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Guide to Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

Hey! Are you hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year? If yes, that is both exciting & stressful (as I'm sure you know.) If you aren't, then just bookmark this post for the day you do host :)

I, personally, LOVE to host. I love picking the recipes and the decor, and I especially love having family relax at my house and enjoy the day. I totally get that not everyone feels that way - hosting can be stressful and overwhelming at times.

A few years ago, we hosted Christmas (and made a Thanksgiving-style dinner.) This was my first time hosting a large number of people for a sit-down dinner, and I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Because I'm a super type A personality, I made myself a really intense spreadsheet to lay out EVERYTHING I needed to do and when. I'm so glad I did - I ended up having a virtually stress-free day thanks to my schedule.

Today, I'm going to share all that with you! This is the kind of post I've always looked for on Pinterest, but never found. This is my comprehensive guide to hosting Thanksgiving Dinner. I'll share here a full timeline of what to do & when, a shopping list, a list of kitchen items you'll need, and I'll include ALL my best Thanksgiving Recipes.


Main Course:



Green Bean Casserole


Cranberry Jelly

Mashed Potatoes




Pumpkin Pie


White & Red Wine


Mulled Cider



  • 1 lemon

  • 1 orange

  • 1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary

  • 1 bunch fresh sage

  • 12 garlic cloves

  • 3 onions

  • 2 stalks celery

  • 5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes


  • 1 turkey (10 to 12 pounds)

  • 1 lb sage sausage


  • Coarse kosher salt

  • Table salt

  • Black pepper

  • Poultry seasoning

  • Lawry's Seasoned Salt

  • Bay leaves

  • ground cinnamon

  • 4 sticks Cinnamon

  • ground ginger

  • Allspice, Whole

  • ground cloves

  • Cloves, Whole

  • Nutmeg

  • granulated sugar

  • Brown Sugar

  • Olive oil

  • 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 2 cans chicken broth (14.5 oz each)

  • 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) any style Del Monte® Green Beans

  • 1 1/3 cups French’s Crispy Fried Onions, Original

  • 2 1/2 cups cornbread stuffing

  • 2 1/2 cups herb seasoned stuffing

  • 1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin

  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk, (Or substitute with equal amount Lactose-Free or Almond Cooking Milk)

  • 1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell

  • Cranberry Jelly (canned)

  • Canned Olives


  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1 package butter (4 sticks)

  • Pillsbury Dinner Rolls

  • 2 large eggs

  • Whipped cream

  • 1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened

  • Half-and-Half

  • 1 gallon Apple Cider


  • 1 bottle hard apple cider (12 ounces)

  • 1 bottle dry white wine

  • 1 bottle white wine to serve

  • 1 bottle red wine to serve

  • 1 case beer


Large Roasting Pan

Oven Bags

Instant-read meat thermometer

Carving Knife

Large Cutting Board

3 Casserole Dishes

Potato Masher

Pie Dish

Crock Pot

Cheese Cloth

Bakers Twine


The schedule is for a 4 pm Dinner, a 10-12 lb Turkey, and will serve 6-8 people.

1 Week Before: Grocery shop. Be sure to properly store any fresh herbs you buy so they will last until you need them.

3 days before:

6 pm - Prep your Turkey. Remove giblets from cavity. Rub with brining mixture (6 tsp salt, 1 tbs pepper, 1 lemon zested). Transfer to a large bag and add 6 garlic cloves, 1 bunch fresh sage, and 1 bunch fresh rosemary. Place on large rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate.

1 day before:

8 am - Turn Turkey over.

8 am - Place a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. Peel and cut the potatoes into same-size pieces.

8:30 am - Add potatoes to pot of boiling water. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes.

9 am - Check to see if potatoes are fully cooked. A fork should easily pierce the potatoes with no resistance. Drain the potatoes in a large colander. Place them back into the empty pot and back on the stove with burner set to low heat. Mash the potatoes allowing all the steam to escape.

9:15 am - Once potatoes are nicely mashed, turn off heat and add 3/4 cups Butter, 1 8 oz. package softened Cream Cheese, 1/2 cup Half-and-Half, 1/2 teaspoon Seasoned Salt, and 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper. Stir well and add to baking dish. Add tabs of butter to top of potatoes, cover and refrigerate until the next day.

