Hosting a Thanksgiving dinner all by yourself can be intimidating. You’ve got to roast a bird, cook all the side dishes, bake a pie or two, and shake up cocktails (and that’s excluding home decoration, thanksgiving table setting, sending invites, and so on). But it doesn’t have to be! With some strategizing and prepping you’ll be able to get dinner on the table without being overwhelmed. At JCPenney, we’ve even gathered all the kitchen tools you will need to prepare the meal ahead of time and serve in style. So, stress not and get started!
To perfect a traditional Thanksgiving feast, you need to be armed with a list of easy thanksgiving recipes, the right cookware set, an apron, and some kitchen towels. List down what Thanksgiving dishes can be made ahead of time to avoid the last minute, “What to cook for Thanksgiving?” stress. Turkey goes without saying, but what about the side dishes and desserts? You can find some cocktail recipes here that are easy and quick to make.
Perfecting the Turkey
Though you can’t cook the turkey a day or two ahead of time, you can brine the bird for sure. On the day of the dinner, simply rub a melted, compound butter with a basting brush all over the bird and place it in a roasting pan, followed by the oven. Once it’s ready, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer, and don’t forget to use mittens while doing so.
Make a Flavorful Gravy & Stuffing
Heart-warming turkey gravy is an essential part of Thanksgiving dinner. Make it in a Dutch oven without drippings by simply roasting a few turkey pieces to get the homemade stock and drippings mix into the gravy, and freeze it. Thaw the frozen gravy in the fridge overnight, then reheat on low and whisk to smooth out any separation.
Similarly, you can bake the bread and toast nuts to make the stuffing a few days in advance. On the D-day, reheat in a microwave or oven to create the stuffing and dish it out in a serving bowl.
The Side Dishes
There are plenty of side dish options out there, but what to serve on Thanksgiving dinner? Select the ones you and your loved ones enjoy sharing and eating. They could be simple recipes, like mashed potatoes, or complex ones, like an apple hazelnut stuffed acorn squash. A peeler set and potato masher will come in handy to prepare these side dishes. Make them and freeze them in a freezer bag or container. You can defrost them in the fridge a day before Thanksgiving. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave, oven, or slow cooker.
Quick Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is one the quickest recipes that require no stress. You can buy it from the store (you’ll need a can opener), pour it into a bowl, and serve. If you’re planning to prepare from scratch, then start three days ahead of time. You can freeze it or keep it in the refrigerator. If you’re going to free it, thaw the cranberry sauce in the fridge overnight, then set it in a slow cooker a few hours before the dinner bells ring.
Since you can’t toss a salad together days before Thanksgiving, you can make the dressings and keep (add fresh ingredients like garlic or herbs to it only at the last minute). You can even cut up bread and freeze it for croutons, or toast or candy the nuts. Cut and grate your choice of veggies and fruits, add the dressing, croutons, and nuts, and serve on Thanksgiving plates.
Dinner Rolls & Pies
Homemade dinner rolls are a lovely treat, especially when served at a Thanksgiving family meal. You can bake them, freeze them, and reheat them when needed, or freeze the rolls unbaked. Bake them without thawing on Thanksgiving day and serve on a wood serving platter or serving tray.
As for pies, freeze pie crust discs or completely freeze a whole unbaked pie. Freezing actually sets the crust so it will be less soggy and tough. You can also make and freeze streusel topping. Place them in Thanksgiving dish sets or matching dinnerware for Thanksgiving before serving them to guests.
Once you’ve completed the prep for Thanksgiving dinner cooking, head here for some home and tabletop décor inspo. Just before the Thanksgiving madness sets in, click loads of pictures of the dinner table and share them with us by tagging #AllAtJCP. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see if you get featured.