How to host a virtual Thanksgiving dinner

Staying home this holiday doesn’t mean you can’t see family and friends

Avoid Washing Your Turkey, for Thanksgiving Dinner. There are a few ways to cook a turkey, but many health agencies warn not to wash it beforehand. Instead, they say drain liquid from the packaging and then pat the turkey down with paper towels. Be sure to also throw the packaging out after removing the turkey. When done with preparation, wash your hands with hot water and soap. Besides turkey, the USDA recommends not washing other types of raw meat before cooking. This includes beef, pork and poultry. The bacteria in raw meat and its juices is why the USDA recommends to avoid washing. Doing so risks the bacteria spreading to other food items and utensils. You can’t wash off bacteria with water, and rinsing out the turkey risks splashing its juices all over the sink, Consumer Reporters nutritionist Amy Keating, R.D., via food safety memo

Sure, you were looking forward to Aunt Sadie asking you yet again when you’re getting married/having a child/getting a job, but the coronavirus pandemic may prevent you from getting together for Thanksgiving.

No need to fret.

Even though the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to stay home — or at least avoid large, indoor gatherings — you don’t have to miss out on seeing family and friends.

Many people will Zoom through Thanksgiving this year, but not because they need to get back on the road or they’re tired of Aunt Sadie’s interrogation. Families will gather via the social platform to share a drink, a meal or just memories of holidays past.

But you don’t have to zoom through your Zoom dinner. The company is lifting its 40-minute limit on meetings for the day.

Like any other gathering, however, you’ll need to do some prep work to make it successful. Here are some tips:

Decide what kind of gathering you’ll have

Your family might prefer sharing laughs while cooking instead of watching one another eat, and that’s all good. Whenever you decide to meet, make sure everyone knows what the plan is. If you’ll be cooking together, send recipes to those who don’t have them or to those who are new to preparing a holiday meal. Encourage everyone to make sure they have all ingredients and tools needed before logging in, so others don’t have to wait.

If you and friends prefer to talk over dinner, set up your phone/tablet/laptop ahead of time so you can check the angle and lighting. You don’t want everyone staring at the top of your head or up your nose during the meal.

Have a practice run

Uncle Ralph knows how to text, but he’s never been on a video call. He’s your favorite uncle, though, so walk him through how to access Zoom, set up an account, log in, etc. He might want to pick a background, too, if he’s apprehensive about family members seeing his art collection or cobwebs.

During your practice run, make sure everyone knows how the mute button works so you don’t all talk over one another. You might also want to agree on some ground rules during this meeting: conversation topics that are off limits, what time to log in on Thanksgiving, etc.

Don’t stress too much

Problems arise at many family gatherings — someone is late; something burns; someone’s feelings get hurt. It’s possible your virtual reunion will have some hiccups, too — slow internet; lost connections; someone’s feelings get hurt.

Don’t stress too much. If everyone forgets to hit mute, that’s OK. If no one wants to talk for a bit, that’s OK, too.

And if Aunt Sadie’s questions start to get too personal, remember you have volume control.