Think it’s too early to start planning Thanksgiving dinner? Think again! November 26 may seem like a long way off, but for the holiday host, it’s right around the corner. And for anyone counting, it’s only 23 days away. That’s why this month, we’re bringing you preparation tips to ensure your Thanksgiving is as smooth as your gravy (should be).
The majority of these tips aren’t exactly new. But they’re still relevant today. Many moons (okay, six years) ago I was a regular contributor to Slahsfood, AOL’s now-defunct food blog. One of my favorite assignments was to prep readers for my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve located the posts, edited them a bit for, er, modern times (I’m a grown-ass woman now), and am sharing them here.
In between our Thanksgiving tips posts, we’ll also be sharing some of our favorite original Thanksgiving recipes, so stay tuned or be sure to follow us on Facebook, or you know, whatever works for you.
Early November Thanksgiving To-Do
1. Get a head count.
Now’s the time to start inviting people to Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re thinking about it, there’s a good chance your friends and family are, too. So if your cousin is bringing her new boyfriend, and both sets of grandparents are coming to town, as well as your parents and siblings, you’re going to need to figure out how to seat everyone at your small table with three mismatched chairs.
Getting a head count this early ensures you’ll have enough time to borrow tables, chairs, and whatever other furniture items you need so everyone can eat comfortably, and then have a place to lounge when the tryptophan-wine combo sets in. And this is the time to be clear about how accommodating you’ll be to dietary restrictions. Before you decide, try to find out who’s a vegetarian, who’s allergic to nuts, and what else you’ll be dealing with. As annoying as it can sometimes be to make everyone happy, the last thing you want to hear as you put your orange-scented green beans with toasted almonds on the table is that your cousin’s new boyfriend has a severe nut allergy. (Of course, vegetarians just mean more leftover turkey for your sandwiches!)
2. Pre-order your turkey.
There are few things more stressful than trying to find a good turkey of the correct size the week before Thanksgiving — especially if you want a heritage turkey or are particular about organic and free-range game.
Luckily, many grocery stores and butcher shops begin taking orders for turkeys right about now. And that early head count will let you know how much turkey you’ll need to ensure everyone leaves with bellies so full they’ll wish they’d worn sweatpants. Allow for one pound of turkey per person (that way you’ll most likely have leftovers for things like the aforementioned turkey sandwiches and turkey noodle casserole).
3. Decide on your sides.
You don’t have to get super specific with recipes now (and we’ll be sharing our favorites soon), but it’s good to start thinking about the kinds of sides you’re going to prepare. Are you going to attempt your dad’s saccharine sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top, or do you want to try something a little more sophisticated this year? Will you serve brussels sprouts, broccoli, or both?
Make a list, and then you can decide what you can realistically take on (remember, you probably only have four burners and two oven racks to work with) and what you’ll ask others to bring (we’ll address this next time). Then comes the fun part: recipes!
4. Decide who will do what.
At our house, it’s a given that my husband Kyle will take care of the turkey, and make a few of his favorite sides, while I’ll handle the sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, boozy cranberry sauce, a salad, and wine. And, of course, the table styling. If you’re co-hosting, and the division of labor isn’t so clear in your household, now is a good time to set expectations so one of you doesn’t end up with the lion’s share of work at the last minute.
How do you start prepping for Turkey Day? Tell us in the comments!