Want to have the Best Thanksgiving Day ever? Here are some tips, tricks, recipes, decor ideas, proper table setting placement, and so much more for the big day. This guide will help you achieve super stardom on Thanksgiving Day!

🍲 Turkey Thawing and Brining Tips

Thawing a turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner is easiest in your fridge. Usually, thawing takes about 24-48 hours, unless you have an especially big turkey. Plan on 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey. Make sure that your fridge where you thaw your turkey in is 40 degrees or below. Above 40 degrees, food is in the bacteria danger zone. Err on the side of too much thawing time – you don’t want a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning. You can also thaw a turkey in your sink if the sink is deep enough to submerge the turkey.

 Pro Tip:

Put the turkey in the sink before you fill it with cold (not hot or lukewarm) water. Thaw the wrapped turkey breast side down. Once the water starts warming up, drain the sink and refill it with cold water.

🦃Turkey Brining

Brining a turkey produces a moist, flavorful turkey. Since turkey is very lean, roasting it makes it dry. The lack of fat on most purchased turkeys actually hinders the roasting process – as the fat on meat cooks, that fat keeps the lean meat from drying out. Brining refers to soaking raw protein (in this case, turkey) in a salt water solution. As the meat soaks, it absorbs the water. The salt that is absorbed makes the turkey retain water. Thus, when the turkey cooks, there is more moisture in it, and less evaporates.

Some things to know about brining, First, it takes up a lot of room. If you have a large (at least 16 gallons) stockpot, this is ideal. Place the unwrapped raw turkey in the pot. Then, add 8oz each of Kosher salt and white sugar for every gallon of water.

➡ Pro Tip

Make your brining solution one gallon at a time, and add each gallon to the pot one at a time – this helps you keep your ratios right. You can add 1/4 C. each whole cloves and ground nutmeg to each gallon for extra flavor. Fresh stems of Rosemary are also a great addition. This infuses the turkey with subtle flavors.

🎒Is there school the day after Thanksgiving?

Almost all schools are out both Thanksgiving Day and the day after. Some are out for an entire week, others, Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday. Check your school’s calendar to be certain. Also, some have early release days on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as well. If you are in the Sioux Falls area, expect your kids to be out Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Thanksgiving week.

Pro Tip
If you have to work Wednesday and/ or Friday, and need a sitter, act quickly. Many local colleges are out the whole week. Another though to consider, is your usual sitter might be traveling or spending time with their own visiting family.

💸When should I buy my turkey for Thanksgiving?

If you buy a frozen turkey, you can buy it whenever you wish. Frozen turkeys last up to a year if stored at the proper freezing temperature (below 26 degrees). If you buy a fresh turkey, plan to cook it within two days of purchase. After you have thawed your frozen turkey, it, too, must be cooked within two days; longer than that and bacteria will begin to multiply to unsafe levels.

Plan on about 1lb of turkey for every person at the dinner.

When thawing your turkey, plan for 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. Thaw the turkey in a refrigerator and make sure that the fridge is below 40 degrees. Use a fridge thermometer if necessary. If the turkey sits above 40 degrees, it enters the food “danger zone” for bacteria. The two-day window beings when the turkey has thawed.

👇 Pro Tip: 👇

Many grocery stores have begun running “turkey bundle” specials. One special could be where you receive a free turkey if you purchase another item (like ham). Perhaps, another special involves a specific dollar amount per transaction. Others bundle free side items or ingredients with the purchase of a turkey. Some examples include: bread for stuffing, or a 5lb bag of potatoes. If you are able to store your turkey for a few weeks, take advantage of these early sales. If you haven’t prepared a full Thanksgiving Dinner solo, you’ll be surprised how quickly things add up.

🍗What’s the difference between fresh and frozen turkey?

Fresh Turkeys

Fresh Turkeys are turkeys that have never been frozen – that is, stored at below 26 degrees. The term “fresh” is a little misleading. The turkeys may not have been shipped immediately to the store. Because of this, make sure that you check the expiration or “use by” date on the wrapper before purchase.

Frozen Turkeys 

Frozen turkeys are, well, frozen.The turkey has been flash frozen to below zero degrees, then packed and shipped to the store. Flash frozen food is frozen at an extremely low temperature by quickly circulating cold air. This process perfectly preserves the freshness of the food, as it prevents ice crystals from forming out of the water in the meat. These ice crystals actually break down the protein fibers in the meat, causing loss of flavor and juices – leading to drier meat.

Either turkey you purchase is actually fresh – the one you select will largely depend on when you can buy the turkey and whether you have freezer space to keep the turkey until it’s time to thaw and cook it.

⏰ Cooking times for a Thanksgiving Turkey

Roasting turkeys should take approximately 20 minutes per pound, with an oven temperature of 325 degrees. The turkey should cook to at least 165 degrees internal temperature. Some turkeys come with a little red “popper” that pops out to signal that the bird is ready – you can use this as a guide, but for safety (especially with poultry), ensure with a meat thermometer that your food is 165 degrees in the thickest part. Don’t rest the meat thermometer against a bone – it will give an improper reading.

