What no One Told You about Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

What no One Told You about Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

If it’s your first time, be prepared. If you’ve done it before, let us know how it went.

You’ve been to plenty of Thanksgiving meals. Sometimes multiple times each year! Turns out, merely partaking in the meal doesn’t automatically make you an expert in hosting the meal.

Here are some tips if this year is your first time. If you’re a Thanksgiving veteran, add your experience in the comments below. Grand successes and epic failures (that hopefully you can look back on now and laugh) – we want to hear them all!

Coordinating Timers

Let’s see: If the turkey takes 4 hours to cook, and the potatoes have to boil for 45 minutes and then bake for another 20, and the rolls have to rise for at least 2 hours, and one train leaves at 6 p.m. traveling west at 97 kilometres per hour (60 miles per hour), what are the odds everything will be hot and ready at the same time?

Not very high, actually. But here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Microwaves were invented for a reason. If the timing didn’t work out just right, don’t be afraid to nuke that side dish for a minute or two.
  • We typically use coolers to keep foods cool, but they’re great insulators – hot or cold. Again, microwaves are great insulators as well; so even if you don’t turn it on, storing a hot dish in there will help keep it warm.
  • For any soups you may have, slow cookers are perfect.
  • Aluminium foil also works great. Just wrap up the hot dish and throw a dishtowel on top to help with insulation.

Tip: Be careful to keep hot foods hot (at least 60 C – 140 F) and cold foods cold (below 4 C – 40 F) until you serve them in order to prevent bacteria from growing.

Allergies and Preferences

Gluten free. Dairy free. Free range. Grass fed. Organic. Local. You want to be accommodating to your guests, but it’s not easy to keep it all straight.

It’s okay to:

  • Ask your guests in advance if there are any allergies you should be worried about. This doesn’t mean all your dishes have to fit their needs, but some should.
  • Ask your guests to bring something they know they’ll be able to eat – even if it’s not an entrée. They should be able to supplement what they bring with the rest of the smorgasbord.
  • Ask everyone as the meal begins to be careful about cross-contamination. Don’t use the spoon currently in the gluten-free pasta to scoop out some stuffing and then put it back.
  • Not bend over backward. Most people with specific dietary needs or restrictions will meet you halfway.

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So Many Varieties

Some people like their mashed potatoes smooth, others like them lumpy. Some like their yams with marshmallows, and others enjoy them straight up. Then there’s the perpetual debate of whether cranberry sauce should come in a can. Again, you can try to be accommodating, but you can also invite those guests who have specific requests to bring their own version to add to the meal.

Defrosting Turkeys

When you buy your turkey, it will likely be frozen. When you get it home (assuming you’ve bought it several days in advance), it needs to be put in a freezer. But turkeys take a long time to thaw, and you cannot just take it out Thanksgiving Day.

It takes about 6 hours per pound to defrost in the refrigerator (and you need to do it in the fridge, not on the counter). That means a 192-ounce (12-pound) turkey needs to be put the fridge three full days before you plan on cooking it.

So put an alert in your phone, because you don’t want to be stuck Thursday morning with a frozen bird.


Everyone knows about the post-meal dishes – plates and serving trays and silverware stacking up. But the pre-meal dishes can be just as daunting, with their own pile of mixing bowls and spatulas.

Tackle those pre-meal dishes as you go. It will be worth it. Even if it’s just scraping food bits into the trash and giving them a quick rinse, having those done (or mostly done) will be a huge relief when that tryptophan kicks in.

Then, of course, use Dawn and Cascade to make cleaning all those dishes even easier.

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