The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner
Whether it’s your first time hosting Thanksgiving or you’d like to make things easier this year, you need a plan to make it the best Thanksgiving yet. While you and your family may have some traditions, if they bring you more stress than joy, you may want to find ways to simplify them. The result will be a truly enjoyable Thanksgiving that’ll make you actually look forward to next year’s turkey day.
This guide will help you plan your table setting, sides and desserts to help you have everything under control this Thanksgiving. Plus, you’ll find a few recipes to help you outline your menu with simple, delicious bites. Learn more about how to plan the perfect Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on being thankful.
10 Tips on How to Make the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner With Dessert
Planning for Thanksgiving can be fun and exciting. Explore the following tips for crafting and executing the perfect Thanksgiving menu.
1. Keep the Menu SimpleThanksgiving is about the people around your table, not the food on it. Although you may want to make everything from scratch and prepare a ton of food, drinks and desserts, you should try to set aside some of that time to spend with your loved ones.
Create a menu of all your favorite dishes. Then, cut a few of them from your list. Consider what you can buy from the store and what you want to take the time to cook at home. This way, you’ll have a menu that tastes delicious and isn’t overly complex.
2. Accept and Ask for Help
On Thanksgiving Day, you’re going to need some help to pull it all off. When your guests offer to bring something, let them. Don’t hesitate to ask them to buy a dessert or drink or let them help prepare on Thanksgiving. Create a to-do list for anyone to follow if they desire to help you.
3. Create a Timeline and Stick to It
Before Thanksgiving, create a plan for when you want to have everything done. Instead of cramming everything on your to-do list on that Thursday morning, try to space it out over a week, especially if you need to defrost the turkey for a few days.
Giving yourself time to do everything will help ease your stress over the tasks you need to do. Since most sauces and marinades need to chill and set, you should avoid last-minute preparation and plan to have everything ready at the right time.
4. Think About What You Need Before Cooking
Of course, you never want to start cooking on Thanksgiving day only to realize you don’t have an important ingredient for the recipe. Before you begin, look at the recipe for all the ingredients, tools and equipment you need. It helps to plan on taking two shopping trips in case you forget something at the last minute. Plan about a week in advance by labeling the utensils and bowls you need for cooking and serving your food.
5. Follow the Recipe for All Your Dishes
Thanksgiving Day isn’t the time to start experimenting with different dishes. The holiday features traditional, tried-and-true recipes for a reason. Because you may be cooking for a large group of people, you want to include the meals everyone loves — use your leftovers to experiment with different Thanksgiving ideas for next year!
If you want to substitute an ingredient in one of your dishes to make it healthier or accommodating of allergies, prepare a small amount of the recipe and try it before serving it to a larger group of people. At the end of the day, take notes about what you think you’d change for next year.
6. Get Yourself and Your Table Ready First
On the day of Thanksgiving, you should start the day by getting up early and getting the table ready. Having the centerpieces, utensils and plates set out before everyone arrives creates a great first impression and gives you confidence and convenience. Don’t forget to put the turkey in the oven early enough to fully cook, too. By also setting aside time to get yourself ready, you’ll feel refreshed when your guests arrive.
7. Prepare Most of the Food Beforehand
Make the most of your free time on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Most dishes, such as mashed potatoes or stuffing, can be reheated in the slow cooker or oven on turkey day. Use that ability to your advantage — you’ll have more time to prepare day-of dishes, like roasted Brussel sprouts. Remember to keep everything in airtight containers in the fridge to preserve their freshness.
8. Cook the Turkey
There are many different ways to prepare turkey for Thanksgiving, and you have to find the way that works best for you and your plans. Feel free to go as simple as seasoning it with salt and roasting it, or marinate it with your favorite herb mix and gravy sauce.
Remember to defrost your frozen turkey for 24 hours in the refrigerator for every five pounds. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends keeping your fresh turkey in the fridge for no more than two days. Most importantly, after you’ve seasoned and roasted the turkey, let it rest for a little less than half an hour before serving.
