If you’re gearing up to host your very first Thanksgiving, whether you’re expecting five family members or 15 plus friends, you’ve no doubt realized at this point that it can become quite stressful. From figuring out the side dishes and buying the dozens of ingredients for each recipe to cooking it all in time for everyone’s arrival, there’s a lot to consider. On the upside, hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner is also incredibly exciting. “Just imagine getting the chance to wow your guests with a juicy turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, fluffy rolls, crispy Brussels sprouts, and a stunning pumpkin pie,” says Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, registered dietitian and chef. “It’s so rewarding and by the time you have your plan figured out and executed, you’ll want to host Thanksgiving every year!”
Of course, hosting successfully takes quite a bit of preparation. So, to ensure dinner goes off without a hitch, we rounded up the essentials you may not have known you need for hosting your first Thanksgiving.
Disposable bag and roasting dish for turkey
To keep all that moisture in the bird and ensure it won’t dry out, an oven bag is key. “These are not expensive in the least, they save a lot of time in cleanup, and also help you achieve the best results for a moist and delicious turkey,” says Andrews. “If you are buying a frozen turkey, which you should do two days in advance, allow it a full day to defrost before brining; brine it one day in advance and allow 13 minutes per pound of turkey for your cooking time as a general rule.”
Tupperware — tons of Tupperware
Andrews meal preps in advance and says this saves both time and sanity on the day of Thanksgiving. She uses containers to store things like her gravy and cranberry sauce, which she recommends making three days in advance. “Buy containers that stack well, are large enough, and are easy to organize so they can be used in advance and serve as containers for post-holiday leftovers,” she says. Try this 12-piece, color-coded set by Joseph Joseph ($31; amazon.com).
Non-stick aluminum foil
You probably already have this in your kitchen, but buy extra in time for Thanksgiving, as non-stick aluminum foil goes a long way when it comes to cooking and cleanup. Andrews uses it to make her roasted Brussels sprouts, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Some helpful advice: “For roasted vegetables, you also want to space them out on a baking sheet so they brown well, which requires a lot of oven space,” she says. “To accomplish this all, I roast batches when I’m basting the turkey — when the oven door opens as I am turning and basting the bird, a new dish goes in.”
Speedy side dishes
While some may consider them the same thing, haricot vert (the French name for green beans) are actually different than classic green beans — they’re shorter and thinner than the American standard variety, and they can be on the stringy side. “Haricot vert cook in about half the time as green beans and are more tender,” says Andrews. “You can also purchase them in steamer bags that do most of the work for you.” As for stuffing, you can use dried or stale bread and stash it in the freezer until it’s time to cook. Another helpful hack: Microwave your potatoes instead of boiling them before mashing — it’s much faster! — and add a pinch of baking powder if they aren’t fluffy enough.
A wine station
Let’s be honest here: What’s a Thanksgiving celebration without wine? Andrews recommends setting up a beverage station in the room where you are eating, so guests can grab wine, beer or other refreshments while staying out of the kitchen. “Everyone may want to mingle in the kitchen anyway, but you will need your refrigerator space for food,” she says. “Use a cooler for wine and beer (if you are short on space, store it outside since that time of year is often cool enough to keep beverages frosty) and set up a simple bar cart, allowing guests to help themselves so that you can do the necessary cooking.”