10 Hosting Hacks for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Inviting loved ones over for a big turkey dinner may seem like a challenge, but these editor-approved hosting tips will set you up for success year after year. 

The countdown to Thanksgiving is on. Roll out the welcome mat for your first Friendsgiving or finally master a traditional turkey day menu. With these tips and tricks, your hosting skills will be honed and ready for any curve ball that comes your way (without anyone knowing any differently). Piece. Of. Pie.

1. Create a Plan

Sit down and make a guest list, and send out Thanksgiving invites by mail, email, text message, or word of mouth. From the number of guests you invite you can plan a meal and calculate how many beverages you'll need. The secret to a simple meal is planning ahead so everything doesn't seem to demand your attention at once.

2. Plan a Potluck.

A potluck can be a great way to share the load, and with just a little planning you can avoid 15 green bean casseroles at your dinner table. Ensure menu variety and head off an all-deviled-egg buffet by assigning food categories to your guests. Don't be shy—this eliminates the guesswork for them, too. Give non-cooks a chance to participate by including categories such as beverages, paper products, or decorating.

3. Shop Early

Grocery stores tend to get busier in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. You also run the risk of something on your list being sold out. Once your menu is set and you know how many people are coming, start to make a list. Stock up early so shopping for a crowd won't be so daunting.

4. Prepare in Advance

There are plenty of side dishes, desserts, and breads that can be made ahead of time. For instance, measure seasonings and store them in labeled bags or containers; cut and store vegetables; and roast garlic a week in advance, then store the cloves in olive oil in the refrigerator.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

If you're braving a new recipe or using ingredients that you aren't quite familiar with, try them out beforehand so you'll be primed for success on Thanksgiving Day. A test run will ensure you get the timing right and that everything tastes the way you want it to. It's also a good opportunity to determine which serving dishes and garnishes you'll use.

6. Let Others Help

Don't be afraid to delegate tasks to other family members. Have them help clean house and put up decorations. Children will gobble up the chance to make place cards, fold napkins, and assemble Thanksgiving centerpieces. This will also keep them out of the kitchen while you attend to the food.

7. Use the Microwave

It's probably going to be the one available appliance in your kitchen during the flurry of Turkey Day activity. Take advantage of your microwave to quickly reheat food before serving when all the burners on the stovetop are occupied.

8. Let the Turkey Rest

To avoid a last-minute crunch and assure tender turkey, let the bird rest out of the oven, covered, for about 20 minutes before carving. The bird's temperature will rise another 5-10 degrees while it sits, and it gives its juices a chance to redistribute. 

9. Serve Buffet-Style

We love any reason to set the table for a formal dining experience, but serving buffet style saves on both space and cleanup time. Also with pretty serving bowls and silver utensils, guests can help themselves to seconds whenever they want.

10. Relax

Remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day full of family, relaxation, and reflection, so don't let one burnt pecan pie sour your family's annual football game or post-meal rituals. Pat yourself on the back for your hard work, then start a movie marathon with one of these favorite Thanksgiving flicks.

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