Real talk: Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year. While it can be a smidge hair-raising if you’re hosting, with some strategic planning and plenty of prep work (you’ll need to start planning about two week in advance), you can make this year’s festivities totally stress-free.
Two Weeks Before Dinner
Thanksgiving is on the horizon — here’s what needs to be done before game time.
1. Get Your Turkey
If you’re planning to use a frozen turkey, buy one now. It’s easy to store and you’ll have first dibs at the grocery store if you buy well in advance.
2. Plan Your Menu
Now that you have your turkey, you need to figure out what to serve with it. Make a list of your essential Thanksgiving recipes, then throw in a few fun pumpkin treats for good measure.
3. Make a Test Pie
If you’ve never made a pie from scratch (or maybe you just want to test out a new recipe), prepare for the big event by baking a test pie in advance. This way you won’t have any surprises when you make the real deal — and you don’t have to share with your entire family.
One Week Before Dinner
It’s time to start prepping!
1. Stock Up on Non-Turkey Ingredients
2. Thaw the Turkey
Move your frozen turkey to the refrigerator, where it can defrost safely and slowly. A small turkey (under 14 lbs) may only need three or four days to thaw, but an extra day or so won’t hurt. Remember: you want that bird to be completely defrosted by Thanksgiving Eve.
Good to Know: If you’re using a fresh turkey that hasn’t been frozen, now is the time to buy.
2-3 Days Before Dinner
There’s no immediate action necessary, but here’s how you should plan ahead.
1. Make Room in Your Refrigerator
Fact: you’re about to have a lot of leftovers. Make sure you have plenty of storage space!
2. Double Check Your Ingredient List
Forget something? No shame. Get to the store now so you don’t have to scramble later.
3. Make Your Pie Dough
If you’re using a pre-made graham cracker crust, skip this step. Otherwise, make your pie dough and store your shaped discs in the refrigerator until you need to add filling. You can even make your pie dough earlier and freeze it, or blind bake your crust before freezing.
The Day Before Thanksgiving
1. Bake Your Pies
Whether apple or pumpkin, almost every pie needs to cool completely before it can be served. Bake yours a day in advance and let cool overnight for the best results.
2. Make the Stuffing
Skip cooking the stuffing inside of your turkey (it’s way too easy to undercook) and bake it on the side. You can prepare just about any stuffing recipe the night before, then cover in plastic wrap. It’ll be delish the next day (and amazing as leftovers later).
3. Cook the Cranberry Sauce
Homemade cranberry sauce is simple to make and so much better than the pre-made kind. With just three ingredients and three steps, you’ll have the staple side dish ready to serve.
The Morning Before Dinner
Turn on the parade and get ready to cook!
1. Set the Table
Truth: you’re going to want to get this out of the way early. The day will only get more hectic as it goes on, so perfect your table in the AM.
2. Prep the Veggies
Any vegetables that need to be cooked on the stove or roasted in the oven can be covered and stored in the fridge until closer to dinnertime.
Pro Tip: If you’re serving mashed potatoes, they’re best cut right before you cook and dig in, so it should be the last thing you do before dinner. (Unless you make ’em in the slow cooker.)
3. Tackle the Turkey
Prepare your turkey and cook it in the method of your choosing. Cooking a bird this big will take a while, so you want to start it as soon as possible in the morning.
The Afternoon Before Dinner
It’s the final countdown!
1. Let the Turkey Sit
Remove your bird from the oven. Most turkeys will need an hour or so to rest before carving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout. Use this time to finish the rest of your cooking (now’s the time to boil those potatoes and cook any veggie dishes).
2. Warm Your Stuffing
Uncover the casserole dish you prepared the night before and pop it in the oven, which will still be warm from cooking the turkey.
3. Make the Gravy
Gravy is quick to make and needs to be served hot, so this should be one of the last foods you prepare.
When everything’s done, all that’s left to do is carve the turkey and fill your plate!