Hosting Turkey Day will be a treat once you master these entertaining hacks.
Although I have been hosting the family Thanksgiving Feast at my home for years, I am always glad to find ways to improve the experience or lighten the load.
Being home for the holidays is all about relaxing, making memories and sharing great meals together. However, if you are the one hosting the holiday at your house then being home for the holidays can mean lots of prepping , budget breaking shopping lists and what feels like a race against time to get it all done. Here are some of our favorite holiday entertaining hacks that you will be thankful you read before Turkey Day.
Make it a Team Event
Just because you are gracious enough to host Thanksgiving at your home doesn’t mean you need to take on the entire menu yourself. Delegate drinks, apps, sides and desserts to family and friends to cut down on work and on the cost of all the food and drinks. Your guests will be happy to help and proud to show off their culinary skills.
My meal includes contributions from each household.
Save Space by Serving Dinner Buffet Style
A crowded table can leave your guests feeling claustrophobic. Aside from setting up a kid’s table, an easy way to free up space (for a few extra bottles of vino perhaps) is by serving dinner buffet style. Side note: Vegetarians and those with special dietary needs will thank you for this.
I definitely use this tip. The dining table is simple with condiments, candles and place settings. The kids get their own table and the feast is served buffet-style on the sideboard.
Go Double for Less Trouble
If you’re hosting a large party, The Washington Posts says go for two smaller birds instead of one. Two small turkeys will take about the same time to roast as one large turkey and you can have two different flavors. You can even roast two in one pan with this recipe from Rachael Ray.
This is a tip I have tried in the past with one roasted turkey and one turkey fried outside. For a smaller gathering like mine, one 10-12 pound bird is plenty and we just adore the traditional roasted bird. I do take advantage of the grocery sale and stash an extra bird for frying later in the fall. If a small bird won’t feed your crowd, the two bird method is an awesome idea. Who wants to handle a 20 pound turkey?
No Ice? No Problem!
If you don’t have an ice machine you just need to plan ahead. SheKnows advises making ice in ice cubes and them emptying the cubes into large, freezer safe containers starting a few days before the event. By the time your party starts you will be all stocked up!
Although I haven’t done this for Thanksgiving before, in the summer I do like to empty my ice bin more often and store up cubed ice in plastic zipper bags. Then I fill coolers as needed for the beach or ball field. This is a great hack for Thanksgiving as well since most everyone at my table enjoys plenty of sweet iced tea to wash down their feast.
Follow this Alcohol Cheat Sheet to Avoid Buying Too Much (or *gasp* not enough)
The cost of alcohol, on top of all the other food you are buying, can really add up. Hostess with the Mostess Martha Stewart has come up with the following suggestions:
Wine: One bottle per two people per hour
Beer: Two per person per hour
Spirits: One bottle per five people per hour
Mixers: Three bottles per each bottle of alcohol
Ice: At least one pound per person per hour
Although I appreciate this tip from Martha Stewart, we are all family and those not swigging sweet iced tea enjoy a cocktail like a fall sangria or hard cider provided by the hostess, or visit the Yeti for a chilled beverage with the men outside. We have an early meal and then a long drive home. There is not much alcohol served at our gathering, who wants waste calories when there is a feast being served? Less is more for our crowd, just don’t dare skimp on the gravy!
Stop Crying During Onion Prep
Chances are at least one of your recipes will call for chopped, minced or diced onions. Dry those eyes and try some of these tear free tricks from Lifehacker.com.
1) Freeze the Onion: Put the onion in the freezer 15 minutes before cutting it.
2) Cut Under a Vent: Use your stove or microwave vent to redirect the odor away from your nose, mouth, and eyes.
3). Wear Goggle: Looks ridiculous but works like a charm!
I can’t say that I have ever worn goggles while preparing Thanksgiving, but I just might add this to my routine. This would make for some fun Instagram posts!
Use Your Slow Cooker to Save Time
“This seems completely counter-intuitive – slow cooking to save time? But using your crock pot for Thanksgiving frees up valuable space in your oven and allows you to space out your cooking more efficiently.” – Sunny Day Family Here are some amazing crockpot Thanksgiving recipes from Food Network.
This tip is GOLD! Using my slow cooker for the dressing has been the best upgrade to my Thanksgiving meal preparation. The outside gets a little crispy just like I want, it smells fantastic cooking all morning while the turkey is roasting, then I can serve everything piping hot with just one oven!
Make Up for Lost Time By Cooking Your Bird in a Bag
If you waited too long to start the turkey don’t panic. Cooking your turkey in an oven bag seals in moisture and can cut cooking time by about 1/3 according to Diply. Learn how to cook your bird in a bag from Clever Housewife here.