If you stuff your turkey prior to roasting it, versus cooking the stuffing separately, then the stuffing itself will also need to be at 165 degrees to safely eat. Temp this in the same manner you check your turkey: with a meat thermometer. Because the stuffing has been inside of raw poultry it is extremely important that you do this.  Pro Tip:  never purchase a pre-stuffed turkey, especially a fresh one. The chances of cross-contamination and unsafe bacteria are just too great.

Weight of Bird Roasting Time (Unstuffed) Roasting Time (Stuffed) 10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours 18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours 4-1/2 to 5 hours 22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours 5 to 5-1/2 hours 24 to 29 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours

What do you make with a Thanksgiving meal

👇 7 Easy Recipes for Your Best Thanksgiving Ever 👇

Thanksgiving dinner’s main course is turkey and often another meat – typically ham, sometimes duck or goose. Some people may choose to have a shellfish dish or a beef roast, also. The truly adventurous will make a Tur-Duk-En. This masterpiece is a stuffed chicken, which is then stuffed inside a duck, which is then stuffed inside a turkey. All the fowl are deboned, so the finished product resembles a roulade.

Starchy sides generally include mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin. Stuffing, made from bread or bread crumbs moistened with chicken stock and mixed, then baked, is also served. Some prefer to stuff the turkey with the stuffing mix, others prefer to have it baked alone. Sweet potatoes, or yams, are another popular side dish – either mashed or roasted. In the South, mashed sweet potatoes have pecans mixed in. Another recipe may be topped with marshmallows, with a quick broil to melt the marshmallows. Of course, there will be gravy.

Vegetables are generally corn – either creamed, or on the cob, and green beans. Many households have the “traditional Thanksgiving green bean casserole” – canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, topped with fried onions and baked. There will likely be other vegetables, perhaps carrots or a root vegetable medley. Dessert includes pumpkin and apple pie.

Frozen TurkeyWhat do you do if your turkey is still frozen?

Despite your best planning, your turkey is still partly frozen when it’s time to put it in the oven. Worse, sometimes you don’t notice until after you’ve taken it out of the packaging. Luckily there are a few things you can do to recover and still enjoy Thanksgiving dinner (and they don’t involve using a hair dryer or microwave).

First, before you take the turkey out of the wrapper, poke it all over with your fingers to make sure it’s thawed (it should be squishy, not hard). If it still feels frozen, place the turkey breast side down in your sink, and fill with cool water. Leave it in there for 30 minutes, then check to see if it has thawed. If not, repeat. Do this in 30-minute intervals – and don’t use lukewarm or hot water to thaw it. It won’t unfreeze any faster, but it will allow bacteria to begin populating.

If you’ve removed the wrapper already, you can still cook the turkey frozen, or partially frozen, just allow for extra cooking time. Add on 50% more time for a completely frozen turkey and 25% for a partially thawed one. In terms of minutes, instead of 20 minutes per pound to roast, for a frozen turkey allow 30 minutes per pound and a partly frozen turkey 25 minutes per pound. It is very important that you check the turkey’s internal temperature before serving it – 165 degrees or higher will cook all the dangerous bacteria. Make sure that you check two different places – breast and thigh – to ensure safety.

Although you’ll still be able to eat traditional turkey for your Thanksgiving feast, going from frozen to oven limits your options for a special preparation like brining or deep frying.

 Pro Tip:  NEVER put a frozen turkey in a turkey fryer.

🍽 What is the most popular food on Thanksgiving

Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving Dinner dish – and it isn’t always turkey. What are the top ten Thanksgiving foods?

10. Turkey. It’s on the list because it’s Thanksgiving, but its popularity derives more from tradition and its ability to feed many people
9. Corn Bread – and not the sweet stuff Southerners call cornbread. Best if it’s homemade (not a blue box) and served in a skillet.
8. Green Bean casserole – you know the one, and you secretly like it. Green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and French’s fried onions, this humble dish is actually pretty craveable.
7. Mac and Cheese. This might not be on every table, but if it’s homemade, with freshly shaved cheddar and a bechamel sauce, it’s the perfect comfort food. Undo that top button on your pants and take seconds.
6. Mashed potatoes – for when it’s not socially acceptable to eat your gravy with a straw. Adding garlic powder or rosemary is a popular twist, as is using skin-on red potatoes instead of the typical mashers.
5. Ham. The best isn’t the spiral sliced honey ham – it’s the traditional Southern way, studded with whole cloves, packed with brown sugar, and basted with Coke-a-Cola (or Dr. Pepper).
4. Sweet potato casserole. While roasted or candied yams may be present on a lot of tables this year, it’s the Southern classic of mashed sweet potatoes mixed with pecans, and topped with fluffy, slightly toasted, marshmallows. What the South lacks in cornbread culture, they more than make up for it with sweet potatoes.
3. Gravy – use your pan drippings and a few tablespoons of flour for a roux, then slowly whisk in chicken stock. Add salt and pepper, easy peasy. Gravy goes on everything, and if you offer to clear the table afterward, you can eat the rest with a spoon, or if you aren’t a total savage, save it to make tomorrows leftovers moist.
2. Stuffing – whether in the bird or alone. Some of the tastiest have dried cranberries mixed in, or walnuts, pecans, or even fresh diced apples.  Pro Tip:  Use granny smith or another baking apple if you put apples in your stuffing – sweeter, fleshier ones such as red or golden delicious won’t hold their integrity in the oven.
 1. Pie.  All of the pie. Pumpkin, Apple, cherry lattice, pecan, even chocolate meringue. A dessert table without pies on Thanksgiving is a sad, lonely site. and if you haven’t tried apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese (yet another uniquely Southern dish), you are missing out.

