Thanksgiving is the family event for many. But let’s face it — the third Thursday in November tends to be lots more enjoyable if you’re not the one in charge.
Oh, you are? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. With the right planning, you can make it all come together seamlessly. “There’s so much that goes into it, from the food to the decor to the guest list, that you’ve got to get your ducks in a row to make the day as stress-free as possible,” says party planner Leah Weinberg of Color Pop Events in New York City.
The biggest of those ducks may be having the right tools and extras on hand. Sure, you know you need a roasting pan, carving knife, wine glasses…but what about the less-obvious things? We went to entertaining experts and tapped our own hard-won Thanksgiving hosting knowledge to come up with this list of 22 picks poised to move the Turkey Day needle from meh to memorable.
Urban Accents Gourmet Gobbler Turkey Brine and Rub Kit ($12.95; stonewallkitchen.com)
In case you’re unaware, brining a turkey is the secret to pulling off a tender, juicy, tasty bird. But if you’ve never done it before, it’s a little tricky. This easy all-in-one kit includes a spiced brine blend, a heavy BPA-free bag to put the turkey in and even a smoky herb rub to finish off your Insta-destined main course.
Papier Pressed Florals Notebook ($17.84, originally $20.99; papier.com)
“I’m constantly encouraging my clients to get organized as the first step to planning a celebration. Why would Thanksgiving be any different?” insists Weinberg. “So make the planning more enjoyable with a fun notebook in which to jot down all your ideas and to-dos.” This one is so pretty, you’ll want to leave it out when the company comes.
Perpetual Bliss Perfect Pear Tapered Candle ($20; etsy.com)
“Keep the platters of food in the kitchen or on a sideboard to leave the center of your table open for creating a tabletop scene with candles that will wow your guests,” suggests Decorist designer Joshua Jones. We especially love this pear candle for Thanksgiving, but they also have adorable bubble candles.
Williams Sonoma Harvest Bloom Tablecloth (starting at $99.95; williams-sonoma.com)
It can make a huge difference in the vibe of your meal — yet it’s so easy to forget about. How many of us use tablecloths normally? Do you even have one? Not only will this beauty set the right tone for this festive fall occasion, but it makes clean-up easy too. Just gather it up, shake it out and toss it in the washer.
Oxo Good Grips Roasting Set ($27.99; amazon.com)
It sounds a little yuck, but trust us, this is a lifesaver for making gravy. Pour the pan drippings into this gadget and the fat is immediately separated out. Then you just pour out the good stuff to make your gravy. It comes with a baster as well as a cleaning brush.
Crate & Barrel Marble Place Card Holders, 4-Pack ($19.95; crateandbarrel.com)
“While it may seem a bit formal, personalized place settings can make your guests feel special and looked-out-for,” says Jones. (They can also save everyone from those raucous debates between your dad and cousin Josh.) Jones points to these elegant marble holders as a perfect pick.
Biuzko Stainless Steel Cake and Pie Slicer ($11.99; amazon.com)
The struggle is real. A piece of coconut custard pie plops into a heap in front of your guest, who gamely smiles and says, “It’ll still taste the same!” Where has this been all our lives? It cuts a slice of just the right size, then hugs it to the plate, where it arrives picture-perfect.
My Scratch-Offs Thanksgiving Turkey Favor, 26-Pack ($8.99; amazon.com)
These crowd-pleasers couldn’t be simpler. Just place one at each place setting, and before the toast, see who the two lucky winners are. Have small prizes ready; a $10 giftcard to Target works for anybody.
Crock-Pot 7-Quart Slow Cooker ($39.99; target.com)
This classic kitchen helpmate is never more handy than it is at Thanksgiving. It has a removable oval stoneware insert that becomes an extra serving dish. The “warm” setting will keep sides ready to go until the turkey’s done, solving one of the gnarliest problems of serving a bunch of people at once.
