopping trip until the week of Thanksgiving. This will reduce stress and allow you to remember anything you might have missed.
If you want to get a fresh turkey, it’s common for some butchers to need to be notified a few weeks in advance, so they can contact their suppliers.
2. Time Block for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
Your entire Thanksgiving Day needs to be time blocked. It is crucial to know what must happen and when in order to have a stress-free day.
If you’ve never done time blocking, here’s a quick definition. Time blocking refers to the practice of arranging your day in advance and giving each task a particular start and duration time.
It’s not as scary as you might think, and you’ll be able to see exactly what needs doing and when. It can also be used to assign tasks to anyone who is willing to help.
You will never have to worry about time and your set schedule will help you avoid many problems and lots of stress.
3. Plan for Extra Guests
Always make sure you plan for at least one or two extra guests. You never know when you’ll be able to meet up with college friends and coworkers who couldn’t fly home, or who didn’t have relatives in the area.
It does happen, and if you have an additional chair or a place setting, it will all work out.
4. Limit Your Menu
Side dishes and other accompaniments should be limited. It is not required for you to have so many options. Yes, you might struggle with this because you will feel like you didn’t have enough.
However, having so many side dishes can be difficult since most of the time people only eat small portions so they can try everything. Then, there will be plenty of leftovers, and you’ll probably end up throwing away half of them.
Turkey is the star of the show, so limit your side dishes to just two of each type of side.
5. Spatchcock Your Turkey
What is Spatchcocking? Spatchcocking, or butterflying, is the act of removing the backbone and flattening the turkey before cooking.
If you find the task of removing the backbone too daunting, you could have the butcher do it. However, ask him to wrap all the pieces he has cut away so that you have stock for your gravy.
A spatchcocked Turkey will cook faster and more evenly than a whole turkey. Cooking it takes about 6 minutes per pound, while a whole turkey takes 20 minutes. And the only thing you have to remove is the backbone, which nobody eats anyway.
You can prepare a spatchcocked Turkey the day before. Add all your seasonings to the turkey and cover it with plastic wrap before putting it in the fridge.
On Thanksgiving Day, take it out an hour before cooking, so that it can reach room temperature before you put it in the oven.
6. Pre-Cook As Much As Possible
Pre-cooking will become your saving grace. Depending on the dish, you can pre-cook and prepare as much of the meal the day or week before.
Pies can be prepared days or even weeks in advance. Most pies freeze well but be sure to let them thaw thoroughly before you put them in the oven.
Mashed potatoes can be prepared the day before, and then placed in a slow cooker to heat while the turkey cooks. To keep the potatoes moist in the slow cooker, make sure you reserve some of your cooking liquid. The best way to make sure the potatoes are good is to leave them in chunks until the turkey comes out of the oven.
The gravy can be made the day before by boiling the giblets, backbone, and neck to make a stock. To add flavor while the turkey is resting, heat the gravy in a smaller slow cooker and add the turkey drippings.
You can make dressing (if it isn’t in the turkey, it’s not stuffing) the day before and warm it in a slow cooker or baking dish.
Green Bean Casserole and Candied Yams can be made the day prior, assemble and cover them, then removed an hour before baking.
You should see the point. The best part about all the preparation is the fact that all the dishes used in the preparation of that food are cleaned and stored the day before.
7. You Can Set the Table Ahead of Time
You should have set the table a day or two ahead of time, with any condiments or seasonings that are non-refrigerated. It will not be obvious to anyone that you didn’t do it the morning before, so it’s just one less thing to worry about.
Also, make sure to set out all your serving dishes and utensils so that you are prepared. If not, then you still have time to borrow or buy what you need.
8. Keep Appetizers Light and Simple
Keep appetizers light and simple if you are going to serve them. It’s not a good idea to have everyone refilling on appetizers before the actual dinner.
You should have enough if you serve a vegetable tray and a cheese and cracker plate.
9. Host Potluck Style
For the ultimate stress-free Thanksgiving, the best tip is to have a potluck dinner where everyone brings a dish. You can make sure you have a balanced meal by keeping track of who is bringing what.
You should know how much prep or how long each dish will take to heat up once they arrive at your home. If five dishes are required to bake for over an hour, and only two of them fit in your kitchen, it could spell disaster.
Turkey and gravy are your responsibility, of course, due to the time and effort involved in preparation and cooking.
10. Have Storage Containers Ready
Keep leftover containers on hand so that you can quickly dispose of leftovers without having to dig through your cabinets.
It is also a smart idea to keep disposable containers on hand, so that guests can bring leftovers and you don’t have to worry about what happens to your favorite dish.
11. Just Enjoy
All of this was done to ensure a stress-free Thanksgiving for your family and friends. So, do not get so involved in cleaning and cooking that you neglect to spend quality time with your friends and family!