America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving.Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History

🕑 What is the traditional time to eat on Thanksgiving

Many people try to time the Thanksgiving meal around mid-afternoon, but depending on the schedules of your guests, you may need to adjust. One of the most popular Thanksgiving Day traditions is the Macy’s Day parade – usually beginning at eight and lasting until eleven or noon. Hopefully, you saw the Mount Rushmore float last year! Then, there are NFL Football games in the afternoon. If you have guests who especially want to watch one of these, plan your mealtime accordingly.

Some families may choose not to cook at all – area hotels or banquet facilities may serve a special Thanksgiving Dinner Buffet. If you and your family choose to do this, you may be limited by available time slots for reservations. This is a good option for large groups with no good “hosting house,” or for those who just don’t want the hassles of cooking and cleaning up.

If you have a child in a high school marching band, there’s a chance that they may be participating in a Thanksgiving Parade that morning, so your dinner plans may happen later. Finally, if you looove Black Friday, and want to get a jump on the retail specials at the stores open Thursday evening, your family may serve and eat earlier to accommodate the shopping. Or, you may have invitees that have multiple houses to visit on Thanksgiving Day – in this case, your schedule may depend on the other obligations your guests have.

Traditional Thanksgiving Meal Time
Typically served between 2 pm and 4 pm, with dessert usually self-serve a few hours later. A nap in between is optional but recommended.

🥘 What is the most popular side dish on Thanksgiving thanksgiving potatoes

Although these sides dishes may not be found on every dinner table across American this Thanksgiving – each region seems to have local favorites – if you pick a handful of sides from this list, you will have a full, festive fall meal. In terms of popularity, here are the Thanksgiving Top Twelve side dishes:

12. Glazed Carrots. To make a dish that even non-vegetable eaters will enjoy, blanch sliced large carrots or whole baby carrots. Finish in a saute pan with melted butter, a couple tablespoons of honey, salt, and a sprinkle of powdered ginger.
11. Candied Yams. Typically found in a can, these can also be prepared fresh. Using a method similar to the carrot recipe above, peel and dice yams into about 1″ cubes. Boil until partway soft, then toss in a bowl with honey, melted butter, salt, and pepper. Pour on a roasting sheet and bake at 350 degrees until soft.

➡ Pro Tip: ⬅ The honey and butter can be a pain to clean up. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper first – cleanup is a breeze now, just throw the paper away.
10. Creamed spinach. This can be deceptively decadent, so if you’re watching your calories, just take a small portion.
9. Creamed corn. Again, dieters beware of vegetables that are creamed – but boy are they delicious.
8. Sweet potato casserole – mashed sweet potatoes, topped with marshmallows makes this side seem like a dessert. For a delicious addition, stir in chopped pecans, too.
7. Green bean casserole. Has this dish every appeared on a dinner table other than at Thanksgiving? The classic, with green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and topped with fried onions, you know you love it.
6. Brussels sprouts get an unfair reputation as the most hated vegetable ever, and that’s because they can go from tasty to disgusting in the hands of the unskilled cook. Try cutting fresh sprouts in half, tossing with chopped pancetta and a little olive oil, real maple syrup, and salt and pepper, then roasting. You’ll surprise many haters with their sweet deliciousness. Pro Tip: line your cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup a breeze.
5. Cranberry sauce – either the jelled canned version or a homemade variety, this is Thanksgiving’s signature side. It’s even better the next day, as a condiment on a leftover turkey sandwich.
4. Rolls. Yep, sweet white rolls and butter – simple yet delicious.
3. Macaroni and cheese – this is another that is more regional, but a delicious homemade mac and cheese (use a bechamel sauce and stir in shaved sharp cheddar) baked and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs is an excellent savory dinner companion.
2. Stuffing. Either in the bird or out, stuffing is one of the most anticipated dinner dishes, as well as one of the tastiest leftovers. Consider making your own with lots of butter, and powdered sage.
 1. Mashed potatoes.  The ultimate gravy vessel, these can be made with skin-on red potatoes and powdered garlic for a twist.

💡 Whichever is your favorite this year, consider selecting something new – who knows, you may just establish a new traditional food for your family’s Thanksgiving feast.

Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving

Turkey is almost synonymous with Thanksgiving Dinner, but why is that? Is it the fact that a large bird can feed a whole family, or is there more to the history of Tom Turkey?

Traditional Thanksgiving represents the Pilgrims gratitude that they wouldn’t starve after landing on Plymouth Rock. As a celebration, and also as a thank-you to the native Americans who provided the guidance for the settlers to farm in the new world, the Pilgrims hosted a feast, including “wild fowl.” While there were certainly wild turkeys in the area, this could have just as easily referred to ducks or geese.

Around the time our country was founded, Alexander Hamilton declared,

No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Alexander Hamilton

When was Thanksgiving Day Established

In 1863 Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. While the country didn’t seem to have much to be thankful for, as it was in the midst of a bloody Civil War, the holiday stuck, and later became romanticized by the accounts of Pilgrim colonist William Bradford, and Charles Dickins Christmas Carol, where a holiday turkey was given for a special occasion feast.

There are a few reasons that turkey gained popularity as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving Dinner. First, it is large enough to feed many, and second, because it wasn’t a common farm staple, such as pork or chicken, there was a little bit of a “treat” element. Finally, the length of time to prepare and cook a turkey makes it not one that many families readily go to for a typical dinner. Whatever the reasons, we are very thankful to have a delicious turkey on our table this year.

🦃 How to make Thanksgiving Ham

Ham is the second most popular main dish, after turkey, for Thanksgiving Dinner. To have a delicious ham on your table this year, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to make your life easier. First, buy a pre-cooked ham. It’s more difficult to find a non-precooked ham, and on Thanksgiving morning, you’ll be pretty busy. A precooked ham will just need to be heated in the oven and basted. Second, if you can find a sliced ham, buy that. Many will have the ham nearly sliced through, but still on the bone for flavor. Cutting a non-sliced ham off a bone can be tricky.

Next, decide how you’ll want to flavor the ham. One favorite method is studding the ham with whole cloves – just shove them in like thumbtacks – then packing brown sugar around the whole outside. Put a little bit of Coke-a-Cola or Dr. Pepper mixed with water in the bottom of the roasting pan, and begin basting the ham with the mixture about half an hour after putting it in the oven.

Another Favorite Recipe

Ham-and-pineapple is another favorite. Paula Deen shares her favorite recipe, which flavors the ham with whole cloves, canned pineapple rings, and maraschino cherries for a sweeter flavor. Surprisingly, it doesn’t call for three pounds of butter, but perhaps that’s because ham naturally has a fat cap (which keeps it moist in the oven – don’t trim this off!).

A fully cooked ham typically takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours to warm up. If you haven’t warmed it completely through, that;s fine – it’s not raw in the middle. Just bear in mind that if you add a ham into the oven while the turkey is still inside, that the cook time for both will be longer, as there are more items in the oven.

🍲 How to make Thanksgiving Stuffingthanksgiving stuffing

For a much tastier Thanksgiving stuffing, make it yourself, instead of from a box. It can be surprisingly easy, and you have the option to customize it by adding chopped walnuts or pecans; dried cranberries; or diced apples.

If you follow this basic recipe, you’ll have delicious homemade stuffing that everyone will enjoy. Pro Tip: instead of saving bread, or leaving your own loaf out to achieve the “day old” staleness necessary from turning your stuffing into mush, buy a bag of bread ends from your local grocery store. Many sell large bags of assorted bread types that have already been “aged.”

To make your stuffing unique, before baking, mix in:
To make your stuffing unique, before baking, mix in: One pound of chicken sausage, cooked and diced Three large Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples, large dice 1 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds 1 cup of dried cranberries

You can also combine some of these – just use less of each – for a really tasty side dish. Just make sure that your guests aren’t vegetarian or have nut allergies before dressing up your stuffing.

💐 How to make Thanksgiving Centerpieces

You’ve worked hard for hours, maybe days coking an extravagant Thanksgiving Dinner. And while the food should take center stage on your table, a lovely centerpiece or décor on your dining table or sideboard will add a festive flair to the meal. There are some cute things that you can do that don’t require a lot of effort (and no, going to Pottery Barn and swiping your credit card doesn’t count).

Pumpkin Patch

Purchase small pumpkins and gourds at your local market. Wind greenery vines along the middle of the table, and dot with pumpkins and clusters of gourds. The greenery can also be used for another occasion later if you choose. Simple, yet captures the spirit of the holiday.

Glasses and pans you own

can be used for centerpieces and food displays. To add height to a buffet or dessert station, turn a bundt pan or dutch oven upside down and place pies or side dishes on top. For a quick centerpiece, place a rocks glass or stemless wine glass upside down over a small votive candle. Then, put the same kind of glass right side up on top, and fill with small beads, glass marbles, or other little décor.

Wheat and Corn

represent the bounty on the table. Place dry floral foam in a galvanized pail or bucket so that it sticks up over the rim an inch or two. Insert wheat stalks into the foam. They should fan out around the edges of the container. Top with multicolor ears of maize.


baskets can be purchased at a hobby or craft store, and filled with fruits and gourds (you can use real apples, pears, etc if you prefer). Use small bits of wheat stalks and other seasonal leaves to keep the fruit from spilling out and to fill the gaps between pieces.

How to make Thanksgiving Wreaths

Thanksgiving wreaths immediately welcome your guests for dinner. Add holiday ambiance by incorporating small wreath and attractive centerpieces and candle holders. Creating a handmade wreath isn’t difficult – consider inviting a few friends over for a sip & craft evening. Each lady can bring a few types of greenery, foliage, and other decorations, and the group can share.