MacKenzie-Childs Walk in the Woods Centerpiece ($288; mackenzie-childs.com)
Jones notes that adding decor items with dried flora to a tabletop can “create a rich tableau of texture and sight.” We’re in love with this stunner. Between the beautiful natural elements, the colors, the unexpected touch of whimsy brought in by the “Courtly Check” ribbon and the sturdy metal pot, it’s a keeper for years to come.
Harry & David Belgian Artisan Truffles ($54.99; harryanddavid.com)
“I’m a big fan of going outside the box. One of the best ways to do that at Thanksgiving? With a creative dessert!” says Weinberg. “You can still have your pumpkin pie, but why not add in a bit of the unexpected with colorful chocolate bonbons?” It doesn’t get much better than these. And a bite-size sweet will hit the spot for guests too stuffed for a hunk of pie.
The Fun Boss Getting to Know You Ice Breaker Questions ($4.99; etsy.com)
“Are guests arriving and the food is nowhere near ready? Buy yourself time by giving your guests something to do as a group,” suggests Weinberg. She really likes this set, especially when not everyone knows each other well.
Gourmet Butcherblock All-Madden Turducken ($149; goldbelly.com)
What’s that? You’ve never had a turducken? Well, once you do, you may never want anything else at Thanksgiving. The craze for a turkey stuffed with a duck then stuffed with a chicken started in New Orleans, where this succulent specimen will be shipped from. Weighing in at 17 pounds, it’s layered with sausage stuffing and cornbread dressing, seasoned and ready to bake.
Vitruvi Stone Diffuser ($119; sephora.com)
“Aroma changes our mood, relaxes us…so it can be essential in making a subtle but lasting impression on guests,” says Sara Panton, founder of Vancouver-based home scenting company Vitruvi. Essential oil diffusers, like this lovely handcrafted stone one, create a long-lasting, natural scent. Ideal for the bathroom or the kitchen after sautéing all those onions for the stuffing.
Cards Against Humanity ($25; amazon.com)
A rousing game of Cards Against Humanity works great as a fun break between dinner and dessert, notes Weinberg. It will give folks time to make room for dessert — and maybe uncle Ned won’t fall asleep on the couch as usual.
Glasshouse Grace Peperomia Potted Assortment, 3-Pack ($25; etsy.com)
Malibu Succulents Sweetheart Hoya (starting at $9.99; etsy.com)
“Peperomia ginny or mini hoya heart plants potted in autumn-friendly tones become truly memorable as gifts for your guests to take home with them,” says Jones. We agree! Both of these petite plants are easy to care for and so stinking cute. And you only need one per household.
Coton Colors Turkey Platter ($44.95; wayfair.com)
Before you say, “Oh, I’m sure I have a platter,” maybe look and see? First-time Thanksgiving hosts especially don’t realize they need an actual big, oval platter for the turkey. Dinner plates won’t cut it. This platter is not only festive, but the ruffled edging also makes it easy to grab.
Pyrex Simply Store Glass Bakeware 24-Piece Set ($31.97; walmart.com)
Everyone will eat too much. And you will have a ton of food left over. It would seem the first fact would cancel out the second, but somehow, no. So be ready to stash all those yummy leftovers. This quality set comes with containers of all shapes and sizes that are dishwasher-, freezer-, microwave-, fridge- and oven-safe.
Freshware Storage Containers With Lids, 50-Pack ($19.99; amazon.com)
Your guests would surely love to take some leftovers. (Always so much dessert untouched!) Nothing is sadder, though, than a piece of Grandma’s pecan pie in a ziplock bag. These are sturdy enough to survive the car ride home with ease and are BPA-free. Save the extras for future holiday parties.
Otess Multiple Device Charging Station ($39.99; amazon.com)
Everyone and their 8-year-old will have something to charge. Being prepared with this fast charging station for six devices will keep fuses from blowing and phones from being misplaced.
Personalization Mall Gather & Gobble Personalized Apron ($19.99, originally $29.99; personalizationmall.com)
It happens to even veteran Thanksgiving hosts. You don’t want to get your outfit dirty while you cook, so you wait until the last minute to change — and wind up greeting the first guest in your sweats. Just wear an apron this year. This Thanksgiving-themed one is full length and can be personalized if you like.