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Happy thanksgiving day

Happy Thanksgiving | Your Guide to Hosting a Disaster-Free Gathering

Johnna Kaplan

Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite holidays. Every year, millions of people across the nation take to the roads, rails and skies to make it home in time for this special day. And yet, for many, Thanksgiving Day often ends in tears—or a visit from the fire department.

Your Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be ruined by brawling relatives or kitchen emergencies. Here are some tips to help you avoid common Thanksgiving disasters.

Cooking Calamities

Imagine that it’s Thanksgiving and everyone is gathered around your table, hungry and waiting for the main course…which is still in the oven, partly frozen. The only situation more awkward and heartbreaking for hosts is the reverse of this scenario: You proudly remove the turkey from the oven, ready to serve it, only to find it’s been transformed into a charred lump.

Turkey in oven
The rumor that fat from the skin seeps into the meat during cooking simply isn’t true. In fact, cooking turkey with the skin usually results in meat that is more tender, moist and flavorful.

Here are a few tips to help you prevent such setbacks and, if they do occur, to gracefully deal with them.

  • Give yourself extra time to defrost anything frozen.
  • Cook or bake everything you can well in advance of the Thanksgiving meal, especially breads and pies.
  • Buy or make simple appetizers ahead of time in case the meal takes longer than anticipated to prepare. These don’t have to be complicated, just tasty.
  • Measure the inside of your oven to ensure that your turkey will fit. If you need to feed a big group, remember that there’s no law stating that you have to cook the turkey whole. Buy a large assortment of turkey breasts, drumsticks and so on, or cook a smaller bird and make up for it with more side dishes.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is one of the worst imaginable outcomes of any group meal. No one wants to cook what they think is a beautiful feast, only to find out that it made their guests sick.

Washing Vegetables

To protect yourself and your family from food-borne illnesses, follow these precautions:

  • If you’re not an expert in the kitchen, don’t feel you have to go all out with complex, fancy dishes or exotic ingredients. Everyone appreciates a simple, familiar meal, and no one will expect you to produce a turducken.
  • Read and follow recipes carefully. If the cooking time or measurements look odd to you, check other similar recipes to make sure you’re not cooking unsafely because of a typo.
  • Food allergies can be as bad as food poisoning, if not worse. Keep track of every ingredient you use so that you can provide correct, and maybe life-saving, information if guests ask.

Malfunctioning Appliances

Have you ever had your oven suddenly die on you with your pie half-baked, or your freezer stop freezing just in time to melt the ice cream you were going to serve with that pie?

Cleaning Oven

Though you can’t always ensure that your appliances will behave, you can take preventative steps to stave off last-minute menu catastrophes.

  • If an appliance has been acting up, get a professional to inspect it. If need be, get it repaired or replaced before the holiday.
  • When planning your menu, don’t neglect the delicious (and healthy!) dishes that don’t need to be cooked. Various salads, fruit plates and dips can satisfy your guests while you work on fixing that broken appliance.
  • Keep alternate menu plans or cooking ideas in the back of your mind, just in case. You might be surprised at how well you can cook in a toaster oven.

If all else fails, keep calm and try to remember what Thanksgiving is actually all about: spending time with those you love and reflecting on the things in life that mean the most to you. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with eating pizza on the fourth Thursday in November.

Exploding Deep Fryers

You might have seen videos of Thanksgiving deep frying gone wrong. It may be amusing when it’s on YouTube, but it’s definitely not funny when it’s your own meal exploding, potentially damaging your property.

Deep Fried Turkey

If you choose to cook your turkey in a deep fryer, here’s how to go about it:

  • Before you place your turkey anywhere near your fryer, read up on the dangers specific to this cooking method (e.g., “deep fryers can easily tip over”), the precautions you should take and the tips for how to fry safely.
  • Follow a proven recipe. The National Turkey Federation provides several, along with additional safety tips.

Fire Preparedness and Safety

A fire is one of the worst catastrophes that can occur when your family and friends are gathered together in your home, and it can happen easily—a stove-top grease fire or a blaze caused by a curtain or decoration coming in contact with fireplace or candle flames, for example.

Cooking Fires

Fortunately, house fires can be prevented, as long as you follow safety rules and make sure any fire is immediately and appropriately-tended.

  • Always pay attention to what’s happening in the kitchen. According to the American Red Cross, almost 90 percent of kitchen fires are caused by unattended cooking.
  • Have working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. They can mean the difference between a minor incident and a tragedy.
  • Keep decorations far away from fireplaces, heaters and candles.

Shattered Dishes

Your Thanksgiving has gone smoothly so far, and you’re finally cleaning up and putting everything away, when a guest accidentally drops your great-grandmother’s one-of-a-kind serving dish.