To create a custom wreath, there are several options. You can purchase a floral foam wreath from a local hobby store, wrap with dark brown ribbon, pinning the ribbon into the foam on the back. Then use a hot glue gun to attach a beak, eyes, and feet. Finally, use the glue gun to attach decorative feathers opposite the eyes and beak. Voila – turkey wreath!

Another option is to use a natural wreath (usually made of grapevines or other vines) and thread wheat stems, pinecones on a stick or fake leaves on a stem into the wreath’s vines. Next, use plain or painted pinecones, glued on in clusters, to add interest. Finally, a large ribbon on the top or bottom finishes the wreath.

Finally, you can create a wreath from things in your yard – acorns; or mini leaves of maize; or small plastic apples. Using a foam floral wreath, hot glue the items to the wreath, and once it’s dried, attach a large bow on the front, or wrap some pretty ribbon around the top to hang.

🕖 What can I prepare ahead of time for Thanksgiving

Your morning on Thanksgiving Day is going to be hectic. Between hoping that the turkey is thawed, last-minute housecleaning, and anticipating a home full of guests, the more you can take off your “to do” list prior to the holiday, the easier your morning will go. There are actually many things that you can prep the day or even a couple of days before, the Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Potatoes for mashing -you can wash and cut these into large chunks (sweet potatoes, too), storing in a large Tupperware container.
  • Any vegetables for roasting can be cut the day before and stored just like the potatoes. If you plan to season them, you can also toss the veggies in a large bowl with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, chopped rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano. Pro Tip: peel garlic cloves and toss with the veggies, then roast them alongside the vegetables. They will impart a subtle flavor, without being overpowering, and many people enjoy eating roasted garlic.
  • Pies can be made the day or even 36 hours before – except for meringues. Store in a covered pie plate, or in a covered cake pan.
  • Gravy can be made ahead of time. Just use butter and flour to make the roux, and then slowly whisk in chicken stock. Continue whisking until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Then cool it to room temperature, transfer to a large freezer bag (double bag if you think it may spill) and freeze. You can thaw it in the fridge the night before, and slowly reheat it in a small pan or microwave while you put everything else together.
  • Cranberry sauce can easily be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge with a tight lid. In fact, if you plan to make your own, letting the flavors meld overnight may result in an even better flavor.
  • Any casseroles that you plan to make can be made ahead and frozen. Then, all you have to do is pop the dish in the oven and reheat.
  • Green salads and be prepped – cut the ingredients and store each in a separate container. Then at mealtime, just dump in with the lettuce and toss.
The French call it Mis-en-place – the space and prepared ingredients you assemble before beginning to cook. Professional chefs also know the value of having all ingredients cut and ready to go. Do yourself a favor this year, and pre-prep your own Mis-en-place for an easier Thanksgiving dinner.

🥗 Thanksgiving Tips for Healthy Eating

No one equates Thanksgiving dinner with dieting. However, if you or some of your guests have nutritional needs, are actively trying to lose weight, or just want a healthier meal, there are many things that you can enjoy, while still keeping your calorie counts reasonable.

Turkey and ham both are fairly nutritious – the turkey especially. With plenty of protein, no carbs, and little fat, there’s nothing wrong with loading up your plate with these. However – skip the gravy, or just use a bit. For the ham, trim off the edges, as that’s where the extra calories will be from the sugar or glaze on it. Be aware that ham is a high sodium food, so if you’re watching your salt intake, just stick to the turkey, instead.

Any roasted vegetable will be great – plenty of minerals are found in potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, and other root vegetables. While they may have been tossed with olive oil or butter to cook, this is good dietary fat and good for you.

A green salad is good – if you can get yours dry, do that, so that you can control the portion of dressing you eat. A tasty alternative to full-fat versions of creamy dressing isn’t the low-fat kind (those generally have a lot of added sugar), but a dressing made with Greek yogurt. Those are easily found in your grocery cooler in the produce section.

Instead of a green bean casserole, if you are the coo, prepare green beans almondine instead. You can steam the green beans to cook without added fat, too.

Fresh fruit tossed with a bit of balsamic demi-glace is a delicious dessert, but sometimes you just need pie on Thanksgiving. Go ahead, and indulge – just watch your portion size. A slice is about 1/8 of the pie, not a big chunk.

What do You Cook First for Thanksgiving

If you’ve been able to prepare your mis-en-place (French for ingredients prepared and ready to cook) ahead of time, most of what you’ll have to do is simply toss them together and prepare. The most important thing to do is get your turkey started. Determine how long the bird will need to be in the oven (about 20 minutes per pound IF it’s fully thawed – if not, add about 5-10 minutes per pound to your cook time if the turkey is still fully or partially frozen). Once you have your cooking time, work back from there. Remember that you’ll need to rest the turkey for about 20 minutes after taking it out of the oven, to ensure that the juices don’t run out when it’s cut.

Your ham should take about 2 hours to bake, and another 30 minutes or so to prep. After you put the turkey in the oven, then you should prepare everything else, so that you can just start cooking as it is time. Pro Tip: Write out the cook and prep time te night before – then arrange it into an appointment calendar like you would for your job. Once you’ve planned out your day, you will find that a lot of the stress is taken off your shoulders. Write our your calendar and tape it to the fridge or tack it to a kitchen wall. If you are elbow deep in cooking, you won’t want to stop to check your phone, computer, or message alerts that it’s time to mash the potatoes or stick the green bean casserole in the oven.

