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How To Host Your Own Thanksgiving Like A Pro

By Christi Pratte··  8 min read
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How To Host Your Own Thanksgiving This Year Like A Pro

Thanksgiving is around the corner, initiating a delicious start to the holiday season! It’s a special time to bring loved ones together and acknowledge all the blessings this life has to offer.

If you’re unable to travel this year and have decided to keep your dining room table intimate with close friends or just you and your husband, you can still rock the occasion like a pro!

With everything from the picture-perfect golden turkey, to the classic side dishes, and a divine tablescape to fit your style, this will be a Thanksgiving for the books.

So press play on that Macy’s Day parade and let’s get cookin’!

The Golden Turkey Guide

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Is this your first year cooking a turkey? No worries! The Food Network always knows how to deliver the simple, digestible steps for 5-star results without fail and tons of variety to fit your needs. 

Here’s an overview to guide your kitchen excursion:

  1. Make sure your turkey is fully thawed! Plan ahead by figuring out how long your turkey will need to defrost. A good rule of thumb is one day in the refrigerator per four to five pounds of turkey. So, for example, a fifteen-pound turkey will take about three days in the fridge to fully defrost!

  2. Calculate how long you'll need to cook your turkey, based on its weight. For example, an 8-12 pound turkey will need about 3 hours. (Here’s a handy chart.)

  3. Season your turkey. A simple option is chopped fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage mixed into softened butter. Rub all over the turkey and under the skin. 

  4. Preheat the oven. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

  5. Stuff the turkey if you wish. Fill the cavity loosely with stuffing – ½ to ¾ cup stuffing per pound of turkey.

  6. Tent your seasoned bird with foil – put a layer of foil over the top of the roasting pan, which will shield the turkey from burning.

  7. Roast the turkey for 2 hours (for an 8-pound bird). Resist the urge to peek, and if possible, roast the turkey all on its own without other sides in the oven.

  8. Remove the foil and baste the bird, brushing the turkey with butter or broth. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Increasing the temperature during the last bit of cooking time will make for extra crispy turkey skin.

  9. Cook until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh (about 45-60 minutes). If you stuffed your bird, you’ll need to add a bit more time because stuffing makes the bird cook more slowly. Make sure the turkey and the stuffing reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F in the deepest part.

  10. Remove the turkey from the oven and rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Leave it tented with foil as it rests. If there’s stuffing inside, leave it in the bird while it rests.

Be sure to check out the commonly asked preparation questions, available turkey varieties, brining instructions, gravy recipes, and carving techniques here to tailor your turkey entrée to your taste buds' desires!

Side Dish Delights

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Are you team cranberry sauce or team anti-cranberry sauce? Either way, we can all agree it’s a memorable piece of the Thanksgiving table alongside other mouthwatering delights! Here are your five must-have supporting dishes to complement the star of the show:

  • Stuffing: Arguably the second star of the evening, this staple tends to be a house favorite! Golden crunchy edges with a soft center. Each forkful buttery, flavorful, and filled with herbs – stuffing is sure to enhance your plate. (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of How Sweet Eats)

  • Cranberry Sauce: Skip the canned stuff this year and go for the full homemade experience with this rich, beautifully balanced tart and sweet combination. With orange and cinnamon flavors, this is sure to please even the critics. (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of Mom on Timeout)

  • Sweet Potato Casserole: Comfort food with a healthy base? We’ll take it, guilt-free! This side adds an untouchable dimension of sweetness that will have you thinking of dessert (even when you swore you couldn’t fit another bite)! (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of Delish)

  • Mashed Potatoes: Oh, mashed potatoes! Dress ‘em up or dress ‘em down, they’re always delicious! Rich, buttery, and creamy down to the last bite. (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of Tasty)

  • Brussel Sprouts: I suppose we should add a green to balance out the display, and what better addition than Brussel sprouts? Simply sauteed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of lemon juice, they’re bound to contribute the refreshing zest to round out your incredible spread. (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of Well Plated)

Classic Desserts

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What would a Thanksgiving dinner be without a classic fall dessert? Pie may immediately come to mind, but it's not the only option! But the first step to making delicious pie, no matter what the flavor, is the perfect pie crust. The quickest way to make a great pie crust dough is with a food processor. See the recipe here.