Thanksgiving Place Setting

If this thought horrifies you, here’s how to avoid it and similar incidents:

  • When in doubt, save pieces of great value—financial or sentimental—for display purposes and serve food on platters you wouldn’t be devastated to see in pieces on the floor.
  • If your group is particularly boisterous (or just clumsy) consider using disposable cups and plates. These days, you can find attractive and seasonally appropriate paper plates, as well as plastic cups and even serving dishes at party supply stores.
  • Assign specific cooking, serving- and washing-related tasks to responsible individuals. It’s nice when everyone wants to help, but giving certain chores to certain people will cut down on chaos in the kitchen.

Family Fights

This is one of the most dreaded Thanksgiving scenarios. Two siblings on opposite sides of a political issue or a parent who disagrees with their child’s choice of job or tattoo get into a fight that makes everyone in the room either angry, uncomfortable or miserable.

Thanksgiving Family Dinner

Thanksgiving Day fights are such a common occurrence that advice columnists weigh in on the dilemma every year. Here are some ways to prevent these family feuds:

  • Limit the size of your gathering. Dear Amy advises hosts to ban the worst offenders. That might cause others close to them to stay away too, but it’s your home and you and your other guests should feel comfortable in it.
  • Be assertive and set boundaries. Dear Prudence advises two letter-writers to plan what they’ll say or do around pushy family members before they have the chance to push too far.
  • Assign understanding family members to take on certain roles, like distracting squabbling children or leading your uncle into talking about his high school memories instead of his views on politics.
  • Separate relatives who are likely to quarrel during dinner by carefully arranging your seating chart in advance. Pretty place cards on a beautifully-set table can hide the fact that it’s all a secret strategy to keep the peace.
  • If there’s no way to avoid spending the day with certain offensive or depressing people, try to regularly remind yourself that their behavior is not about you and that you don’t have to take the bait.


No one wants a guest getting hurt in their home, but accidents do happen. In the crowded and festive atmosphere of Thanksgiving, it’s easy for a cook to get burned or cut in the kitchen, or for a child—or even an adult—to trip and fall down the stairs.

Before you host a holiday meal, take the time to prepare your home to prevent injuries; and have emergency supplies on hand just in case.

  • Child-proof your house if kids will be coming over.
  • Check the condition of the lesser-used features of your home, like your tire swing or back deck, before inviting people—who may not realize they haven’t actually been sat or stepped on since the Carter Administration—to use them.
  • Have basic first-aid supplies on hand, so that no one has to rush out in search of bandages on a night when many stores are closed.

Although it can be difficult, especially if you encounter problems on the day, it always helps to remember the obvious: Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks. As you get ready for the holiday, take the time to prepare for the worst but don’t forget to appreciate the best aspects of family, friends, food and fall.

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving? Are you on Team Turkey or Team Ham? Do you like your cranberry sauce from scratch or shaped like a can? What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Let us know in the comments.

34 Responses to "Happy Thanksgiving | Your Guide to Hosting a Disaster-Free Gathering"
    • Judy D Sandoval | November 23, 2022 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. There will only be two of us, but I remember the big gatherings from past years. Glad we’re keeping it simple here. Many thankful memories and we’re sending blessings to all our loved ones.

    • Emanuel Kennell | November 23, 2022 at 11:15 am

      Thankful for each person in the office. They are a God-sent blessing.

    • Phyllis | November 23, 2022 at 8:13 am

      Thanks for the heads-up!
      Happy Thanksgiving!!

    • Pam Dove | November 22, 2022 at 4:36 pm

      Great article! My family usually play games like Dominos or Skip-Bo and we let the kids partner with a parent or have crafts for them. Several people can play each of the games so it helps keep numerous guests busy. There’s also football for those who enjoy kicking back, after a great meal. So far, it seems to work. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    • Martha Baynor | November 21, 2022 at 9:34 pm

      My favorite thing about Thanksgiving, thanking God for all my blessings.

      I really enjoyed this and it helped a lot, will enjoy Thanksgiving better with your hints.

    • Susan P | November 21, 2022 at 2:21 pm

      This is very practical common sense advice. Thank you helping your clients have a safer and healthier Thanksgiving.

    • romualdas simonaitis | November 20, 2022 at 2:36 pm

      good advice

    • Jo Baxter | November 20, 2022 at 11:32 am

      This is advice was very helpful. Thank you. And I like my cranberry sauce jellied with leftover turkey in a sandwich. Yum!

    • Judy Gordonj | November 20, 2022 at 8:11 am

      Excellent information and reminders.

    • Richard Barreras Sr | November 20, 2022 at 7:42 am

      I am thankful for 40 years of living with my precious wife, and looking forward to the rest of our lives together. I can’t remember the last time we passed each other in the house when we didn’t kiss or touch each other in some manner. I’m also thankful knowing what true love is, and the effect it has for making a peaceful home. And the sacrifices my Savior made to make this all possible.