9:30 am - Preheated oven to 425. Combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in separate bowl, then stir in canned pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Stir in evaporated milk a little bit at a time.

9:45 am - Pour pie mixture into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes.

10:00 am - Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

10:45 am - Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Refrigerate for next day.

6:30 pm - Remove Turkey from bag and pat dry. Place uncovered on baking sheet and back in fridge.

Day of:

10:30 am - Remove Turkey from fridge. Let sit for 1 hour until room temperature.

11:00 am - Preheat oven to 450. Add bottle of cider and enough wine to fill the pan to a 1/4 inch depth. Add half the quartered onions, 6 cloves garlic, and 3 bay leaves. Stuff remaining quarters of onion and quarters of lemon in turkey. Brush skin with butter.

11:30 am - Put Turkey in oven on bottom rack.

12:00 pm - Cover Turkey with Foil and reduce oven temp to 350. Start chopping ingredients for dressing. (Also - make sure you eat something!! Grilled cheese & tomato soup? Something easy!) Pour cider into crock pot and stir in brown sugar. In a cheesecloth, place the allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Tie up with butcher’s twine and place into the cider. Slice an orange in half and place sliced side down into the cider. Cover and heat on low.

12:30 pm - Brown sausage for dressing. Cook onions and celery in butter in separate pan.

1:00 pm - Combine dressing ingredients in casserole dish, then refrigerate. Remove mashed potatoes from refrigerator so they can come to room temperature.

1:30 pm - Check temp of Turkey - when ready to remove from oven, it will be 165 in thickest part of thigh.

2:00 pm - In a casserole dish, combine 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 3/4 cup milk and 1/8 tsp pepper. Stir in 2 cans green beans and 2/3 cup Crispy Fried Onions. Refrigerate.

2:30 PM - Place olives and cranberry jelly in serving dishes refrigerate until ready to serve.

3:00 pm - (or when Turkey is at proper temperature.) Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Pull dressing and green bean casserole from fridge and place on top rack in 350 oven.

3:30 pm - Take green beans and dressing out of oven. Top green bean casserole with french's onions and put back in oven for 5 minutes. Put rolls in oven. Carve Turkey, and cover with foil until ready to serve.

3:35 pm - Remove green bean casserole from oven. Put dish of mashed potatoes in oven for 20-30 minutes.

3:50 pm - (or when rolls ready) remove Rolls from oven.

4:00 pm - Remove potatoes from oven. Serve Dinner!


Main Course:

Turkey - Years ago when I had to cook my first Turkey, I found this great guide from the New York Times. My first Turkey came out PERFECT and I've used this guide ever since.

A few things about the Turkey:

  • I always buy a 12 lb butterball Turkey.

  • If you buy a larger or smaller Turkey, the NYT guide includes cooking times based on Turkey size. Be sure to adjust the above schedule accordingly if your Turkey is larger than 12 lbs.

  • I also do not stuff the Turkey - I cook dressing separately using my Grandma's recipe (which I share below!) A Turkey without stuffing will cook faster!


Green Bean Casserole - I always go with the classic French's recipe. I'm addicted to it.



This is my Grandma's recipe, and it's the best ever. Enjoy!!


1 lb sage sausage

2 1/2 cups cornbread stuffing

2 1/2 cups herb seasoned stuffing

2 cans chicken broth (14.5 oz each)

1 large onion chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 Tbs. poultry seasoning

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp black pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Brown sausage in crumbled pieces and drain.

In a separate saucepan, cook onions and celery in butter until tender.

Mix bags of stuffing, poultry seasoning, salt, peppper. Stir in broth, celery, onion, butter, and sausage. Mix well.

Bake for 30 minutes in 13 by 9 greased casserole dish.


Cranberry Jelly and Olives - Save yourself some time and just go with the canned stuff :)


Mashed Potatoes - I live for these mashed potatoes from the Pioneer Woman. They are SO buttery and delicious. This is the recipe I always use when I make holiday mashed potatoes!


Rolls - I always go with Pillsbury rolls! Way easier and a great time saver, plus they are delicious.


Mulled Cider - I like this recipe because it's easy and delicious.



Pumpkin Pie - This is my go-to Pumpkin pie recipe. It comes out great every time!

There you have it! A full thanksgiving dinner from beginning to end. What are your go-to Thanksgiving recipes? Share in the comments below! Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

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