I cannot believe it’s November! It seems like no time at all has passed since I was celebrating the arrival of October. November is a special month for me because not only is it my birthday month, but it is also the month of my favorite holiday – Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving was always my mom’s favorite holiday growing up and I have such fond family memories of Thanksgivings-past. A few years ago, I took over hosting duties from my mom and my obsession with the holiday has grown even more!
Thanksgiving is my Super Bowl, my Oscars, my MAIN EVENT! I love watching the parade and football games and having all of our family under one roof. It is hands down my favorite day of the year and I spend weeks preparing for it. I even have an excel spreadsheet I created that schedules out the entire day in 15 minute increments. I love Thanksgiving, but I’m also OCD and everything has to be perfect.
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes as well as tips and tricks to make the day easier as a host! I wanted to start of the series today by sharing some of what I consider to be ESSENTIAL tools for a successful Thanksgiving.
Scroll down for details and links!
Since turkey is pretty much the symbol of Thanksgiving, this dish is where everyone tends to put their focus on the big day. It can also be one of the most intimidating to cook because I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the habit of roasting a whole turkey for a crowd of hungry people on a regular basis. There are three elements to a perfect Thanksgiving turkey: a good quality bird, a tested and reliable recipe, and proper cooking tools. I’m here to show you where to find all three!
1. A good quality bird: This may sound strange, but last year I ordered my turkey from Williams-Sonoma and I will never go back to buying at a grocery store. Williams-Sonoma partners with Willie Bird Turkeys in Santa Rosa, California to offer fresh turkeys delivered to your doorstep 2 days before Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I love Willie Bird Turkeys because the birds are free-range, which makes my heart happy. They also come in a range of options such as organic or non-organic, pre-brined or not brined, raw or cooked, etc. I personally order this turkey in the 12-14 lb size each year. It’s pre-brined, which saves me the hassle, and organic and absolutely delicious. This size has fed 10-12 people at my house with leftovers, but they have a range of different sizes to meet your specific needs!
2. A reliable recipe: When it came to cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey a few years ago, I was not going to try to reinvent the wheel. I knew there were already great turkey recipes out there, I just had to find them. I must have read through 25+ recipes and consulted the expert (my mom!) on which ones were best before settling on the one I would use. My now go-to roasted turkey recipe is from Tangled With Taste. She is an amazing food blogger with tons of great recipes, and her turkey recipe is second to none. Best of all, it’s super easy and not intimidating!
The only modifications I make to the recipe are as follows: (1) I skip the brining part because my turkey comes pre-brined; (2) I leave out the apple and ginger ale in the aromatics section and instead use 1 onion, thyme, rosemary, and sage; (3) I baste frequently throughout the cooking process to ensure the final product is juicy and delicious. Otherwise, I follow the recipe to the letter!
3. Proper cooking tools: Turkey roasting tools are not exactly common, everyday kitchen items, so it can be tempting not to invest in some because they may only get used once or twice a year. However, I find that having the proper tools are half the battle when it comes to tackling any recipe, and turkey is no exception. The tools I’ve linked below have kept my turkey roasting experience stress-free and accident-free for a few years now. In my experience, the items I cannot go without are a roasting pan, a baster, a meat thermometer, a carving board, and turkey lifters. It also goes without saying that you’ll need a good pair of oven mitts because you’re going to be taking that turkey out several times to baste and check the temperature. See the links below for all of my favorites!
Good prep bowls (and lots of em) are essential to an organized Thanksgiving, and we all know how much I love organization! I like to prep as much as possible the day before and section the ingredients into lidded prep bowls for easy access day-of. These are my favorites and I use them almost everyday. During the week of Thanksgiving, my fridge is stacked high with these babies and all of their prepped and labeled ingredients.
Speaking of prepping ingredients in advance, below is a list of all of the things I prep the day before Thanksgiving to make for easier cooking and clean-up the next day. Prepping as much as possible in advance also ensures I actually have time to sit down with the family from time to time and enjoy the parade and sip some much needed champagne!
Items I Prep in Advance:
1. Chop onions
2. Chop garlic
3. Chop herbs
4. Grate cheeses
5. Cook desserts (pumpkin and apple pie both reheat beautifully the next day!)
6. Make whipped cream
7. Wash potatoes (or fruit, mushrooms, or any other items that need to be washed but cannot be cut until right before use). True story: one year I thought I’d be savvy and peel and cut the potatoes for the mashed potatoes the night before. Apparently potatoes turn brown like apples if you cut them and leave them out. Who knew haha? So now I just make sure all of my produce is washed and scrubbed and ready to be cut the next day. It may sound silly, but any step you can take out from the day-of is a life saver!
8. Setup buffet table(s) – I always pre-set my buffet with all of the serving platters, bowls, utensils, etc. that I’ll need and I put labels for what food goes in each serving vessel. Before you think I’m crazy, this makes it super easy for me to enlist help in getting food on the buffet because anyone will be able to see what needs to go where. Maybe I’m still crazy haha but I like everything to be organized!
Similar to prep bowls, lidded mixing bowls are another can’t-live-without item. They can also double has prep bowls for larger quantities of ingredients because of the lids. My favorites are below!
You’re going to chop, slice, mince, and dice more than you ever care to in your life on Thanksgiving, so it’s important to invest in a good set of knives. You can find my exact set here, and they are the best knives I have ever had. I’ve also linked others below!
I never knew the value of a food processor until I started hosting holidays. A good food processor can cut your prep time in more than half. I’ve linked mine here, and it is seriously unreal. I find new things it can do every year. The thing I love about this food processor is it comes with so many different slicing blades AND a smaller inner bowl for processing smaller quantities. I actually use it throughout the year more than I ever thought I would because it can do so much, but on Thanksgiving especially it takes literal hours off of my prep time! I’ve linked mine and others below!
You read that correctly, I said crockpots, as in plural. No lie I have 5 crockpots of varying sizes. I LOVE cooking in a slow cooker because you can cook and clean up ahead and your dinner is just ready and waiting for you in a few hours. On Thanksgiving, I try to cook as many dishes as possible in the crock pot because it allows me to cook everything slowly throughout the day and not try to get everything in the oven and on the table at once. They are also great for keeping finished dishes warm and not taking up space in the oven.
If you are not hosting but are bringing a dish to a family or friend gathering, a crockpot makes transporting food super easy. My favorite one (linked here) has a locking lid and I recently found insulated crockpot bags designed for transport (linked below). Additionally, one thing I will be using for the first time this year are crockpot liners which make for a super easy cleanup! In conclusion, crockpots are basically magic and I am 100% the crazy crockpot lady and I own it. I’ll be sure to put up an Instagram story on Thanksgiving to show you guys all of my crockpots lined up on my counter!
Let’s face it, people want to get their drink on on Thanksgiving and I am right there with them! However, the last thing I want is guests up in my space and in and out of my fridge all day. I always set up a drink table so people can have easy access to the good stuff throughout the day. I’m linking my favorite beverage tubs and hot beverage carafes below!
Until then, CHEERS!