    • Mary Britt | November 19, 2022 at 9:54 pm

      Thank you for the excellent advice

    • Charles E Fryer Sr | November 19, 2022 at 8:27 pm

      Great reminders, very true to life & practical; however, 🙏🏿 Prayer is paramount & rules concerning alcoholic consumption, smoking areas and family members bringing guests without notification & or prior approval, Tia the season, Prayers goin up for all to have a peaceful memorable thanksgiving & Christmas holiday season without “injury or drama” Amen…..

    • Vincent Brancato | November 19, 2022 at 5:29 pm

      Surprised family fights are not at the top this year but good council – however in this age of climate change encouraging use of plastic one use glasses is not really responsible.
      We have to eliminate one use plastics – except for the medical industry I think – but AARP should, in my view, having that orientation of avoiding use of fossil fuels in every reasonable way possible.

    • Amanda Sandoval | November 19, 2022 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks for all the suggestions. We will keep in mind. Thank you and Happy Holidays to all.

    • Al H Schrader | November 19, 2022 at 3:51 pm

      Buy an 8 pound turkey & put it on a gas rotisserie . We are talking juicy tender rotisserie turkey- way better than the fried bird & a lot safer.
      For a big family roto two or three of them & keep them covered in your oven set on “WARM” for dinner time.

    • Mary A. Johnson | November 19, 2022 at 2:57 pm

      I am most thankful for my health and family! Thank You for the helpful reminders

    • Joyce | November 19, 2022 at 2:43 pm

      I love Thanksgiving Day…preparing the turkey dinner with cornbread dressing (the very best kind!), canned cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables and homemade pecan and pumpkin pies.
      And a special day to thank God for all He has given me and my loved ones and friends!

    • kathleen dunn | November 19, 2022 at 1:49 pm

      My favorite part of Thanksgiving is going to church and giving thanks for my wonderful family and friends.

    • Marilyn huntsinger | November 19, 2022 at 1:44 pm

      The family gathering and the bocce ball tournament

    • Nancy Harris | November 19, 2022 at 1:16 pm

      I love cooking for my family and serving their favorites. The menu is big including ham and turkey, special family recipes of sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, green beans, corn casserole, homemade cranberry relish and traditional potatoes, gravy and dressing. Lots of dessert.

    • LaDonna Roberts | November 19, 2022 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you great information and safety guidelines.

      • Ladonna Roberts | November 19, 2022 at 12:58 pm

        Thank you for the safety information will keep in my and share with others.

    • Anne | November 19, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      Giving thanks for all Americans, with prayers for safety and happiness for everyone.

      Help preserve our FREEDOM!

    • Christy | November 19, 2022 at 12:09 pm

      We cook everything except the turkey days ahead of time. Years ago we spent the money for good ceramic serving ware. My husband always works on Thanksgiving and when the cooking is done everything is cooked or served on the ceramic ware. It all goes in the oven under moist towels and tin foil on very low heat. When my husband gets home thanksgiving is served hot. The large mess is already cleaned up and everyone enjoys the meal including the cooks. It’s a given the meal will wait until my husband gets home but light snacks and the pies are fare game until the meal is served.

    • Angela Pitaro | November 19, 2022 at 11:02 am

      Just being home with the people who truly love me.

    • Rita Berson | November 19, 2022 at 10:54 am

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and thank you for your concern for safety and well being as the holidays are upon us.

    • Beverley Olson | November 19, 2022 at 10:32 am

      Very nice and good information. Thanksgiving is a time for loving family and enjoying time together. Wishing you a blessed holiday.

    • Lauretta Barnett | November 19, 2022 at 10:29 am

      Thanks for the advise. The real reason for Thanksgiving is to thank God for our many blessings of all year round and love those in your home that day.

    • Kitty | November 19, 2022 at 10:25 am

      Love the tips and reminders I’m sure we can all benefit from this

    • Sarah | November 18, 2022 at 8:24 pm

      We really like cranberry sauce that is from scratch.
      I am especially grateful that my spouse who has stage 4 lung cancer is feeling really well.
      We’re looking forward to Thanksgiving with friends.

    • Sandra L Moll | November 18, 2022 at 11:54 am

      My children, my grandchildren, and my health.

    • carol Onstad | November 17, 2022 at 11:17 am

      This is great- I have never seen a message like this before – Thanks

    • Virginia A. Lapid | November 9, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you for these excellent practical reminders to help us ensure a Thanksgiving celebration to enjoy and cherish. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

      • Brenda Williamson | November 22, 2022 at 9:01 am

        My grown son’s are my biggest helpers at home. I’m not able to do a lot of things due to health. Issues,but so thankful to just be able to do what I still can. Holidays aren’t what they were since my parents are gone. My older siblings have health issues, too. Miss those bygone days.
        Times are so much more different than before. Happy thanksgiving to everyone and God Bless You.

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