Thanksgiving dinner: 10 tips for making it perfect!

table laid for thanksgiving dinner with the family

Thanksgiving dinner is the biggest tradition (as well as watching the Macy’s Day Parade and the football!) across the US when it comes to enjoying Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of America’s most favorite holidays – a day off work to spend with the family, eating a huge, delicious meal and enjoying each other’s company; what’s not to love?! The day always falls on the fourth Thursday in November, which this year is the 28th, so it’s just over a week away.

Here’s a small bit of Thanksgiving history for you: in the US, it originated as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789! The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days, and it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

Back to the present day: although it is wonderful to enjoy a meal with your family, especially on Thanksgiving, it’s often not so wonderful for the person who has to cook it! Especially if there’s a large number of people to cook for. The lead up to cooking Thanksgiving dinner can often be stressful and worrying for the family member who has offered to be the chef for the day.

So, we’ve put together 10 tips to help you make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner!

  1. Prepare what you need BEFORE you start – there’s nothing worse than being halfway through cooking before realising you’ve run out of a key ingredient, or you don’t have a vital kitchen tool that you need. Make sure you check you have everything you need for your Thanksgiving dinner before the day – that way, if you don’t, you’ll have time to run out and grab what you’re missing.
  2. Stick to the recipe – if you’ve chosen a recipe to follow for your Thanksgiving meal, make sure you do just that; follow it! Improvising and changing things on the day may not go to plan and you don’t need any added stress when cooking, especially when you’re cooking for other people.
  3. Try not to use substitutions – again, using substitutions may not go to plan. You may feel very disappointed if the people you’re cooking for don’t like the food because you’ve substituted their favorite thing for something else. Preparing ahead of time will always help avoid having to substitute, however, if there IS something you’d like to change, why not make it a small dish that your family can try out if they want to?
  4. Remember to buy parchment paper – parchment paper is a kitchen Godsend! It’s a brilliant grease and moisture resistant paper that will stop all your baked goods from sticking to the pan and from burning. It makes cleaning up a whole lot quicker and easier as well. It’s sold in most grocery stores and isn’t expensive.
  5. Use your best containers – make sure all your containers are sealed tightly when preparing food for your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s great to prepare ahead of time by doing things such as cutting up all your veggies, but you need to make sure they’ll be safe and sound in the fridge – and to do this, you’ll need good containers to keep out any moisture that could ruin your preparation.
  6. Don’t “wing it” last-minute – by this, we mean avoid any last-minute preparation! It will add to the stress of being the Thanksgiving chef and it will also mean less time to spend enjoying the day with your family.
  7. Keep washing your hands when preparing and cooking – certain foods, such as raw meat and eggs, often contain bacteria such as salmonella. If you mix a little bit of salmonella in with your vegetables or salad, you could make someone very sick. Proper cooking kills germs and bacteria but you always run the risk of cross-contamination if you don’t wash your hands, utensils or kitchen surfaces. Make sure you do this throughout your preparation, and when cooking your Thanksgiving dinner itself, as you don’t want anyone being unwell when you’re supposed to be celebrating!
  8. Avoid following more than one recipe – most Thanksgiving day recipes will cover all aspects of the meal; from the turkey to the stuffing, the vegetables to the yams. If you try following more than one recipe, things could go pear-shaped as it won’t be easy if they’re telling you to do slightly different things. Remember, you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself – and following one recipe will definitely help with that.
  9. Check what you’ll have to do on the day – there will be things that you can’t prepare ahead of time and that will have to be done when cooking on Thanksgiving. However, don’t worry, as long as you know what those things are, you can be ready for them!
  10. Be wary of, well, yourself – personal hygiene plays a big part when cooking for other people; it’s embarrassing if someone you’ve cooked for finds a hair in their soup! So, to make sure this doesn’t happen, you can make sure you wear a hair net or tie your hair up to stop it getting anywhere you don’t want it to be, don’t wear any nail varnish and keep your nails short, and don’t wear any jewellery when preparing and cooking (in case it ends up in the stuffing!).

Follow these tips and you’re sure to make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner and have a great time on the day with your family.

Happy Thanksgiving!