November 21, 2011

10 Tips For Cooking and Hosting a Stress-Free Turkey Dinner

[This is a guest post from my friend Beth.  Beth blogs with passion, humour, and gorgeous photographs over at Red and Honey.  She and I both hope that these tips will help simplify your Holiday entertaining!]
1. Choose your menu ahead of time and make a grocery list, then be sure to do your shopping a day or two before. 

2. If it’s frozen, move your turkey from the freezer to the fridge around 5 days in advance.

3. Make some menu items in advance. I like to make my sour cream mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, and sometimes my dressing/stuffing the day before, then just cook them as normal the next day. You could also easily do desserts, appetizers, etc… however that leads us to number four:

4. Go easy on the appetizers. If you are the type that has fun with entertaining and creative and yummy cooking, then you will probably be tempted by all of the awesome party recipes out there. My advice on that front is to keep it way simple – maybe one thing, or maybe (gasp!) none. The turkey dinner is the real star of the show anyway! 

5. Do your major house cleaning the day before so you don’t have to worry about it amidst all the cooking. You may want to do a quick tidy and vacuum just before guests arrive (especially if you have toddlers that mess things up as quickly as you clean them!), but it will be way easier than the “Everyone’s arriving in 20 minutes and I forgot to clean the bathroom!” Unless, of course, I’m the only one who’s ever done that…

Bonus tip: this year I used sticky notes to help me remember the baking length and
temperature of each dish to use my oven most efficiently. It worked perfectly, and
everything was hot and ready all at the right time.

6. Plan your table setting several days in advance. Figure out if you have enough place settings, and enough of the fancier things you plan to use, like wine glasses. Decide if you want to use a tablecloth, cloth napkins, a centerpiece, etc. Have those ready ahead of time. Remember that simple is beautiful!

7. While you are busily working away in the kitchen, remember to try to have fun. Put on some groovin’ music, wear some comfortable shoes (love my birks!), and shake your booty whilst stirring the cranberry sauce!

8. Be sure to have a meat thermometer so that you can tell when the turkey is done and avoid overcooking it. There are a million and one ways to cook a turkey, but the one thing we want to avoid is dry and tough meat that is supposed to be the star of the show.

9. If people offer to bring something, let them! Perhaps ask them to bring a dish that they grew up with. My family’s dressing recipe is completely different from the usual sage-based one, and it just doesn’t feel like a turkey dinner without it. Not only will it mean one less dish to make, but your guests will enjoy showing off their family favourites!

10. If anything does go wrong, don’t fret. The real point of hosting a turkey dinner for family and friends is not a perfectly cooked meal, but time to be together. Enjoy!

Read more from Beth at her blog, Red and Honey.


  1. My favourite tip is number 10. It's so very true.

  2. These are really good tips. It's my mother's first Thanksgiving with a full time job and she really needs to plan so that she has time for everything. I'll have to show her all of these. I'm so excited for Thanksgiving! If you get a chance, pop on over and check out my giveaway.

    If Work Permits

  3. We're having 25 over, so the table was set last night. Yeah, Tuesday. Most of our meals between now and Thanksgiving will be our or eaten in the kitchen.

  4. I am just quickly skimming my subscribed blogs in Reader and saw your sticky notes on your dishes. I love it! I use sticky notes all over our house - hard to believe they have not made it inside the refrigerator yet! Maybe now they will! A lot easier than the normal masking tape I use to mark items in the frig, especially for those items that are only there for a brief time.


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