💉 How do you keep a turkey moist while cooking

Dry turkey jokes are as ubiquitous as, well, turkey on Thanksgiving day. From Clark Griswold’s Christmas Vacation turkey jerky to the Ralphie’s turkey disaster in A Christmas Story, turkey mishaps are no joke. In order to ensure that your turkey stays moist while cooking, there are a few things you can do to ensure a moist, delicious bird in the center of your table.

Brining the turkey essentially forces the raw turkey to retain water. The extra water in the bird will keep it moister while it cooks and makes a very juicy fowl. To brine a turkey, place it in a large pot – big enough that the turkey will be completely covered when you add water. Then, prepare a brining solution of 8oz each of white sugar and Kosher salt, ¼ cup whole cloves, nutmeg, and 5-6 bay leaves per gallon of water. Pro Tip: Prepare the solution a gallon at a time and add each to the stockpot. There’s no good way to tell how much water will actually fit in the pot after the turkey is in there, and doing it this way will ensure that your ratios are intact. Soak the turkey in the brine for at least 24 hours, then cook as usual.

If you don’t have a large stock pot or space to brine the turkey in your fridge, don’t despair. You can also rub softened butter under the turkey skin. As the turkey cooks, the butter melts and keeps it moist. Pro Tip: Use a flavored Compound Butter instead of plain butter for subtle flavoring.

Finally, simply cooking the turkey properly helps a lot to avoid dryness. Don’t truss the legs – held against the sides of the turkey, they will take longer to cook fully (165 degrees, for safety). While the legs cook, the breast will dry out. Place the turkey breast-side down for the first half of the cooking. You can turn it over halfway through, but doing this essentially allows the turkey to baste itself while cooking. Any marks from the pan will disappear as it cooks upright, don’t worry. Don’t overcook your turkey – as it gets within 45 minutes of your anticipated “end time,” begin checking the temperature with a meat thermometer. Finally, allow the turkey to rest for about 20 minutes before carving. Doing this will allow the juices to retreat back into the meat, instead of running out upon slicing.

Proper Table Setting

Almost all Thanksgiving Day dinners are served buffet style (where the items are placed on a buffet table or sideboard, and the guests move down the line, serving themselves) or family-style, where the dishes are placed in the middle of the table and served communally. Rare is it that a Thanksgiving Day meal will be served in courses, or plated. If it is, using the silverware at your place is simple – just work from the outside in, and if there are servers, then leave the utensil you were using for that course on the plate or in the bowl, for the server to clear. Then, move on to the next placed utensil.

To set your table, you can either place knives, forks, and spoons on it, or you can have little baskets of each on the buffet table. This option takes all the guesswork out of setting the table, but if you do choose to set the table, then determine how many courses you will serve, and what you’ll need. If you plan to eat family style, then a simple butter knife, spoon, salad fork (smaller) and dinner fork (larger) will suffice. The dessert forks can wait – maybe consider putting these in a small basket on the dessert side table. In a pinch, lining a Tupperware container with a nice linen napkin looks good, too.

Your glassware goes on the right, between 1 and 4 o’clock. Put the water glass at the back, then red wine, then white wine, if you are serving wine. The knife and spoon go on the right, with the knife closest to the plate, blade side in. The forks are on the left, salad fork on the outside, and dinner fork closest to the plate. Napkins, typically,  either sit on the plate or present themselves folded under the knife and spoon.

🐶 Thanksgiving Pet Safety

Thanksgiving is a busy day, especially if you are the hostess. If you have a cat or dog (or more than one), make sure that you remember to keep them safe and cared for. With company coming and going, if your pet is an escape artist, you might want to consider keeping them in a crate, the garage, another room that won’t be used or somehow confined during your guests’ arrival and departure times. If you have an excitable or timid pet, the crowd might be overwhelming, and a furry friend is a tempting plaything for small children. Your pet will be picking up on the bustle and excitement, and even the most well-behaved animal can overreact to the unexpected stress in their home.

You may even want to consider giving your dog a little vacation at an overnight doggy daycare or boarding facility. Instead of being cruel, he can play and avoid the hectic atmosphere of your home. If you have guests with pet allergies, make sure that you thoroughly clean and vacuum your home, and don’t be offended if they don’t stay long, or sit on upholstered furniture or rugs.

Are you planning to deep fry your turkey? Keep your pets away from that entirely. It’s just at the level for them to investigate and get hurt. Make sure that guests know to keep fences and doors closed. Finally, if you are keeping your pets out of the way in another room, tape a sign to the door letting your guests know. If someone is looking for a restroom, you don’t want them letting your pet out by mistake.

Thanksgiving food can also be hazardous to your pet’s health. Don’t allow them to be fed from the table, and make sure no one gives them a turkey bone. If you wish to give your dog the ham bone later, consult with your vet first. Finally, just in case, don’t let your guests try to give your dogs beer.

