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Tips for Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

By: Lodge Cast Iron / November 10, 2022

Thanksgiving is one the biggest cooking days of the year, and if you’re new to preparing the big feast, it can be overwhelming. As you prepare, use these tips as a guide for hosting. And remember, cooking for the people you love is about so much more than serving the perfect meal. If you leave something in for too long or the sweet potato recipe doesn’t turn out—don’t stress and focus on having fun with the people you love. There’s always next year!

Thanksgiving Tablescape

Remember: Thanksgiving dinner isn’t built in a day. 

The Month Before

First order of business: establish your menu and write your grocery list. If you’re thinking about adding some new recipes, it’s a good idea to do a test run ahead of time. If it doesn’t work out, you have time to make tweaks or cut it from the menu entirely! Then, take a day to do a fridge and pantry clean-out. Determine what you have, what you need, and what has expired in the back of your freezer. You’ll need plenty of space after your big Thanksgiving grocery run. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your cookware and appliances are ready for action. And when you have a free afternoon, get to baking! You can make this basic pie dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to four days or in the freezer for two months. The same goes for bread and cakes, too! Just make sure to allow them to cool completely before covering them in plastic wrap and storing in the freezer. 

The Week Before

It’s go time, y’all! Check off your grocery list, start thawing your turkey, and make a game plan for Thanksgiving day.
If you don’t know where to start, reference our 48-Hour Thanksgiving Schedule. It provides a general outline for making all the classics. Use it as a guide as you plan a cooking schedule for your menu.Think of things that cook at a similar temperature and plan to pop them in the oven at the same time—we're looking at you, casseroles. While you’re at it, take note of oven temperatures and cook times for all of your recipes to use as a cheat sheet as you’re cooking. And there are some things you can start making right now: cranberry sauce, salad dressings, and desserts. If you’re using homemade bread for the dressing, bake it (or thaw it) the weekend before so it has time to dry out. You’ll thank yourself later!

The Day Before

Wash and chop veggies, brine your turkey, prep sides, set the table, and empty your dishwasher. Use a sticky note to keep track of oven temperatures and cook times for anything prep ahead of time that will need to be baked. When you’re ready to slide it into the oven, you won’t have to pull up the recipe. In other words: get as organized as possible before the big day. Check your fridge and pantry for ingredients. Did you forget something? That’s why we double-check! Head to the store for forgotten ingredients and pick up to-go containers for your guests if you haven’t already. And don’t you dare lift a finger for dinner. Order a pizza, pour a glass of wine, and get a good night’s sleep.

hands placing dough in cast iron skillet


It’s never too early to start your grocery shopping! 

Every time we go to the grocery store in November, we like to check a few non-perishables off of our grocery list. Then, you can focus on picking up your turkey and getting fresh ingredients the weekend before Thanksgiving. We even created a printable (and customizable) grocery list to add a little fun to your shopping!   

Print now 

Don’t be intimidated by the turkey. 

When it comes to the main event, there are two questions you need to ask yourself: “How much turkey do I need?” and “When do I need to start the thawing process?” 

Let’s start with the size of the bird. When shopping, we recommend 1 to 1 ½ pounds per person—the bird will cook down and remember that the weight includes bones. If leftovers are your jam, err on the larger side. But if your Thanksgiving crew is more focused on the sides, you may be safe choosing a smaller bird. Now, you may be wondering what size pan you should use. We measured—and got a lot of weird looks at the grocery store so you don’t have to. Use this guide to choose the best pan for your turkey. 
As far as thawing goes, if you buy a fresh bird, you can avoid this step altogether. Otherwise, it takes time. Generally, you’ll need one day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey. When you buy your turkey, calculate when you’ll need to move the turkey from the freezer to the fridge, and set a reminder on your phone. Some turkeys come pre-brined, but if you’re planning on brining your own turkey, you’ll want to factor that time into your schedule. Don’t know where to start? You can find instructions on how to brine your turkey in this article.

Roasted Turkey in USA Enamel


Save the turkey this Thanksgiving. 

A lot of folks feel pressure to have a turkey as their centerpiece for Thanksgiving. Let us set you free: if you aren’t a fan of turkey, make something else! We’ve been known to roast turkey legs, make a standing rib roast, bake a ham, and even serve a butternut squash lasagna. You do you! 

Ask for help! 

If you’re on cooking duty, you’ll have your hands full, and it might be helpful to put someone else in charge of the hosting while you make final touches. Here's what we mean: you don’t need to be answering the door as guests arrive. That’s a recipe for rolls burning in the oven as you get pulled into small talk. Give that job to someone else. Your partner, kids, or dog can take charge of the greeting committee! 

Too many cooks in the kitchen last year? As people arrive, direct them to an area with pre-meal snacks and drinks. That’ll keep those sneaky taste testers out of the kitchen until it’s time for dinner. And if guests are asking what they can bring, take them up on it! If they have a famous side dish, add it to your menu. Or suggest they cheese and crackers to snack on while the turkey finishes or their favorite bottle of wine to have with the meal.  

Green Bean Casserole in Cast Iron Baking Pan


Be prepared for additional dishes!

Whether you’ve planned for it or not, your guests may show up with dishes to add to the spread. That means you might have to squeeze another casserole into the oven to warm up, store a salad in the fridge, or make room at the dessert table for extra treats. When space is limited, toaster ovens, grills, and garage fridges are your friends!  

Contributed By: Lodge Cast Iron

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