Thanksgiving Dinner 101

Take a look at some of these helpful tips to prepare and make your holiday as stress-free as possible.

Thanksgiving is just round the corner, and if you are hosting family and friends it can be overwhelming. Don’t fret, take a look at some of these helpful tips to prepare and make your holiday as stress-free as possible.

 First things first:

  1. Confirm you guest list, and any weekend house guests
  2. Determine what recipes you are going to be making. Consider if the dishes go well together, flavor-wise?  Also, think about what dishes can be prepared ahead.
  3. Some important things to consider: Can you cook all the dishes in your stove/oven? Run through the cooking process, noting when things are on the stove, or in the oven (and at what temperature), and that you have space for it all.
  4. Once your menu has been finalized, determine what can be made in the few days before Thanksgiving to save time, such as pies, casseroles, stuffing, even peeling the potatoes and leaving them to soak in a water bath.
  5. Next create a timeline/checklist for the day of Thanksgiving: when the turkey needs to go into the oven, the side dishes that still have to be made, and which ones that have been made ahead which need to be heated. The end goal of all the food being ready to serve, at the proper temperatures, at the same time.
  6. Consider the beverages you will serve. Will you offer a fully stocked bar, or simply just soft drinks, beer, and wines. Don’t forget napkins, lemons and limes!

2 weeks before:

  1. With your menu, go through your serving dishes and utensils. Marry together each recipe with the dish you want to serve it in and the utensil it will be served with, labeling each set with a post-it. Do the same with your cooking utensils, making sure you have a turkey baster and kitchen twine, and check to make sure you have enough containers/tin foil for storing leftovers. 
    1. Determine how you want to set each place: Dinner and salad plates? Bread and butter plates? How many pieces of flatware? Don’t forget about glassware: for water, white wine, red wine, mixed drinks, kids drinks.
    2. Make sure the dishware and glassware you are using is clean. Polish any silver that you may be using.
    3. For centerpieces, think about where you want to put candles, and what kind (never leave lit candles unattended!)
    4. Make sure you have linens for the table(s) – not just the dining table, but bar table(s), tables of appetizers, whatever you are using -- and that they are clean and pressed.
    5. Write up a shopping list based on your menu. Create a grocery list divided by department such as produce, dairy, spices, storage containers, kitchen tools, etc. Then have shopping lists for any other errands you may have e.g. Liquor store. This will help to make your shopping trip less chaotic and overwhelming.

The week before:

  1. Remind your guests that you’re looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving with them, and confirm when they will be arriving.
  2. Prepare! Is your bathroom clean and stocked? Do you have room in the freezer for extra ice needed for drinks? Clear out the refrigerator to make room for dishes. Straighten up around the house. Do you have enough seating for all the guests to dine?
  3. Check your lists and what you have in your pantry. Do you have cocktail napkins, toothpicks, paper towels? Coffee, tea, milk and sugar to serve with dessert? Rolls/bread for dinner?
  4. Organize your bar and chill any beverages that need to be cold.

The Week of Thanksgiving

Monday and Tuesday:

  1. Begin defrosting your turkey if it is frozen.  
  2. Make your pies, cranberry sauces, casseroles, and other dishes that can hold for four days.
  3. Set your table and decorate the spaces where your guests will be.
  4. Begin chopping vegetables for cooking, and slicing lemons and limes for the bar. Are your butter dishes ready, and salt and pepper shakers full? If you are brining your turkey, you can make the brine, too.


  1. Continue chopping and prepping, assembling the stuffing and other dishes that can be refrigerated overnight. Put all condiments such cranberry sauce, pickles, mixed nuts, in serving dishes so that they are ready to go.
  2. Do a final run through of your lists, recipes, and check your pantry making a final grocery run if necessary.
  3. Determine when you need to get up in order to preheat the oven, and get the turkey in so it will be cooked at the proper time.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep.

 Thanksgiving Day:

  1. Do a final sweep of your set table and bar area, set the serving dishes in a place where they can all sit before being served, preparing a creamer and sugar for coffee and tea.
  2. Prepare your appetizers.
  3. Cook and enjoy the time with your family and friends!

Vargas & Vargas wishes you and yours a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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