6 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Dinner Look Effortless

Thanksgiving seems to be just around the corner. Here are six simple ways to help make your meal look effortless to your guests.

Prep in advance:
Zip Lock bags become my best friend around this time of the year. Most vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and broccoli can be prepped up to a week before they are cooked. I even go as far as preassemble things like green bean casseroles directly in their baking dishes the night before. That way I only need to top it with fried onions, throw it in the oven and move on to the next task.

Stick to what you know:
Thanksgiving Day is not the time to test a new recipe. Since cooking preparation and times differ from kitchen to kitchen, the last thing you want to do is find yourself scrambling to fix an unexpected mistake. Whenever I want to feature new flavors on my menu, I test the recipes at least two times well before the big day. This allows me the opportunity to adjust the recipe to my tastes or make a switch if it’s completely not to my liking.

Build in some flex time:
I hate it when dinner is served the minute I walk in the door. It doesn’t give me a chance to scope out the crowd and relax before diving into a mound of food. Plus, if someone is late, the last thing you want them to feel is the entire meal was put on hold for their arrival. I strongly encourage you to serve a simple appetizer for the first half hour before dinner. My favorite is a light dip with crisp vegetables. This is provides a perfect amount of flex time to handle anything unexpected that might come up.

Use all the appliances:
Don’t fall in the trap of having all your menu items require one piece of equipment. Your oven will not be able to handle baking a turkey, three pies, a green bean casserole, stuffing and yams all at the same time. In fact, it could cause everything to take longer than expected. Think of alternative ways of preparing your menu items. The slow cooker is perfect for the green bean casserole. The microwave steams fresh vegetables in a flash and the stove top is a great place for everything in between.

Keep beverages and food separate:
A common mistake I have found when I’m attending dinner parties is the beverages and food is in the same room. This causes your guests to congregate in one room, making for a very uncomfortable environment for everyone. Try setting up your beverage station in a separate room from the food. This will force you guests to mingle and flow throughout the entire space.

Get the kids involved:
This is a day that should be shared with the whole family. I can understand the need to keep the little ones out of the kitchen. However, it’s important to get your kids involved, or else it’s just another meal to them. Try using some legal sized sheets of paper from your local office store and have your munchkins design their own placemats. It’s a great conversation topic they can share with your guests before the meal starts.

Now I turn it over to you. What are some of your favorite tips for effortless entertaining?

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  • Great thoughts. I use the grill as another cooking space. You mentioned on my blog that you use a slow cooker for your stuffing. Is that a crock pot? Does it make your stuffing soft? I cook my stuffing uncovered in the oven so it’s a little crispy.

    • Hey Ninette: Yep, I call the crock pot a slow cooker. Have no idea way…just do. It does make the stuffing soft. But that’s how I like it.

  • Wonderful tips. I’m responsible for Easter in our family & I cook my ham in the crock pot. It turns out wonderful & is ready whenever we are! That way the oven is free for other dishes! I also do all of my prep ahead of time, casseroles all cook well out of the fridge with a little extra time in the oven. We also include the kids. They are responsible for serving snacks, decoration placecards, and taking drink orders. They have a blast.