A Stress-Free Thanksgiving for First-Time Hosts

Photo by CN Digital Studio

By Tanya Steel,

Have you foolishly, I mean bravely volunteered to host everyone--family, friends, assorted dogs--to your house next Thursday for Thanksgiving? Have you begun to sweat profusely at the thought of brining the bird, peeling chestnuts, timing the cooking of the spread so it comes out at the same time, piping hot, all while trying to break up the fight between Aunt Molly and Uncle Steve? Fear not. I have been hosting Thanksgiving for years (no one in my family can cook) so here are a few steps beginners can take to make hosting Thanksgiving as easy as, well, a super-simple pie. (Pie, after all, can be tricky to make.)

See also: Our Complete Guide to Making Perfect Pies

1. Focus on the Basics: Turkey, stuffing, and gravy are the most important parts of the menu, and you can't easily buy them ready made or have someone bring them over. Others can supply the rest of dishes, but you need to deliver on the core of the meal. If you've never roasted a turkey before, choose recipes that require the least prep, such as Simple Roast Turkey with Rich Turkey Gravy and Farmhouse Herbed Stuffing. Bobby Flay's Herb Roasted Turkey is also a good one for novices.

2. Lean on Others: Turn this Thanksgiving into a potluck. Tell your guests what you are making and ask them to bring their signature sides, desserts, appetizers, and drinks. Tell them the size of the crowd and be sure to specify if anyone has food allergies--a trip to the E.R. will make it a holiday to remember but better to make it memorable because of the food.

Related: 5 Common Mistakes When Planning Thanksgiving Menus

3. Make a List and Check it Five Times: Besides keeping a sense of humor, being organized and planned is the key to a stress-free turkey day. Sit down and make a shopping list for your recipes (Epicurious has an easy-to-use, free shopping list tool on every recipe and in your recipe box); a separate list for any tableware, glassware, napkins, centerpieces, chairs that you may need; and finally a timeline of what you need to do when. Since Thanksgiving is eight days away, clearing out the fridge, planning the menu, coordinating with guests on menu items, and ordering your turkey should be on your list for today.

4. Ready, Set, Cook: To make Thursday calm and easy, start on Sunday by shopping for all of the food; Monday, set your table (here are some simple, inexpensive centerpiece ideas); Tuesday, prep your stuffing and clean the house; Wednesday, make any last-minute desserts or cranberry sauces, if you are doing so; and Thursday morning, turn on the oven, stuff the turkey, stick it in the oven and go relax for a few before everyone arrives. Friday, it's all about resting, looking at your photos from the celebration, and basking in the thank yous. Or, hitting every Black Friday sale within 20 miles.

More from Epicurious.com:

Bobby Flay's Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving on a Budget
One-Dish Wonders: Our Favorite Casserole Recipes
The Best Fall Recipes

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