9. Find Ways to Make Cleanup Easier
After you’ve finished eating and your guests are ready to leave, you don’t want to have a sink full of dishes waiting for you. Try to find ways to save time and energy as you clean up.
Use dishwasher-safe utensils, pots, pans and dishes to throw everything in the dishwasher. Send leftovers home with your loved ones in festive containers. Use parchment paper when baking to keep food from sticking to your baking sheets. If you prepare for the mess beforehand, it’ll be more manageable after the day is over.
10. Keep Yourself and Your Kitchen Healthy and Clean
From handling food with bacteria to battling airborne pathogens, it’s important to keep your hands clean at all times to prevent illness from cross-contamination and infection. Make sure you cook all raw meat to the minimum temperature requirements and wash your hands after touching it.
Clean any contaminated countertops, utensils or dishware with hot water and antibacterial dish soap to get rid of the germs. To keep your guests safe, consider setting out hand sanitizer or encourage people to wash their hands before touching the shared serving utensils.
Thanksgiving Table and Theme Ideas
As you set your table for the big day, try some of the following Thanksgiving dinner table ideas:
- Choose solid autumn colors: Decorate your Thanksgiving table with a solid-colored tablecloth or placemats, utensils and napkins. Colors like brown, orange and yellow are popular during this time of year, but you can also use forest green or deep red. Use gold throughout for a subtle yet sophisticated visual appeal.
- Make place cards and chair signs: Assign your loved ones a seat to make everyone feel like a favored guest at the table. Find Thanksgiving-themed place cards at your local craft store or make your own with sturdy card stock. Write out each guest’s name and stick their place card to a mini pumpkin with a push pin. Alternatively, try hanging up a sign on the back of their chairs so they can find their seats.
- Design an inviting centerpiece: Repurpose an autumn-themed wreath with fall flowers to create a centerpiece that doesn’t block people’s views across the table. Make a tablescape by adding a serving piece, vase, cake stand or candle in the middle of the wreath.
- Make a statement with your napkins and plates: If you use solid colors in the tablecloth, placemats and other table setting elements, you can add dimension to your design with pattern napkins. Use a napkin ring to make bowtie napkins or fold them diagonally across the plate. Establish a focal point with our plates with patterns or unique colors.
Delicious Thanksgiving Sides
Even though turkey is a significant part of Thanksgiving dinner, people also love the sides. Add some of these Thanksgiving dinner ideas for sides to your menu for the evening:
- Potatoes: This starchy vegetable is best served mashed with butter and cream, but you can also make baked potatoes or fried mashed potato balls. Add chives as a garnish to your mashed potatoes or serve them with cheese on top.
- Butternut squash: Besides pumpkin, butternut squash is the quintessential fall vegetable. Try steaming and serving it with butter or roasting it with pecans and currants or honey-roasting it with cranberries and feta. Look for a recipe that combines butternut squash’s earthy flavor with something sweet.
- Green beans: Green bean casserole with crunchy onions is a Thanksgiving fan favorite. Bake plain green beans and add cheese on top, or add crunchy onions to steamed ones.
- Cranberry sauce: This holiday treat comes in a can, but if you want to try making it fresh, cook it in the slow cooker and add spices or other flavorings of your choosing.
- Sweet potatoes: Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are easy to cook, and they come in different forms during this time of year. Mash your sweet potatoes and put marshmallows on top to make a casserole, or bake them and serve them with butter.
- Stuffing: Most people make traditional stuffing with celery, onions and broth, but you can change it up by adding some sausage or corn bread.
- Bread: Thanksgiving dinner has enough carbohydrates, but you can never go wrong with bread, especially if you’re having gravy. Consider whether you want to serve corn bread, biscuits, rolls or all of these delicious options.
- Gravy: The most common way to make this savory sauce is with the drippings from the Thanksgiving turkey. Dress up the gravy with mushrooms if your guest list includes vegetarians.
Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas
After a hearty Thanksgiving meal, finish off the evening with some scrumptious dessert. Try some of these sweet, savory pie recipes to delight you and your guests:
- Pumpkin pie: Take canned, pureed or freshly roasted pumpkin and mix it with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. Pre-bake the crust and mix the pumpkin combination with butter, eggs and milk. Bake everything together until it has browned and set it out.
- Sweet potato pie: Flavor your pie with brown sugar, orange zest or freshly grated ginger. Be sure to roast the potatoes instead of microwaving or boiling them.
- Cranberry pie: Put defrosted or fresh cranberries in a food processor and pulse to chop. Mix nutmeg, sugar, salt, walnuts, cornstarch and orange zest to the consistency you desire. Pour all the ingredients together into the crust and bake the pie.
- Apple pie: Cut and peel the apples before cooking them on the stove. Mix them with vanilla, spices, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Like pecan pie, you can top this delicious treat with vanilla ice cream.
Thanksgiving Meal Recipes With Premio Sausage
Premio Sausage packs a savory, hearty punch in many Thanksgiving recipes. Check out the following dishes where sausage can add new flavor to your Thanksgiving dinner:
Prepare our Savory Stuffing and serve it with the rest of your delicious sides. This dish contains the following ingredients:
- A package of Premio Sweet Italian Sausage
- Chopped red onion
- Chopped orange pepper
- Chopped celery
- Dried cranberries
- Dry white bread cubes
- Crumbled corn bread
- Poultry seasoning
- White pepper
- Toasted pine nuts
- Vegetable broth
Follow these instructions to make this stuffing for you and your guests:
- While the oven is heating, cut up Premio Sausage into small pieces and cook in a large skillet. Drain the meat and set it aside.
- Cook the butter, onion, celery and pepper in the same skillet until they’re all tender. Take them off the skillet and set them aside.
- Mix the corn bread and bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the other ingredients, except for the broth, starting with the sausage and ending with the pine nuts.
- Moisten the mixture with 1 cup of vegetable broth, and toss it together in the bowl.
- Bake the stuffing in an uncovered casserole dish until the pork sausage has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Holiday Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Combine the hearty taste of our sweet Italian sausage and the earthy taste of sweet potatoes with our Holiday Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes. All you need are the following ingredients:
- Premio Sweet Italian Sausage with the casings removed
- Medium sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Cold, cubed butter
- Brown sugar
- Finely chopped pecans
- Chopped dried cranberries
Follow these steps to spice up your sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving:
- While the oven is pre-heating, put aluminum foil on a baking pan and coat it with cooking spray or butter. Bake the sweet potatoes on the pan after poking holes with a fork for steaming. After they’ve become tender, take them out and set the oven to a lower temperature.
- Saute the sausage and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it’s almost cooked. Stir the mixture occasionally and cut the sausage into small crumbles. Drain the excess oil with a paper towel and set it aside.
- After you’ve taken the potatoes out of the oven and let them cool, cut the tops off and scoop out a little bit of the inside, leaving about a quarter-inch of flesh. Mash the sweet potatoes you took out with salt, butter, cinnamon and some of the brown sugar in a medium bowl. Scoop the mixture back into six of the eight sweet potato skins.
- Mix the rest of the brown sugar and flour in a mixing bowl, mashing it with a fork until it becomes coarse, flaky crumbles. Add the sweet Italian sausage and pecans and mix everything evenly. Then, distribute the mixture on top of each of the potatoes and gently pat them all down.
- Bake the potatoes in the oven until the sausage mixture is crispy and golden brown. Take them out of the oven and top with dried cranberries.
Include Premio Sausage in Your Thanksgiving Dinner Preparation
As you’re starting to think about how to get everything ready for Thanksgiving, remember to use high-quality ingredients like Premio Sausage in your dishes. Find a store that sells Premio Sausage near you to get all the tasty foods you need for this upcoming holiday.