👨‍🍳 Different ways to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

There are two main ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey: Roasting and Frying. When you roast the turkey (brining optional), the turkey cooks in an oven set to medium-low heat and slowly cooks. The turkey will have crispy skin and moist meat if cooked correctly. Stuffing the bird is an option – just make sure that when you check the temperature of the turkey (165 degrees, for safety) that you also check the temperature of the stuffing, as it has been inside raw poultry.

You can also roast the turkey in parts if you have company that all love dark meat, for instance, and serve without carving. Or, you can cook the whole turkey ahead of time, slice it, and put it in a large roasting pan with gravy. On Thanksgiving Day, all you have to do is slowly reheat the whole pan in the oven and serve. These are good for families that are short on time that day.

Frying a turkey requires a turkey fryer – a deep pot that you fill with oil and fry. This task needs to occur outdoors, away from your home and other outbuildings. Furthermore, carefully supervise the fryer. Follow the instructions included with your deep fryer. Just a tip, put the directions inside a plastic sleeve. Then, store inside the deep fryer after you’ve cleaned it. Don’t overfill it with oil, and don’t let curious pets near.

How long can you keep the turkey after Thanksgiving

For best results, if you plan to store Thanksgiving leftovers, keep the food in the “danger zone” for no longer than 4 hours, max. Between 40 degrees and 145 degrees, bacteria in food reproduces rapidly, and the food becomes spoiled or toxic. This leads to food poisoning. Not fun at all, and it will ruin any Balc Friday shopping plans you’ve made. Pack leftovers promptly, to ensure freshness.

Once you’ve safely put your leftovers in the fridge, you’ll have deliciousness for days. Most items will last about 3-4 days. The cranberry sauce will last up to a weel, and the pies a little shorter- and these are okay to store in a pantry. This chart should help.

Item Pantry Fridge Freezer* Tips
Turkey – whole, cooked 3-4 days 2-3 months Cut whole bird into smaller pieces before refrigerating.
Gravy – homemade 1-2 days 2-3 months Bring leftover gravy to a full boil before using.
Cranberry sauce 10-14 days 1-2 months Store leftovers in covered plastic or glass container.
Stuffing – cooked 3-4 days 1 month Remove stuffing from turkey before refrigerating.
Mashed potatoes or yams; green bean casserole 3-5 days 10-12 months Mashed potatoes freeze well; whole baked potatoes don’t.
Pumpkin pie – baked 3-4 days 1-2 months Keep refrigerated. Texture may change after freezing, but taste shouldn’t be affected.
Apple pie – baked 2 days 2-3 days after pantry storage 1-2 months To freeze, wrap pie tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place in heavy-duty freezer bag.

🍛 Things to make with Turkey leftovers

You’ve survived Thanksgiving Day – and now you have a ton of turkey left over. Yay sandwiches! If you are frugal, however, you can turn those turkey leftovers into several dinners. Here are some favorites:

Turkey Tetrazzini – turkey and thin spaghetti in a creamy sauce, with peas, diced peppers, and diced carrots. You can make this yourself, or sheat with a boxed mix.

Turkey Tacos are a great non- Thanksgiving way to enjoy the bird. Chop your turkey pieces into very small pieces to prepare. Melt a little butter in a large skillet, and add the turkey. There are several good add-in sauces (Fronteras makes some tasty ones, and it’s created by noted Mexican cuisine chef Rick Bayless). Add your sauce and stir while heating to keep the turkey from sticking to the pan and burning. Serve with taco shells or tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and cheese.

Turkey Soup is good on a cold day. If you make a large enough pot, you can freeze some for later. Bring chicken stock to a boil, then add sliced carrots, onions, celery, and a couple of bay leaves. Boil until the vegetables are partially soft, then add a package of egg noodles. When the noodles are al dente, add the diced turkey. Salt and pepper the soup to taste, and enjoy.

Prepare Sweet and Sour Turkey just like sweet and sour chicken. Cut the turkey into large chunks, and coat with batter or a flour/ eggwash mix. Side note: if you want to cheat, there are boxes for these, too. Sautee the turkey until the batter is crispy. Then, toss in a large bowl with sweet and sour sauce, Serve over rice and enjoy!

Essentially, anything you can make out of leftover chicken, you can substitute with Thanksgiving turkey. Best of all, these recipes do not represent traditional holiday-themed dishes. Thus, it’s a welcome change from gravy and potatoes with your leftover turkey.

🏢 What places are open on Thanksgiving

If you’ve ever run out of necessary ingredients while cooking Thanksgiving Dinner, you usually find yourself in a bind. Usually, your neighborhood Wal-Mart is open. Now, that Black Friday has encroached on Thanksgiving Day itself, many of these stores are open all day. Pharmacies can be open and gas stations are usually open all day.

If you have a Christmas Story- level disaster of a Thanksgiving meal, Perkins and Royal Fork in Sioux Falls are open on Thanksgiving Day. In addition, Famous Dave’s is likely to be open (just call for details). Many stores within the mall scheduled employees to open their stores earlier. This remains especially true for the early bird Black Friday specials. Finally, CVS and Walgreens will open, too.

For more details, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader will begin running Thanksgiving/ Black Friday ads soon, so you can check there, as well.

Click here:
Click Here
For a list of all restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day in Sioux Falls.

