8 Essential Tips for the First-Time Thanksgiving Host

Hosting your first Thanksgiving? Fret not. Here’s a quick list of tips and dishes to guide you through dinner.

Photo By: Adrian Mueller ©2012, Adrian Mueller / AMueller.com, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Adrian Mueller ©2012, Adrian Mueller / AMueller.com, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Tara Donne

Make-Ahead Cranberries

Fresh cranberry sauce can be made up to three days in advance. If you see fresh cranberries at your farmers market well before the holiday, buy them and freeze them; they store beautifully and can be cooked straight from frozen.

See More Photos: Cranberry Sauce Recipes

Apps at the Ready

Have a fast snack handy for people to nibble on while they wait for the main course.

See More Photos: 10 Appetizers in 10 Minutes or Less

Don't Overpack the Bird

A turkey that is loosely stuffed with aromatics cooks quickly and evenly.

Get the Recipe: Easy Herb Roasted Turkey

Dressing > Stuffing

If you bake your dressing on the side, it’ll lead to a more reliably cooked turkey (and a nicely browned dressing, to boot).

Get the Recipe: Mixed Grain Dressing with Shiitakes, Parsnips and Apricots

Stress-Free Sides

Pick dishes that get better with time, or can be served at room temperature –– that way, you don't need to worry about getting things to the table as soon as they're done.

See More Photos: The 99 Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Before Carving

Let the turkey rest after it comes out of the oven, and use the drippings to make gravy.

Get the Recipe: Gravy from Roast Drippings

Mash in a Flash

Mash your potatoes while the turkey rests so they stay warm enough for dinner.

See More Photos: Thanksgiving Mashed Potato Recipes

Give Leftovers New Life

And enjoy the leftovers the next day!

See More Photos: Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes