Thanksgiving is definitely a time of joy, but, for the host, it also brings its fair share of headaches. Fortunately, most of the issues you will face are easy enough to get past, once you know how.
Keeping everything warm
Creating a table groaning with stunning food and treats takes a lot of time and effort. Naturally, the last thing you want is to have to serve some of it at the wrong temperature. Fortunately, you probably have most of what you need easily at hand. For example, electric griddles and grills provide an easy way to keep most dishes warm. The chances are your guests own them too. Therefore, they could bring them along as well, so you can keep more dishes warm.
For liquids, thermos flasks or an insulated coffee pot will save the day. Mash can be kept warm in a Crockpot for quite a while, provided you remember to stir it. As you can see, there are lots of options.
Cooking for family members with food sensitivities
If someone in the family suffers from a food allergy you have to be really careful. In this situation, you need to be guided by them. They will explain, in detail, what they can and cannot eat. Plus, give you advice on how to avoid cross-contamination. Because food allergies are life-threatening you really need to follow their advice to the letter to ensure their safety.
Often, family members with food sensitivities will offer to bring their own dishes. If they do, it is usually best to accept that kind offer. That way, everyone can relax and enjoy eating at the same table knowing that what they eat has no chance of making them ill.
Usually, they will bring enough to share. Having this extra food to serve can take pressure off of you as well as give other guests the chance to try some nice new dishes.
Should you decide to do the cooking yourself, it is easy to find nut, gluten and egg free recipes online. Pages like this gluten free Thanksgiving cooking guide are ideal. These web pages have all of the recipes you need to produce a suitable Thanksgiving dinner listed in one place.
Buying the right size turkey
Deciding what size turkey to buy is the first hurdle most hosts have to overcome. The simple answer to this conundrum, when buying a whole bird, is to buy a pound for every meat-eating guest you invite. This provides enough meat for the meal and leftovers.
Most of your guests do not like leg meat
If you know that most of your guests will only eat white meat consider buying a small whole turkey and some turkey crowns. That way you will have plenty of white meat available.
Keeping the turkey moist
Nobody likes dry meat, so taking steps to keep your turkey moist is important. A good tip is to buy two smaller birds rather than one big one. They will take less time to defrost and cook, as well as stay moister.
Brining your turkey is another good way to ensure it is moist. Putting an onion, apples or lemons in the cavity can also help. However, bear in mind that doing this will change the taste of the gravy, so you need to experiment a bit to determine if this solution is right for you.
Working out if the turkey is cooked
There are dozens of ways to check if your turkey is cooked. But, by far the best, and safest, approach is to use a thermometer. They are no longer expensive. Just be sure to test that it is accurate before the big day.
Getting the turkey out
Transferring a piping hot turkey onto a platter is tricky. The heavier it is the higher the risk of injury or the bird ending up on the floor is. You need to plan this job and ensure you have the help that you need. The best approach is to do it with two people. Both should wear gloves. One can put a long and sturdy wooden spoon inside the bird, while the other supports the back end using a pad of kitchen towel. On the count of three, you can both lift the bird and transfer it without breaking the skin.
Getting everything ready to serve together
Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner is complicated. Planning ahead is absolutely essential. It is wise to practice cooking each dish at least once before the big day.
Also, well in advance of Thanksgiving, make a list of the dishes you are planning to cook. Then put together a detailed timeline. Include each process from cutting things up to taking them out of the oven, for each dish. When you are done you will know exactly what to do at each point during the cooking process.
Not becoming overwhelmed
The timeline will help to stop you from becoming overwhelmed. It will also help you to see when you need to ask for some extra help.
All too often cooks have offers of help, but delegating tasks proves to be too much of a distraction. It makes sense to make a list of things other people can do, so when you are asked you can just glance at it and choose a task. If you are going to accept help, try to have everything that is needed for each task, close at hand. For example, have the glasses, corkscrew out and ice in the ice bucket. That way you will not spend ages trying to explain where everything is kept.
Finding the time to get the house clean
The last thing you need when you have 20 people coming to dinner is to spend two days exhausting yourself deep cleaning the house. Again, make a list, split the jobs up between family members and do as many of them as possible the weekend before. Tasks like cutting the lawn, polishing your leather sofa and cleaning the windows can all be done well in advance.
That way the day before you should only need to dust, vacuum, clean the bathroom and tidy up. Again, these are all jobs the family can do rather than the host.
Too many leftovers
If you always have a lot of leftovers ask your guests if they want anything. Usually, they will. Make it as quick and easy as possible for them to help themselves. Pre-cut some sheets of foil or better still have a batch of takeaway tubs to hand, so they can get everything home without the risk of spills.
Also, prior to Thanksgiving free up a bit of freezer space. That way you will be able to pack away a few goodies and still be enjoying those weeks later.