Thanksgiving can be daunting. But, we are here to help make it a bit easier and stress free. We’re tackling your top questions to put your mind at ease!
How much turkey do I need per person? A good rule of thumb is 1 pound per person for the actual meat itself. If you want leftovers or have substantial eaters (like all of the teenagers in our house), I’d go with 1.5 pounds per person. Note, this is for a traditional, bone in bird. If you are doing a boneless breast, it’s usually 1/2 pound per person.
What dishes can I make ahead of time? There are a few dishes that can easily be made ahead and reheated. I made my mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and most casseroles ahead. When you reheat, have a little extra broth or milk on hand in case they need a tough more liquid, ensuring they don’t dry out. In fact, they are almost always better when done ahead. I also make my pies the day before. These can be covered overnight and warmed before serving. If you are using a brine for your turkey, marinade for any meats or serving a gravy, those can all be prepped at least 2-3 days early. Looking to save more time the day of? I like to make salad dressings early and cut or chop vegetables that will be needed. Place in airtight containers and store in refrigerator.
How far ahead of time do I need to defrost my turkey? Typical rule of thumb for thawing is 1 day per 5 pounds of turkey. So, most will take 4 days. You can start up to 6 days ahead just to be safe, presuming you have room in your fridge. Place turkey in a roasting pan or pan that has edges to catch any liquid (such as a rimmed baking sheet) and keep in refrigerator to safely defrost and thaw.
I never have enough space in my oven or fridge to make the entire meal. Help! Space is always a premium this time of year. A few helpful hints that I like to follow. First, make your gravy early in the day. Store in a metal or insulated thermos (like the ones you used to take soup to school in) and set aside. It will stay warm inside for at least a few hours. Second, brine your turkey in a cooler. I love using our big Yeti for the bird. Load the cooler with a bag of ice for about an hour before you use it to cool it down. Place bird in a sealed bag in the cooler and you can free up fridge space while brining. Our favorite dry brine goes overnight and the cooler works great. Also sure your menu has a variety of items that are served at various temperatures. If everything has to be served hot, it can be overwhelming. Rolls are fine at room temperature. A salad can be stored in the fridge. Roasted vegetables can also be served at room temperature. Save oven space for the most important items (hello, Turkey and Potatoes!). Lastly, think about other cooking methods such as a smoker or fryer. We’ve done both for our turkeys and they’ve turned out amazing. Air fryers often have a temperature setting just like a convection oven. Our air fryer holds a full sized casserole dish and is perfect for another way to heat up dishes!
I don’t like to cook but I’m hosting Thanksgiving. What do I serve? You don’t have to be a trained chef to make it a great holiday. Remember, it’s about our thankfulness for family and friends and time together. The food is the gravy (pun intended!). First, have you thought about carry out from your favorite restaurant or local grocer? Many have specials for the holiday season that are meant to be picked up and cooked or reheated at home. Second, consider a potluck. Ask each guest to bring one or two items and take the stress off of yourself. Lastly, a formal Thanksgiving meal can feel overwhelming for even the best cook. Is there an easier or less stressful menu that you can make and still enjoy? Pasta is always a hit with a crowd! Serve with a salad, crusty bread and nice glass of wine.