Last week we talked abut how to cook Thanksgiving dinner for two people, and soon we’ll cover how to cook Thanksgiving dinner for six people. As the years go on and your family and friend circle grows, your Thanksgiving dinner table probably will too. Some experts say that once you’ve cooked for 10 or 12 people, you can cook for pretty much any size group of people by doubling recipes or asking people to bring a dish.
By some experts, I mean my mom.
Taking into consideration that Thanksgiving side dishes are arguably the best part of the meal (no offense to the 12-pound fresh turkey I just ordered online for my own 4-6 person Thanksgiving dinner), cooking for a big group is worth the stress — it allows you to have more side dishes for everyone to sample, mix and match.
For a few years, my family Thanksgiving was three or four people, which always brought a little bit of contention: we don’t really need apple and pecan pie because only one person likes them (the solution? we’d have both) and we don’t really need to have a green been casserole and corn pudding (the solution? we’d have both). As a result, there would be an excess of leftovers. Although not necessarily a bad thing, you generally have to make some tough decisions if you’re not cooking for a crowd.
The good news about cooking Thanksgiving for ten people or more? You can make many, many side dishes — everyone has a different favorite and your crazy aunt can pile her plate high with mashed potatoes while your sister’s boyfriend hoards the cornbread. Something for everybody. Do a turkey or two, and make what you make best — then delegate the rest.
Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup from Always Order Dessert
Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter and Roasted Shallots from Cookin’ Canuck
Perfect Turkey Gravy from Life Love Liz
Irresistibly Creamy Mashed Potatoes from Andrew Zimmerman
Ginger Butternut Squash Mashed Potatoes from Katie’s Cucina
Cornbread Sausage Stuffing with Cranberries and Pecans from Carlsbad Cravings
Classic Slow Cooker Stuffing (recipe below)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce from the Prairie Homestead
Warm Roasted Sweet Potato Salad from A Cozy Apron
The Best Sweet Potato Casserole from Baker By Nature
Corn Casserole from Add a Pinch
Green Bean Casserole from Scratch from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Maple Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Kristine’s Kitchen
Suzanne Goin’s Slow Cooked Kale from Alexandra Cooks
Broccoli Gratin with Swiss and Parmesan from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Turkey Crust Pumpkin Pie from Kudos Kitchen
Pecan Streusel Pumpkin Pie from Chelsea’s Messy Apron
Traditional Apple Pie from The Gracious Wife
Sour Cream Apple Pie from Taste and Tell
The Experts Weigh In
Planning ahead is your best friend. Start today, if you can. Once you have your menu set, assign everyone at least one thing to bring or one task to help you with. Kids are great for this — they can set tables, wash and prep vegetables, make place cards, and even pour you wine. Yes, this is why I don’t have children. But really, plan ahead.
Set the table a day or two ahead of time.
Make yourself a “count down” guide, with the cooking times and temperatures of everything that needs to go into the oven. That way you’ll know what has to go in and when. Make as many side dishes ahead of time as you can, so you’ll just be reheating on Thursday. If it’s cool where you live, a garage is a perfect “staging area” and set the table up to two days in advance.” -Becca Heflin-Donovan
Know your audience: if you’re cooking for 10 people, think about what the most popular dish will be. If stuffing is a universal favorite in your circle, whip up a big batch and then serve more modest amounts of other side dishes. That is to say, don’t feel the need to scour the Internet for 9 recipes that serve 12 people: you’ll end up with enough food to feed 36. Instead, focus on serving a nice variety so that people can load up their plates with a little bit of everything, and then double down on what they like best. If there are dietary restrictions, do your best, but don’t drive yourself crazy.
Ask your guests if they have dietary restrictions well ahead of time. Accommodate them if you feel you can, but if there’s a litany of restrictions, it’s totally appropriate to ask your guest to bring a dish they love. -Chris Poeschl
Blend the old with the new: Some people are very, very particular about how they Thanksgiving. Others like to try fresh recipes every year and introduce new traditions. One of the best things I ever introduced to my family’s Thanksgiving was a butternut squash gratin, and at a family friend’s dinner a few years ago I thought cornbread was a great touch for the table. Some families do macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving, where I typically prefer to reserve macaroni and cheese for nights dedicated solely to what I like to call ‘cheese to the face.’ You get my drift. Mix it up.