📝 Thanksgiving Wishbone History/ The Wishbone Poem

Breaking the wishbone is a Thanksgiving tradition with a long, long history. In fact, wishing on the furcular dates back thousands of years before the Mayflower even sailed, to the time of the Etruscans, an Italian civilization predating Rome. The Etruscans used chickens for divination and would dry the furcular in the sun, then break it and wish. Romans adopted and altered this tradition. This tradition entails, whether because of a chicken shortage, or just to switch it up, two people to break the furcular, and the one with the longest piece received their wish.

As the Romans swept through Europe and conquered the British Isles, they left behind some of their traditions. For example, one tradition involved the wishbone. People adopted the tradition and passed down by the act through English descendants. Eventually, this tradition traveled to the New World. In fact, this custom attributes to the idiom “get a lucky break.”

A fun activity for your kids to prepare for Thanksgiving is to learn, or write down on paper and decorate, the Wishbone Poem, by Jack Prelutsky:

Wishbone, wishbone,

On a dish

Pick it up and make a wish.

If I pull the wishbone right

I will get my wish tonight.

Wishbone, wishbone,

Will I win?

Will I laugh and clap and grin?

When the wishbone snaps in two,

Will my wishbone wish come true?

Wishbone, wishbone,

Now it snaps,

My sister grins and laughs and claps.

Wishbone, wishbone,

I don’t laugh,

My sister got the bigger half.

🇺🇸 Thanksgiving Traditions in America

Typically, Americans unite in celebrating Thanksgiving Day with a large feast, friends and family, and of course turkey. A large, extensive turkey dinner is the best-known tradition. However, customs vary across regions. In fact, traveling across different parts of the United States showcases how diverse our nation is. Moreover, Thanksgiving introduces the various ways families celebrate gratitude and blessings.

Cracking the wishbone is an ancient tradition – and each family does it a little differently. Some let the youngest two wish, some rotate between children, while others, the host and hostess crack the wishbone. The only commonality is – don’t tell your wish out loud or it won’t come true!

Macy Day Parade Photo Thanksgiving

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is almost 100 years old – the first one was in 1924. It began first as a parade by Macy’s employees. Additionally, the parade occurred throughout Central Park to include some of the zoo animals. A few years later, the floats replaces the zoo animals, and later, the iconic balloons.

Football is another tradition – one where the men turn on the TV and take naps. All kidding aside, the NFL has scheduled Thanksgiving day games since 1934. Fun fact: The Detroit Lions played in a Thanksgiving Day game every year since then. They took only a brief hiatus from 1939-1944 (WWII.) Dallas Cowboys have played every year on Thanksgiving Day since 1966, only missing two years, 1975 and 1977.

The Turkey Pardon happens every year, when the sitting U.S. President receives a gift of a live turkey. The President pardons this special turkey and any alternates. Additionally, this aspect remains an exciting tradition, but remains separate from the White House Feast. The turkeys are sent to an animal rescue park.

Gratitude Whether it’s going around the table and saying one thing that you are grateful for that year. Maybe a family prayer, giving thanks is the purpose for this holiday. Whatever you are grateful for this year, practice gratitude. Whomever you love, make sure that you tell them that you appreciate them.

💁 Places to volunteer for Thanksgiving in Sioux Falls, SD

On a day of Thanksgiving, there may be no better way to celebrate than by giving the gift of time. Companionship to others is also coveted. Many families incorporate volunteering into their Thanksgiving celebrations. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities here in Sioux Falls, here are some on Thanksgiving Day itself; however, the area will need more volunteers this Holiday Season, so if you can’t volunteer here is a list of other needs.

The Banquet – Run for Food: 900 E. 8th Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57103

Date: Thursday, November 23, 2017, Thanksgiving Day

Time(s): Route – arrive at 7:15am – 9:15am/ Parking – arrive at 7:15am – 8:15am

The 5K fun run hosted by The banquet is a race for charity. Runners begin Thanksgiving day with a short 3-mile race, and the entrance fees go to help The Banquet charity.

The Banquet – Thanksgiving Meal Volunteers 900 E. 8th Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57103

Date(s): Thursday, November 23, 2017 Time(s): 6:00pm – 7:30pm

The Banquet needs volunteers to help prepare and serve Thanksgiving Dinner to the homeless.

Memorial Lutheran Church – Thanksgiving Dinner Volunteers

5000 S. Western Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD 57108

Website: www.memoriallutheran.net Date(s): November 22 and 23, 2017

Memorial Luthern Church needs volunteers during the morning and evenings to serve the Thanksgiving Day meal.

Union Gospel Mission – Thanksgiving Meal Volunteers

220 N. Weber Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD 57103

Date(s): Volunteers needed November 23 and 24, 2017

Union Gospel Mission needs volunteers during the morning and afternoon to set up, prepare, and serve Thanksgiving Dinner.

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🦃 10+ Tips for Having the Best Thanksgiving [Comprehensive Guide]
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🦃 10+ Tips for Having the Best Thanksgiving [Comprehensive Guide]
🦃 Want to have the best Thanksgiving Day? Wondering why the wishbone is such a big deal? Do you know the proper time to have your Thanksgiving Day meal? [Recipes, Pro Tips, Restaurants Open, Cooking Times]
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