If you want to stick to the traditional, go for one of these options:

  • Pumpkin Pie: The most American dessert, and the one thing most guests will be expecting to see in a Thanksgiving spread. (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of Libby's)

  • Apple Pie: Coming in at a close second is good ol' fashioned apple pie. This is a fun pie to get creative with since you have a second crust topping the pie. Here are some cute ideas to get you inspired. (Recipe of inspiration courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Pies aren't the only option for Thanksgiving, though. Other delicious options include cobblers, fruit tarts, cheesecake, or even Bundt cake. Click here for a list of non-traditional but gorgeous Thanksgiving desserts.

Planning the Meal

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Making sure all the dishes are ready on time and are warm when you serve them can feel like a daunting task. But never fear. It is possible, with a little planning and creativity. Here are some tips for making sure everything is ready on time:

  1. Consider getting a roaster oven. Since the turkey will need to cook for several hours, you might be stuck with no oven for hours before you need to have food on the table! Using a roaster oven leaves your real oven available for pies, casserole, or just keeping food warm.

  2. Make what food you can ahead of time. For example, soups, pies, and cranberry sauce can be made the day before and reheated before serving.

  3. Prep ingredients the night before. If you're making sweet potato casserole, for example, you can cook and peel your sweet potato one or two days before Thanksgiving and store the cooked potato in the fridge. Then simply mix it in together with the other ingredients and pop it in the oven before dinner.

  4. Use your oven or a slow cooker to keep foods warm. If different items will be done cooking at different times, you can keep them warm for 30 minutes to an hour in your oven or slow cooker.

  5. Time dinner for when the turkey will be done. Since it's the hardest thing to keep warm without drying out, make sure your whole dinner will be ready to serve once the turkey timer dings.

An Elegant Tablescape

Now that the turkey is cooking and the side dishes are prepared, let’s set out the most glorious table décor to truly bring this occasion to a polished completion. Here are some setting ideas for every style that are sure to make your table look like it came right off your Pinterest board!

Romantically Rustic

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Image Source: Sanctuary Decor via Pinterest 

With a blend of copper and neutrals, this rustic delight is whimsically enchanting. Create warmth with a cream-based table runner, a cream, rose and white lisianthus centerpiece, copper highlighted candlesticks and plate patterns, tea lights, and white sugar pumpkins. 

Minimalist Magic

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Image Source: The Sweetest Digs via Pinterest

A table set with white, wood, gold, and natural textures sets the tone of simplicity and elegance. Wooden serving bowls, golden candlesticks, and textures found in grasses, wheat, eucalyptus, and natural linens accentuate with just the right touch of sparkle.

Golden Glam

If you’re going for glitz and glamour, then this tablescape is sure to please. With golden hues, neutral tones, and pops of color coming from the vibrant foods (red cranberry sauce, dark green Brussel sprouts, and bright orange sweet potatoes), this contrast enhances and elevates!

Bohemian Beauty 

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Image Source: Taste of Home via Pinterest

This boho-chic arrangement is laid-back and casually finished with plenty of color! Strategically placing bold-colored plates, shimmery gem-stoned napkin rings, and gold flatware exudes all sorts of effortless festive fun.

Closing Thoughts

With all the pieces in place, you’re ready to rock this Thanksgiving, stress-free! We hope these resources allow you the space to relax and enjoy this time with loved ones to the fullest. Cook together, celebrate together, and create the beauty of the room together. Cherish these small moments that turn into big moments. We’re wishing you the many blessings and smiles that come with this holiday threaded in gratitude!

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