This is a great way to roast a turkey! I have gotten away from this method over the years as I like to brine and baste, but if you are short on time this method does produce a tender, juicy bird.
Make Personal Sized Portions of Stuffing in a Cupcake Pan
Pass the stuffing could very well be the most popular phrase at the table on Thanksgiving. With this Stuffin Muffin trick passing the stuffing is easy and no one needs to fight for the crispy pieces. Check out this recipe from Serious Eats.
This hack is completely original! It would cut down on baking time and make an adorable presentation.
Put Your Dishwasher to Work
Is there a more thankless job on Thanksgiving than scrubbing potatoes? I think not. Heavenly Homemakers hacks this task by suggesting that you wash your potatoes in the dishwasher (sans soap of course!) Get the instructions here. Side Note: You can also steam your veggies in the dishwasher. Pop Sugar suggests “wrapping them in aluminum foil and throwing them in the dishwasher for a full cycle (including a complete dry cycle).”
My home kitchen is fairly small for preparing a feast, but I haven’t yet had to resort to cooking or prepping in my dishwasher. Sorry, but I’m thinking I will keep my dishwasher free for dishes, but please let me know if this works.
Cook Your in Your Cooler (Yes, really!)
Have a massive amount of corn on the cob to cook? Instead of breaking out all of your pots consider cooking them in a cooler. This hack from YouTube user Donald Boling is pure genius. Pour boiling hot water, butter, salt and the corn into a clean cooler, close the lid and let it sit for 30 minutes. Voila, cooked corn!
Is corn on your Thanksgiving menu? This tip would be awesome for a summer barbecue. I won’t be serving corn on the cob but I will try this tip this summer when the corn at Indiantown is fresh off the stalk!
Boil Potatoes Whole to Avoid Peeling
Nicked fingers and a ton of time is something any Thanksgiving hostess can relate to when it comes to potato prep. If you boil them whole then shock them in iced water the skin will slide right off! See the whole video from Chowhound.
I don’t know about this one, Lindsay Listanski. My mashed potatoes are perfection, and I’m not about to skip peeling those buttery beauties. Thanksgiving is a time where we make a meal for our loved ones from the heart. In order to make proper mashed potatoes, freshly boiled, hot and peeled potatoes are required, not to mention plenty of real butter and cream!
BYOT (Bring Your Own Tupperware)
Hosting guests AND generously giving away leftovers…you are just too much! If your family is anything like mine then once you send someone home with Tupperware there is a 99% chance you won’t be seeing it again. If you aren’t quite ready to part with yours then you can tell your guests in advance to bring their own. If all else fails, freezer Ziploc bags work quite well.
Yes, yes and yes! I have been known to stock up on those inexpensive plastic containers to send home mounds of dressing and casseroles. Bags will do the job, but I’m afraid that leftovers in a bag have been reduced from delectable to dog food. I feel more likely to nuke up leftovers in a container rather than scooping sad succotash from a bag. BYOT is the way to go!
Serve the Turkey Carved
There is one negative to serving the bird carved, you may lose some temperature on the bird, but that is what hot gravy is for. I like to remove the breast from the bird and slice and plate it. Then I arrange the long leg, wings and sliced dark meat alongside. This works very well for a buffet and the entire breast is able to be served, not left on the carcass.
Bonus Tip – Stock up on Stock
Early in the week, I will roast a whole chicken, either in the oven or slow cooker. I will use the chicken meat for tacos or a pasta dish like buffalo chicken pasta. Then, toss the chicken carcass, onions, carrots, and celery in the slow cooker and fill the entire slow cooker with water(salt as desired). Let the slow cooker work all day, my low cycle is 10 hours. Let cool until able to be handled. Strain the stock into quart jars and store in the fridge until the big feast preparation. You then have plenty of homemade stock for gravy, dressing, and basting. This is especially great if you are sensitive to salt or just want all the components of your feast to be as scratch made as possible. This method has raised the quality of the finished dressing and gravy to a new level and is worth the effort and planning.
Thank you to Lindsay Listanski for these super entertaining hacks.
Lindsay is the Senior Manager of Media Engagement for Coldwell Banker Real Estate and is a licensed real estate agent. She was born and raised in New Jersey and just bought her first home in Livingston, where she grew up. When Lindsay isn’t busy facebooking, tweeting or instagramming she is enjoying life with her husband Joe and cat Rory. She enjoys binging on Netflix, cooking and Zumba.