The million dollar question, right? I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time now, and I’ve recently had several requests for it. So here we go. How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner w/ One Oven.
You wanna know the secret? There is no secret. It takes a lot of planning and organization, all of which I’m here to help you with. Also, there’s no “right way” to do this. This post is merely a guide to help you, but by no means do you need to do exactly as I say. If you take away two or three tips that help you through this holiday season, I’ve done my job. 😊 Let’s dive right in.
So, you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner (or any large event), you only have one oven, and you’re having minor heart palpitations. Trust me, I get it. I’ve been there. The only difference between you and me is that I’ve now done this many times and each time it gets significantly easier. Each time you learn more, and each time you gain more confidence. In my opinion, the only way to get better at hosting large events like this, is to do them consistently. Even if that only means once or twice a year. If you skip a year, it can throw off your whole game. Like anything else, face your fears and practice makes better. (I know it’s practice makes perfect, but I hate that saying because it’s just not true). However, practice 100% makes better. Stay with me.
Whether you have one oven or two, these tips will help you organize and be as stress free as possible. That’s the goal right? To NOT have a heart attack. Let’s do this.
How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner with One Oven.
1) You don’t. This is the number one rule I’ve learned after hosting many 25-30 people dinners at my home. This rule goes for Thanksgiving and/or any holiday. Your one oven can’t do it all by itself. I mean, it could, but it doesn’t have to. This is the time to use a lifeline. LET PEOPLE BRING STUFF.
If I’m being totally honest, I’m the worst at this. I’m the #1 control freak and I want to be in charge of making and serving every single dish. Do yourself a favor and let it go. Decide on a few dishes (even just one or two) that you don’t have to make yourself. For me, its dessert. I much prefer to do all the cooking and don’t care as much about the baking. So let somebody bring a pie, a simple side dish, or really just anything that you can bare to let go of. People are more than happy to contribute, and I think it’s really a nice thing to get family and friends involved.
2) Let’s back up for a second. The planning starts now. You need to make your guest list. Write down how many adults and children you will have. WRITE IT DOWN. Even if you know the number in your head, having it all written out can really help with the planning process. I always count young children as 1/2, so if I’m having 15 adults and 6 kids, I account for 18 people when it comes to food. Having said that, on a holiday like Thanksgiving, people are expecting leftovers so I think it’s ok to overestimate your food.
3) Plan your menu. This is actually the most important part of this whole process. Do this now. Don’t wait until the week before to get this done. Also, WRITE IT DOWN.
Planning your menu takes the most organization. And this is what I mean when I say that your one oven can’t do it all. This is the time to take advantage of your other appliances. Break out your slow cooker, Instant Pot, stove top and even the grill! Don’t have any of those? Borrow from a friend! I am lucky enough now to own all three of those appliances, but I have for sure borrowed slow cookers from friends in the past, and had multiple going at once. Don’t be shy. Also, you just need to be ok with the fact that every single dish is not going to be perfectly hot/warm. It just is what it is.
The most important thing to consider as you’re planning your menu is that you don’t have too many dishes that need to be cooked in the oven. If you plan on cooking your turkey, roasting vegetables, making casseroles and pies all on Thanksgiving day, you’re out of your mind. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. So let’s get creative.
Think about making dishes that can be made ahead of time. A few dishes that come to mind are soups, applesauce, dessert. My mom used to have hot soup warming on the stove as people slowly arrived, and everybody would serve themselves a mug of soup as they settled in. She used to make these soups weeks in advance and keep them in the freezer. Then just defrost, reheat and serve!
Here’s a sample menu that can easily be made with one oven and serve 10-20 people!
Roasted Cauliflower Garlic Soup – Make ahead and freeze! Then let guests serve themselves as they slowly arrive. I love to put out big mugs for sipping soup.
Herb Roasted Turkey & Gravy– I like to cook a smaller bird for show, then separately cook 1 or 2 turkey breasts to carve and serve. This way you’re not stuck cooking a huge 25 pound bird the entire day! If you don’t care about making the turkey, find a local grocery store you love and order one! Done and done!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce – Make this several days before and keep in the fridge.
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes – These have completely changed my mashed potato life. I’ll never make mashed potatoes another way again. I set it and forget it, and they stay warm in the slow cooker until dinner (and most importantly, OUT OF MY OVEN!)
Chestnut Herb Stuffing – I think stuffing is perfectly delicious served at room temp. But you can also assemble this a few days in advance or the night before and bake off the next day. This is also the greatest stuffing of all time.
Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole w/ Pecan Crumble – You can also assemble this ahead of time and bake this at the same time as the stuffing.
Best Cornbread EVER – This is perfectly delicious at room temp. So bake it off early in the morning and let it sit. The honey butter can be made a week in advance.
Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts – Stove top veggies to save the day!
Spicy String Beans w/ Crushed Macadamia Nuts – Another stove top dish that’s beautiful and delicious!
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad w/ Black Rice, Dates, & Cashews – No oven or appliances needed! Make the dressing and rice (is using) a day ahead then throw it all together!
Instant Pot Applesauce – So easy and delicious! Make now and freeze!
Your favorite pies, cakes and/or cookies – Pick up from your local bakery or let somebody bring these!
Are you still with me?
4) Now that your guest list is made, and your menu is planned it’s time to line up all the logistics. Think about what drinks you want and pick up or assign people to bring any and all alcohol. Are you renting tables and/or chairs? If so, place the order now. Check to make sure you have all your tablecloths, napkins and plates for serving. I always like to have my table set 2-3 days in advance. It ALWAYS takes longer to set the table than I think. When I do this, I also like to pull out all the platters I’m going to use and label them with post its. It makes the day of much easier.
5) Print out every single recipe (or mark your cookbooks). Read each recipe all the way through so you know exactly what lies ahead. Then go through each recipe and create your grocery list. Start shopping for your dry goods AT LEAST one week ahead. You know how quickly stores run out of things on these big holidays! The fresh ingredients can be purchased a few days in advance.
You’re ready to go! WRITE DOWN your game plan for the day of. Work backwards. So if you want people eating at 4pm, then decide what time you want them arriving. Maybe 2pm? So soup ready at 1:45pm which means it needs to be heating at about 1:15pm, and keep working back from there. Write down the times you want to start prepping things (although a lot will be done ahead of time) and what time things go in the oven. Having all of this written out will save you and it will help relieve so much stress.
Lastly, take a big giant deep breath, have a glass of wine and do your very best to try and enjoy this experience. Your friends and family are there to help, take advantage of it. It might not be perfect, but it’s gonna be good enough and that’s my version of Thanksgiving perfection.
- Let people help.
- Write EVERYTHING down. Make your guest list and assign dishes. Then don’t throw out your lists, they will be useful for the following year.
- Plan your menu, read through ALL recipes, being very aware of what dishes need oven time and for how long.
- Fill in other logistics like table setting, decor, drinks, etc.
- Game plan for day of. Print and read through all recipes, then make grocery list. Write it down, take notes as you go (what worked, what didn’t) and save it.
You got this, and I’m here to answer any and all questions!
Need more recipe ideas? Here are 40 Fabulous Thanksgiving Recipes!