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Hosting the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

Hosting the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

I realize that I assume a lot.  I’ve been cooking since I was 7, so sometimes I skip over the basics.  The first time I hosted thanksgiving was in 2012 and I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve hosted every year since then, and here’s what I’ve learned.



I plan out the menu, how many guests there will be, a few weeks ahead of the date.  Gives me time to get my head in the game.

Plan out your menu and what others can bring.  My first year, I made everything and drove myself insane.  The rolls didn’t rise, it was way too much pressure and I was so frazzled, I could barely enjoy myself.  The next year, I asked everyone to bring something and that meant I could focus on my favorite dishes, relax and get everything done with ease.

Here’s an example of our typical menu, beside the dish is who’s making it.  I typically make 6-7 dishes and that’s plenty.  Spread the wealth!

I keep all my recipes organized on Pinterest.  Most of them live on my website, but pinterest is a great way to plan out menus and find new recipes.  Here’s my Thanksgiving board with all my tried and true recipes pinned:

Epic Harris Thanksgiving



Plan how much food/drinks you will need.  My first Thanksgiving I struggled with this.  My guests like to eat good and take plates home, so I’ve learned that I can’t make too much food!  I make two large trays of stuffing, mac and cheese, and we always get a 15-20 lb turkey as well as a large ham.  Do what works best for you.  Here’s a guide to help out:


I start to get all my materials together: serving dishes, table decor, moving any furniture that would be in the way (we usually host about 15-20 people).  Its easy to do this well ahead of schedule.   Clean up: clear out the fridge and freezer, clean coolers, and clean the house.  I have learned to have someone clean the house for me.  It is one less thing for me to worry about, I have two toddlers, cleaning is a whole notion and they never harass the cleaning lady while she’s cleaning, like they do me, lol!  If you can splurge on that, do it.

Once you know what you are cooking, you can make a shopping list.  Write out all your recipes and all the ingredients and take it to the store with you.  Its easy to forget things.   Clean your fridge out and assess what you have and what you need to buy.  If you can buy nonperishable items early, do so, because the stores can sell out of items that everyone uses the closer to the holiday you get.

You can buy the nonfood supplies early.  Two weeks before, I get cups, plates, napkins, cutlery, ect.  My first thanksgiving I used real plates, cups forks and was up all night cleaning dishes.  NEVER AGAIN!  I buy quality paper plates and plastic ware and my friends and family couldn’t care less.

I love a good checklist, here’s a good one to help you stay organized:



Prep as much as you can ahead of time.  I typically make sweet potato pies for dessert, I try to make them the day before.  Anything you can do in the days before thanksgiving, do it!  I make my deserts on Wed, and I cut up all my veggies, make stock, and cranberry sauce on Tue or Wed.  THAW OUT YOUR TURKEY.   It takes a couple of days depending on the size.  This is the perfect opportunity to brine it.


COOK YO AZZ OFF.   Stay hydrated!  Start from the time you want dinner to be served and work your way backwards to keep the day running smoothly.  There will be bumps in the road.   I’ve learned not to cook the turkey in the oven.  It throws off the cooking times of everything else.  I use a stand alone roaster, it plugs in and cooks so evenly.  Or I smoke the turkey.  It goes on first thing in the morning and I just watch it every hour, until its done.  That smokey goodness will change your life.

If you’d like that recipe, click here: http://whatbriscooking.com/smoked-spatchcock-turkey-recipe/

Some things can be cooked before and put in the crockpot to keep warm.  This is amazing for the gravy, green beans, etc.

Ask for help if you need it.  If your sister’s coming, ask her to fall through a couple hours early to get over the finish line.  Put out some easy appetizers to buy you time.  For anyone coming to bug you about when dinner will be done, put them to work!  They’ll stop asking, lol!  Most of all, have fun.  There’s no better feeling than knowing you hosted a successful thanksgiving dinner.  Its a real badge of honor for any cook!


Thanksgiving 2012

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