Read this before the big day. 

By Grace Elkus
Updated November 20, 2017
Maren Caruso/Getty Images

1. Refusing the Help of Your Guests

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, it’s likely you have a very clear vision of how you want the meal to go. Consequently, it can be hard to delegate anything to guests, who may not execute your instructions according to plan (the oversized ice cubes are for cocktails, not water!) But from the table settings to the drinks to the dessert, there’s a lot on your plate, and it’s wise to take advantage of having people around to help. Plus, they’ll feel better knowing they contributed. Short one stick of butter? Send someone to the store. Designate a family member to provide refills on wine. Prepare one table setting in advance, so that someone else can set up the others, using yours as a guide. Flatter a younger guest by asking them to control the music. Now everyone’s busy—but you still have control of the kitchen.

2. Not Tasting as You Go

Even if most days of the year you tend to cook with intuition, Thanksgiving is likely when you whip out the recipes (in fact, we’re banking on it). But that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak dishes to your liking. Taste as you go—that includes everything from the cranberry sauce (can often use more orange zest), to the mashed potatoes (they’ll need more salt than you think). For dishes like dinner rolls that you can’t taste until they’re baked, do a test run a few days prior or try one before you serve (you can often employ a quick fix). For example, if they taste a little bland, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

3. Forgetting About Appetizers (Or, Conversely, Making Too Many)

A successful Thanksgiving appetizer spread will tide people over without overstuffing them. We suggest opting for lighter fare, such as a crudité platter with a light, yogurt-based dip. This gives you the chance to bring color and fresh vegetables to an otherwise very brown, comfort food-heavy meal (now isn’t the time for mac and cheese bites, or a charcuterie platter). Don’t have time to prep one from scratch? Buy one at the supermarket (look for ones with veggies cut in the store, as opposed to pre-wrapped ones the store buys already cut), and add something homemade, such as pita chips. Transfer to a serving tray, and no one will know the difference. Marinated olives are also a great option (plus, they couldn’t be easier), as are stuffed Peppadew peppers.

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