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How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the First Time

Unlock the Secrets to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Celebration!

Hooray for your first Thanksgiving!!

That’s a big deal, and we want to be here for you. We know that it’s not just the cooking that can be stressful, it’s the WHOLE THING. So we’ve put together a timeline and a few menus that can help you bring it all together. Thanksgiving doesn't have to be daunting- let us help you simplify it. 

A few notes before we get started:

  • • Don’t overdo it. There’s no need to make 15 dishes or spend all week in prep mode. Plan a simple but delicious menu (check out our What to Make for Thanksgiving guide to get your creativity flowing), and pace yourself.

  • • Even if the turkey takes a few hours to cook, there’s not much more than a few hours of active prepping/cooking to get the whole meal on the table.

  • • When it’s all done, let everyone help clean up – it makes them feel productive and allows you to kick your feet up after this huge accomplishment. 

Who's Coming?

By Nov 15...

you should know who’s coming and what their dietary restrictions are. Just write “Anything you don’t eat that I should know about?” when a guest confirms. Part of hosting anything successfully is making everyone feel comfortable, and you can only do that if YOU feel comfortable – so do yourself a favor and plan a menu that suits everyone. If you have a Vegan/GF guest and they spend the night nibbling on a green bean because there’s nothing else for them to eat, it’ll set off the vibe for you and everyone else.


Once you know your headcount, you can delegate. People will likely ask if there’s anything they can bring, it’s nice to give them something easy so they feel like a good guest. Bring a bottle of wine! Bring a game! Bring a pie or some cookies (keeping other guests’ restrictions in mind)! Remember- people want to help. You can still be the host with the most and accept a little help here and there. 

Seating & Placecards

You can also figure out where people will sit – do you need extra chairs? Do you have wine glasses for everyone? All that. Again – it’ll save you stress in the days closer to T-day.

A note about place cards: If you are the brave soul who’s hosting 12 people, we really recommend place cards. It’s not about controlling the ambiance (although there is nothing more awkward than a grumpy uncle arguing with your college roommate’s boyfriend who got there late and ended up being the lucky one to sit in that seat)… Place cards give guests security, like compression socks. They hold it in and make people feel sure of themselves when it’s sitting time. And guess what, dear host- if there is a grumpy uncle in the mix, the best thing you can do is take one for the team and seat him next to you.

Let's Get to Shopping

So aside from flowers for the table or that extra napkin, you may need, we’re talking food shopping here – and that all depends on what you’re making and for how many. We thought we’d help out with a menu guide in our "What Should I Make for Thanksgiving" blog, which also features Turkey Tips 101. It’s really a set-it-and-forget-it situation if you have a meat thermometer, the right roasting pan, and a big enough oven. So when should we go shopping?

Thanksgiving Essentials
Thanksgiving Essentials


T-3 Days: Go shopping! Get your list ready and beat the day-before crowds.

T-2 Days: If you’re making turkey and if it comes frozen, be sure to defrost it overnight in the fridge.

T-1 Day: This is a good day to do a little light prep. You can wash and chop the vegetables and store them in the fridge, giving you a major head start on Thanksgiving day. You can also make cranberry sauce today, organize your fridge, make dessert, and set the table. You’ll want to wake up tomorrow ready to roll! 

Day of: While you let your poultry come to room temperature, get a head start on the sides. Bake off any sides that need to cook in the oven, so that all they’ll need is a quick re-heat while the turkey rests after coming out of the oven. You’ll be ahead of the game with a set table and prepped veggies, so take the time to enjoy the company of your friends and family- it’s the holidays after all! 

And there you have it...

The recipe for your first fabulous Thanksgiving feast! With a bit of planning and deep breaths, you'll orchestrate a memorable holiday gathering that's not just about the food but the whole experience. So, tie that apron, take the stage, and let the holiday festivities begin! Cheers to good food, great company, and unforgettable memories!

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