One of the great joys of the holidays is having friends and family over to enjoy a meal. However, if you’re in charge of hosting, then you may be concerned with meal preparation. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a challenge even for a small group, so having a larger one may seem overwhelming.
However, you don’t have to compromise your dinner with a few essential tips. You’ll be surprised at how much easier cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a large group ist with these simple but useful tips.
Make Your List
Before you start preparing your meal, you’ll need to determine what you need to prepare. If you’re hosting, take the time to write down all of the dishes you plan to serve. From a turkey to side dishes and condiments, develop a shopping list. Some items may need to be purchased close to the holiday date, but are there items you can buy ahead? Getting some of your shopping out of the way early on often makes the process easier.
Double-check your list in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to ensure you haven’t left anything off the list. This is an excellent way to make sure you haven’t forgotten any essential items.
I’ve created a free printable Thanksgiving dinner planner that you can download. Just enter your email address below. Once you confirm your email address, you can download the planner.
Take Assistance with Side Dishes
Depending on the group you’re hosting, they may want to bring dishes or desserts. If you enjoy having more control over the meal, then it may be a good idea to simply prepare everything yourself, but having a few dishes provided is a great help. Communicate with your guests about what dishes they’re going to be bringing. If you won’t have the room to reheat anything in your oven, then it’s a good idea to request that they only bring items that don’t need to be heated.
Simple items for guests to bring include drinks and desserts. These are items that you probably won’t have to spend much time preparing on your own, but it also won’t conflict with your meal plans. If you want them to bring only specific dishes, you could make an online spreadsheet and have guests volunteer to bring certain items. This will ensure that you don’t end up with three green bean casseroles at a time!
Prep Dishes the Day Before
Many of the side dishes for the meal can be prepared at least a day ahead of time. Pie is a popular dessert for Thanksgiving. If you’re making your own, pie often tastes better when made a day ahead of time. Bake them and then put them aside in the fridge. By putting them together a day ahead of time, you’ll be saving a significant amount of time on Thanksgiving day.
Other dishes you can usually make-ahead include stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. In some cases, you may want to wait to put the topping on your dishes until they’re ready to be put in the oven. However, this is a great way to save yourself some time on the actual holiday. With these side dishes out of the way, you’ll be able to focus on the turkey on the day of Thanksgiving.
Set up Buffet and Tables
The chances are that if you’re hosting a large group, you’ll have to do some setup for the meal. If you have access to the area or it is being held in your own home, then set up the table with plates and silverware. If you’re going to serve the food on a buffet, set up this area with serving utensils. This can usually be done the day before Thanksgiving for the best results. Most people like to have this done, so they don’t have to be carrying tables and chairs around while guests are present.
Have Appetizers Ready
Some people don’t always serve appetizers, but they’re a good idea. You can purchase or make your own crudite or put together a platter with crackers, cheese, olives, and other basic items. Most of these items can also be prepared the day before the holiday and kept in your fridge. Although not strictly necessary to serve, it’s a good idea to have this on hand when cooking for a large group. Most people find that they run into a few snags on Thanksgiving day, even with the best planning. Having appetizers for guests will keep them happy if your meal is slightly delayed.
Make a Timeline
Most of the dishes that you serve on Thanksgiving require at least an hour of cooking or preparation. The turkey certainly will take hours to cook. The only way to ensure that you can get your items to the table around the same time is to make a timeline for yourself. Since the turkey is the main event, it’s a good idea to start by determining how long you’ll need to cook the turkey. Most people start this process in the morning. Give yourself a little extra time for cooking. Your oven may not be working at 100% with so much going on, and you’ll need extra time for carving as well.
After you have your time for the turkey, plan out when you need to heat or cook other items. The refrigerated items that you’ve made before the big day should be taken out of the oven about half an hour before they need to be reheated or cooked. This will make it faster to cook them in the oven. If you have limited oven space, you may have to choose which items you will heat first. Usually, an oven can fit the turkey and two casserole dishes, but you may need to even measure your oven for planning purposes. You can download a free Thanksgiving dinner timeline printable here that you can fill in so you don’t forget anything.
Enjoy Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for a Large Group
If you follow these tips, you’re going to be on an excellent track to prepare your meal on Thanksgiving Day. These essential tips are easy to use and will help you prepare well for dinner. Most people find that they love hosting a large group, and using these no-stress tips allows them to truly enjoy the holiday.