Hosting Thanksgiving for the whole family at your place this year? No need to stress. Follow these simple Thanksgiving do’s and don’ts for food safety, menu planning, decorating the table and more.

hosting Thanksgiving

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Turkey Tips

DO give yourself enough time. If you bought a frozen turkey, you’ll need to allow time for it to thaw – about 24 hours for every 5 pounds in a refrigerator set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

DON’T stuff the turkey. As the turkey cooks, its juices will soak into the stuffing inside. And getting the stuffing to a high enough temperature to kill any bacteria and be safe to eat almost always means overcooking the turkey. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s safest to always to cook the stuffing separately.

DON’T wash the turkey. You might think washing the turkey before cooking it helps get rid of harmful bacteria, but this is one step you should always avoid. Washing uncooked meat can actually spread more bacteria around your kitchen due to splashing and cross-contamination that might occur when the meat touches your hands or kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill harmful bacteria in meat is to cook it, so it’s best to pop the turkey straight into the oven.

hosting Thanksgiving

iStock: VeselovaElena

DO use a food thermometer. Nothing could ruin Thanksgiving faster than a half-cooked turkey. Use a food thermometer to ensure your bird is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature in three places: the thickest part of the breast and the innermost parts of the thighs and wings.

Beyond the Bird

DO celebrate seasonal flavors. Thanksgiving dinner is all about celebrating autumn’s harvest around the table. Use your side dishes to highlight seasonal ingredients like sweet potatoes, apples, winter squash and more.

DO take your guests’ diets into account. Don’t stress about making every dish vegan or gluten-free, but do consider all your guests when menu planning and make any necessary adjustments so no one leaves hungry.

See more: 10 Winning Winter Squash Recipes 

DO delegate drinks and desserts. Ask your guests to help out by bringing drinks and desserts so you can focus your attention (and oven) on the main feast. But if you do want to make the desserts too, try one of these tasty Thanksgiving pie recipes.

DON’T forget the coffee. Your guests will probably be ready for a nap after the main meal. Have fresh coffee ready to serve with dessert to keep the party going.

iStock: serezniy

DO save leftovers the right way. All leftovers should be stored within two hours to prevent the growth of bacteria. Eat them within three or four days (before the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) and store what you can’t eat by then in the freezer.

Looking for some creative ways to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers? Check out these recipes to make after your guests leave.

iStock: RyanJLane

Decorations

DON’T go overboard on table decorations. Let the food stand out as the main event and don’t overcrowd the table with fall decorations. Use simple pieces like plates, napkins, candles and small pumpkins to adorn the feast and save the rest of the seasonal decor for around the house. Plan ahead and try to do all your decorating in advance so you don’t feel overwhelmed on the big day.

See more: 12 Unique Ways to Decorate Your Home with Pumpkins

Sources: USDA Food Safety Tips for Cooking Thanksgiving Turkeys

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