How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving can be stressful whether it's your first time hosting or your fifteenth. To keep your stress levels low, try this simple yet elegant menu from Food Network Kitchens' cookbook How to Boil Water. Stick with our suggestions or add in some family favorites to make it your own.


First, make it easy on yourself. Follow a plan. The more you can prepare ahead of time (that includes any trips to the supermarket), the better.

Settle on a menu (or use ours) but don't feel like you have to do it all. This is a great holiday to enlist helpers to prep in the kitchen, tend bar, set the table or help clean up. And, it's OK to say "yes" when someone offers to bring something — ask them to bring wine, another dessert, a side dish, and if your oven is small, they can even bring the turkey!

Once you've reviewed your recipes, figure out how many pots, pans and serving dishes you'll need. If you come up short, borrow the rest from a friend or family member. Two highly important items are a roaster pan with a solid bottom (those foil ones at the grocery store aren't quite sturdy enough, but you can place one on top of a sheet pan) and an instant-read thermometer to test the turkey for doneness.

If you've bought a frozen turkey, make sure to defrost it properly: one day in the fridge for every 5 pounds. And don't forget to remove the giblet package inside the cavity before you roast it!

Read all the recipes before you start cooking. Figure out which take longest (like the turkey) and prepare a prep schedule.

Here's a plan from our How to Boil Water menu:

Thanksgiving morning or preferably the day before:

  • Make the giblet stock and a cranberry sauce (choose one from our site). Store them in the fridge.
  • Wash and trim salad greens and green beans. Wrap them loosely in paper towels and store them in the crisper.
  • Bake the Apple Crisp. Let it cool and then wrap it in foil. Reheat just before serving.

Thanksgiving Day:

Three to four hours ahead of time, depending on the size of your turkey:

  • Make the Apple Cranberry Dressing. Cover the baking dish with foil and pop it in the fridge until about half an hour before dinner. If your oven is too small to hold both turkey and dressing, bake the dressing while the roasted turkey rests.
  • When your oven is preheating, toast the nuts for the salad and set them aside.
  • Prep the turkey according to the recipe and put it into the preheated oven.
  • Take a break!

One hour before dinner:

  • Make the vinaigrette for the Pear and Blue Cheese Salad.
  • Put the potatoes on to cook.
  • Take the bird out of the oven after its required cooking time, tent it in foil and let it rest.
  • Cook and assemble the Green Beans with Shallots and hold in a warm place.
  • Assemble the salad (don't add salad dressing until ready to serve).
  • Make the gravy.
  • Mash the cooked potatoes.
  • Carve the turkey.
  • Put the crisp into a low oven.
  • Pat yourself on the back!

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