Greg DuPree

Rule number one: Don’t panic.

If you’re hosting your first Thanksgiving, Mama has a few tips to help ensure your time in the kitchen goes smoothly. Follow her advice, and Thanksgiving dinner will be on the table (and tasting great) before you know it.

Pre-planning is a virtue.

Mama knows that Thanksgiving Day grocery shopping is a no-go. Planning the menus, grocery shopping lists, and cooking schedules ahead of time is key to executing a smooth (and delicious) Thanksgiving meal.

Use the family recipes (or Southern Living’s).

Sometimes the family recipes are Southern Living recipes. Mama recommends recipes from these two sources only, because they are the most trusted on Thanksgiving. Why? Because you need to be able to count on your recipes. You want them to be tried and true. When you can rely on your recipes, you can be sure that everything will come out of the oven just right.

Store-bought is just fine.

When you’re hosting Thanksgiving, Mama knows that time is precious. Choose what you’re going to cook, then buy the rest. It's a balance: If you’re cooking dressing, then buy your cranberry sauce, or vice-versa. Mama has learned to manage her time in the kitchen so that she can actually enjoy the day. She’s perfected the balance between store-bought and homemade, and you can too.

Don’t panic.

While you should try to avoid all of the usual first-time Thanksgiving cooking mistakes, be sure to call Mama if things start to go awry. If things do go wrong in the kitchen, don’t worry too much. You have plenty recipes to serve, so no one will notice if the corn pudding is missing in action. And you can always pop some cinnamon and cloves into a saucepan on the stove to hide the fact that the rolls burned.  

Ask for requests.

Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and everyone at your Thanksgiving table has a favorite dish. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, ask your guests what their favorite dishes are, and add them to the menu. It’s a sweet gesture that ensures everyone gets a taste of their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, whether it’s corn pudding, pecan pie, or cranberry relish.

Enjoy the fruits of your kitchen labor.

Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to eat. It’s certainly no fun if you’ve cooked all day and are too exhausted to actually enjoy the Thanksgiving meal. Plan your cooking strategy, prepare as much as possible ahead of time, and enjoy the feast with your family and friends.

Make enough for plentiful leftovers.

Mama taught you well, so we probably don’t even have to say it, but, in the off chance you forget: Make sure there are plenty of leftovers. One of the best parts of the Thanksgiving meal is the abundance of leftovers you get to eat for days afterward. It’s a beloved November tradition, so cook enough for everyone, then double it.

WATCH: Three Thanksgiving Sides Your Holiday Needs

What are your Thanksgiving kitchen traditions? We'd also love to know what tried-and-true recipes you and you family prepare every year.