HOW TO OWN THANKSGIVING Impress Your Family, Your Friends and the Random Strangers You Invite into Your Home

If it’s your first time hosting Thanksgiving, or if you just want to spice up the old routine, we have you covered. Here is the ultimate guide for making your Thanksgiving memorable and looking like the man who has it all together (which we both know is not the case).

1) Planning
The prep for turkey day can be overwhelming. Just like anything, keep a cool head and take it one step at a time. Some glitches will happen, and that’s what will make it memorable. One of our favorite tools is this calendar to keep you on track from the folks at Food & Wine. Of course, we are already past their starting date, so you might want to get moving.

2) The Meal
If you are in charge of the meal, start early. One of our favorite recipe planners can be found here ( Many thanks to our friends at the NY Times. You can select some variables, choose your dishes, and then start getting all of the ingredients. If you are not in charge of the meal, volunteer to help with the planning. Even if it means just being an on-call errand runner on the morning of the big day. Offering to help goes a long way.

3) Start a New Tradition
Whether this is your first rodeo or if your family has 100 year traditions, it’s worth trying to start a new one. It allows you to put your own spin on things. Here’s some of our favorite ideas:

  • Bring your own ‘favorite’ dish. Whether this is grandma’s apple pie or something you invent (see our NY Times link above for ideas), it’s always fun to say – “I made that”.
  • Ask the younger kids to have a costume / hat contest on the big day
  • Have everyone share what they are thankful for. This could be a “Thanksgiving board” where everybody pins notes or writes them down. It could be just going around the table, it could be even writing them on the table (We’d suggest laying down some butcher paper first though). One idea we liked is that you have everyone write down one thing they are thankful for, then you bake them into crescent rolls. At dinner, people open them up like fortune cookies and everyone else tries to guess who wrote what.
  • Create a game tournament. Whether it’s euchre, cribbage or poker, nothing sparks a good family gathering like some competition.
  • Set up a video chat for those family members that couldn’t make it. Just leave it running.
  • Go for a walk as a group before or after dinner
  • Buy a bunch of Tupperware ahead of time and cook more than you need. Send everyone home with new Tupperware filled with leftovers

(Tradition photo by rawpixel)

4) Do More Than Just Eat
Face it, you are going to consume an extraordinary amount of calories on this day. Don’t sweat it, just find a way to sweat some of it off beforehand. This could be a Turkey-Bowl football game, a 5k, or just a nice long walk that you help organize.

5) Be the Turkey Chef
If you really want to own the day, be the turkey master. Below are several ideas and accompanying videos. We’d recommend a trial run ahead of time.

  • Brine the Turkey – This is a matter of personal taste. Some people swear by it, others say it makes the bird too salty and isn’t worth the effort. Here’s a quick video on a relatively painless way to brine that bird from the Food Network
  • Deep fry the bird - The guys at The Art of Manliness have a great video on how to deep fry your turkey. Just be careful. Nothing ruins Thanksgiving like burning your house down.
  • Smoke your Turkey – This one requires some special equipment, but it is so worth it! Here’s a great video to get you started
  • Cook a trash can turkey – Yes, you read that right. We were so skeptical on this one, we had to try it. It creates an amazing turkey and it’s really easy. Plus, you’ll be developing those survival skills for after the zombie apocalypse. And just think of all the “You might be a redneck” jokes you can share at the dinner table. Here’s some instructions for you (and please, use a brand new garbage can!)

6) Carve the turkey
This is a must have ManScore life skill. It’s really not that hard. Again, just take it one step at a time. Here are some great illustrated directions for you.

7) Talk Politics and Religion as Much as You Can
NOT! There is a time and place for everything. Gathering with your family and friends to give thanks is not the time to pontificate on why your views of the world are superior. Be nice, you never know how much longer your crazy uncle is going to be around. Just enjoy being together.

(Photo credit to Clem Onojeghuo)

8) Help Clean Up
The clean up is never fun. Six hours of cooking and having more people over than the fire code allows usually creates one helluva mess. You will go a long way in scoring points if you’re the first one to the sink. Trust us on this one.

9) Remember How Lucky You Have It
Everyone has challenges in their life, but everyone has something to be thankful for.

Achievements in this Article

Cook a Meal Together

Cook Raw Meat to Perfection

Have Your Own Signature Dish/Entrée/Dessert

Make a Whole Entrée from Raw Ingredients

Make an Appetizer from Raw Ingredients

Make an Entrée for You and a Date

Own 5 Cooking Utensils

Own a Charcoal Grill

Play in a "Turkey Bowl"