Go ahead and branch out from turkey. If you have a seriously big group — like you’re hosting more people than I even know — you might want to make a turkey and then a ham, a filet, or something else that people can pick from if they don’t want the tryptophan coma to kick in before it’s time for pie.
My family in NJ gets together with 30 or so extended family and friends. The host family rotates each year. The host family is in charge of the turkey, drinks, plates, etc. The full meal is then decided upon the host family and they parcel out dishes to the rest of the group, depending on their family size. So all the sides, appetizers, and desserts are given to others to bring as potluck. If it’s a bigger family, they may be in charge of more dishes. If it’s a couple, they may be in charge of bringing a pie or two. Something like that. We usually do a ham as well since it’s so many people and not everyone loves turkey. Everyone knows to make enough for at least 15 people. My friends think we are crazy when they hear about it but it’s actually a ton of fun. -Shereen Langrana
Delegate. Or go to Costco. If you have a big crowd coming, you need to let people help you. I’d be willing to stake my $73 worth of pre-ordered pies and biscuits that Martha Stewart doesn’t even go at Thanksgiving alone. I’d even go double or nothing.
Make the main dishes, like the turkey and your favorite side dishes. When guests ask what they can bring, let them bring appetizers and dessert. If you don’t want to ask people to bring anything, Costco has a great selection around the holidays. -Rubina Hafeez
Or, if you’re not one for mashing potatoes, ask your guests to take care of the side dishes while you focus on the more important things: the things that start with ‘p’ and end with ‘umpkin pie.’
Potluck, everyone brings their favorite dish and hostess just makes the turkey and maybe an appetizer and dessert. I’ve found everyone loves having their favorite to share and there are always stories. You will thankful, promise! -Barb Kiebel
If all else fails, show up somewhere invited.
Find somebody hosting a big crowd for Thanksgiving. Go to their house. They’ll probably give you leftovers and you don’t even have to hire a maid. -Marshall Gatten
If you’re lucky, they might not even notice you and you won’t have to talk to anyone.
If you decide not to delegate, it’s all about slow cooking the side dishes. If you’re cooking dinner for a big crowd, you’ll want to put as little in the oven as you possibly can. You’re going to have a turkey to cook, and possibly a ham or two (no, why would you have two hams?). Luckily, there are a lot of Thanksgiving dishes that you can do on the stovetop — mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, most vegetables. However, Thanksgiving is also known in some circles as “Casserole Day” so it’s also possible you’ll have a lot to bake.
I did a trial run of stuffing last weekend in my KitchenAid 4-Quart Multi-Cooker. Let me tell you, if you’ve ever had a slow cooker and think it improved your life even one iota, then you need to experience the wonder that is a multi-cooker. There is basically nothing this appliance won’t do for you — it has over 10 settings for risotto, rice, sear, sauté, simmer, soup, yogurt, boil/steam, slow cook high, slow cook low, and keep warm.(for up to 24 hours — and it doesn’t dry out your food either). There is nothing you can’t make in this Multi-Cooker.
Except maybe a salad.
Actually, you probably could use it for a salad although that might not be the best bang for your buck. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life though.
The best part about this multi-cooker is that if you’re cooking Thanksgiving, you have the ultimate appliance for make-ahead dishes right here. You can make your stuffing the night before and keep it warm on Thanksgiving day and as an added bonus, your house is going to smell great when your guests show up.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 4 large stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- Leaves from 4 stalks thyme
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup diced apple, dried fruit, nuts (optional)
- If your bread is not already completely stale (tip: ask the bakery department at your grocery store if they have day old bread for stuffing), dry out the bread by baking for 60-90 minutes, stirring every half hour, in a 225 degree F oven. Bake until bread is crisp.
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and add garlic, onions and celery. Stir frequently until vegetables are soft and onions look opaque. Add sage and thyme, and cook for two more minutes or until herbs become fragrant.
- Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add the broth. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, fold the bread cubes in with the cooked vegetables, egg mixture and apples. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
- Transfer to the bowl of a 7-quart slow cooker that has been prepared according to appliance directions.
- Cover the slow cooker with its lid and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, until crisp around the edges.