How to Host Thanksgiving by Tori Draeger

Tip #1

Order Your Turkey

"Firstly, start by asking yourself a few important questions: Organic or Natural? Do you want it brined, or do you want to brine it yourself? How many people? Do you want leftovers or are you planning on sending some home with family?

Once you have the answers to the questions, you can order your bird with a few tips in mind. We recommend one pound (1LB) per person - you have other foods to give them after all. Next, how are you going to cook and prep it? If you want a turkey brined for you, you need to specify that when placing your order. If you plan on brining the turkey yourself, plan on doing so for a full 24 hours. Remember: if you brine a turkey, the cooking time gets cut in half.

The earlier you order your turkey the better. This way, if you do have questions, you can call and ask-or if you have any sudden adjustments to the size, the new size you're looking for will still be available to you.

- Jerry Saldano, Draeger's Los Altos Meat Department Manager

Tip #2

The Shopping Trip

Trust us-we've seen it all. From the shoppers who come three days before with their ultra- organized lists, to the people who dash in ten minutes to closing and frantically search for all the fixings. Contrary to popular belief, the busiest shopping day is two days before the holiday. We recommend trying to do your shopping three days out. Even the perishable vegetables will keep fresh for three days in your fridge; and if you realize you've forgotten something, decide to add a last minute dish, or suddenly find out your cousin is bringing a gluten-free date, you'll have time to do a last-minute run.

Tip #3

Inventory Your Cookware

Finding out at the last minute that you don't have enough casserole dishes can put a huge crimp in your plans. And are you expecting that digital thermometer to magically work after being unused in a drawer for a full year? Don't be caught off guard. Make sure you have enough dishes, pans and serving utensils for each dish you'll be making. This same rule applies to dishes, flatware and wine glasses. We even suggest making sure you have an extra set ready to go in case a last minute guest arrives.

Tip #4
potluck signup

Be Specific

If your family is anything like the Draeger Family, then each individual family is responsible for bringing one dish to contribute to the large family feast. We've found that over the years it helps to be specific with what you ask guests to bring. This will help you as the host to know exactly what components of the meal you need to provide yourself, whether or not you will have a relative commandeer your stovetop to heat up their dish and if you need to have an extra set of tongs to help dole out the rolls.
Download Potluck Signup

Tip #5

Prep in Advance

Do you want to stand in the kitchen peeling potatoes while your family and friends are enjoying their hors d'oeuvres and cocktails? No! Of course, you will be running back and forth from the oven and stove regardless of how much you prep, because there are just some things you will have to cook the day of, like the turkey! But if you can knock out any prep work that can be done ahead, like chopping onions and celery for stuffing the day before, do it. Not only will you feel less stressed, but you may even have time for a cocktail of your own!

Tip #6
science project

No Scienc-y Stuff Today

Yes, we have all fallen into the Pinterest trap of finding a delicious looking recipe that seems oh-so-easy, only to have a #PinterestFail. Today is not the day to be attempting a new recipe or a new cooking method. If you want to try a new recipe for the holiday, we recommend trying it out a week before to see how it goes. Otherwise, skip the science projects!

Tip #7

It's Okay to Cheat a Little

You're going all out on a gorgeous bird with all the fixings-mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn, sweet potato casserole (marshmallows anyone?), creamed onions... oh, and let's not forget that you're making that super cute veggie platter in the shape of a turkey. All of that is time-consuming! So there's no guilt or shame in picking up the dinner rolls from the bakery, or even one of our award-winning pumpkin pies for dessert. If you want a little more authenticity, it only takes three minutes to make your own whipped cream to go with the pie! Head off a gravy disaster by having an extra pre made quart on hand. Or you could buy the veggies pre-cut for that fabulous turkey appetizer. None of your guests will suspect it because they'll be too busy complimenting your artistic abilities in veggie arrangement.

Tip #8
prepped dinner tables

Set the Table the Night Before

That's right. Grab a glass of pinot the night before, and start working on perfecting the distance between the plate and the flatware. Setting the table is always one of the last things that happens before your guests arrive (okay, sometimes it doesn't happen until you're practically ready to sit down to eat!). Instead of doing the mad dash to set the table-and subsequently forgetting to shower and wash that flour off your cheek-pour yourself a glass of wine and perfect that centerpiece the night before!

Tip #9

Create a Timeline

Work backwards from the time you want to sit down and eat. Account for things like letting the turkey rest, items to be warmed last minute, time to cook items brought by guests (make sure you ask them about this by the way), and what time guests arrive. Even if you don't stick to your timeline, at least you've made the mental note to help you gracefully move throughout the day.
Download Thanksgiving Timeline

Tip #10
kid having fun

Keep the Kids Busy

The Draeger Family is huge! With ten brothers and sisters, their spouses and their whole families, there's often a myriad of kids that range in age from teenage to infant at our holiday parties. We found over the years that there are a few things that will help keep kids occupied. Make sure you have some kid-friendly appetizers, like cheese cubes and carrots. You might even consider splurging on some sparkling cider to make the kids feel like it's a special day. If you have room, it's nice to designate a place for kids to hang out. If there's a T.V., make sure that the older kids are watching something appropriate for all ages. Costumes and dress up are fun too. If you're tight on space, sometimes having a craft area can help. Our family likes to bake sugar cookies, and then have sprinkles and frosting available for kids to decorate. Even teenagers seem to snag a cookie to decorate when they think no one is looking!

Tip #11
wine away

Don't Forget the Wine Away

Spills happen. Just be prepared to deal with them. For little spills, make sure you're well-stocked on paper towels. For larger spills, designate a go-to towel that you won't mind getting dirty. Just tuck it away somewhere handy for the eventual mess. And can we please recommend checking the wine department for Wine Away if you're planning on serving red wine? Seriously, that stuff is a game changer! And just think-usually if you prepare for the worst, nothing happens!

Tip #12
Tori & Family

Have Fun!

The last minute checklist: paper towels, extra toilet paper, clean hand towels for the bathroom. Okay, you're done! You've prepped for everything from the turkey to your allergen guests, to entertaining the kids to being prepared for any mess possible. Breathe. It's going to be a crazy day, and without a doubt you'll feel like you're running around like a headless chicken. But make sure you take time to savor the day for yourself. Have a few of your own appetizers. Have that cocktail. Stop to say hi to your cousins who are in town from the East Coast. Catch some of the football game, even if you're not a sports fan. And most importantly, don't be the host who never sits down for dinner. Have fun and enjoy the meal you worked so hard to prepare!