Countdown to Thanksgiving
This timeline will help you organize, plan, and shop for Thanksgiving, making it the most stress-free one yet! It goes without saying that planning ahead can be a game changer… just follow this guide so that by the time turkey day comes.. it’s a breeze!
4 weeks ahead: Plan your menu
Start with the big questions like: How many are you serving? Are you cooking the entire meal from scratch or will you assign out a few dishes? Next, start pulling your recipes. See which ones you want to use, which you want to update, and which you can make simpler.
Want a fresh turkey? If you’re going to need a large bird, this is the time to place an order. The large birds go the fastest in markets, so reserve one. If you’re going the parts route, many stores will take advanced or special orders for these too.
Looking for a custom cake or bakery order? Go ahead and place your orders at this time too.
3 weeks ahead: Stock the freezer
Clear out room, because you’ll need the extra space. Buy butter and make a variety of savory and sweet compound butters, then freeze. Buy turkey wings, roast them and use them to make turkey stock — freeze it now and use it for gravy, stuffing and soup later. You can also prep and freeze discs of pie dough, butter, and cranberry sauce. Mashed potatoes can also be made ahead of time and heated up on Thanksgiving day.
2 weeks ahead: Prep your kitchen
Your Thanksgiving grocery haul is going to be pretty sizable, so make sure you’ve got the space. It’s also a good time to check to see if you already have the pantry ingredients you need, and replace anything that is out of date. Make a plan to either use up or toss out any almost empty bottles and boxes. Get real with yourself too.. if you’ve got pantry items that have been sitting there and you haven’t used them in a year or two, donate them! Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to donate to pantries, so start with clearing your own.
This is also a great time for an equipment check. Check out your kitchen supplies to make sure you’ve got roasting pans (and big enough), a meat thermometer, and anything else you really only use once a year.
1 week ahead: Create your shopping list
Making a grocery list ahead of time can save you serious stress. Since you’ve already got your menu done and have cleaned out your pantry, this should be pretty quick and easy. Double-check your pantry and fridge to make sure you’re not duplicating ingredients you already have on hand, like spices, flours and stock.
If you are buying a frozen turkey, now is the time to thaw it in the refrigerator if you’re going to brine it.
5 days ahead: Hit the store
If you haven’t done your shopping, now’s the time to do it. Skip the lines by shopping really early in the morning, or right before closing. The quickest option (and my go-to) is to place an online order and do curbside pickup.
4 days ahead: Choose your serving dishes
At this point, you can also start thawing out turkey stock, pie crust and anything else you made and froze a few weeks ago. Take a moment to dig out the serving platters you want to use and all serving spoons, baking dishes and place settings you might need. If you’re worried about table real estate, lay everything out to get an idea of how much space you’ll need.
FULL ON PREP!
2–3 days ahead: Start prepping
If you have turkey stock on hand, make your gravy and refrigerate until Thanksgiving. It will intensify in flavor, plus you’ll thank yourself for the saved time. If you have time, you can also cook your stuffing and mashed potatoes, and refrigerate them until Thanksgiving. They reheat well, and they’re just as, if not more, delicious since the flavors will have had time to develop.
The day before: Make the final touches
Bake your pies in the morning, then store until tomorrow. Keep in mind that any pies that contain eggs or dairy — like pumpkin or sweet potato, should be refrigerated as soon as they’ve completely cooled. Fruit pies, on the other hand, can stand at room temperature for up to two days.
Meanwhile, clean and trim veggies such as green beans and Brussels sprouts, and cook your stuffing, mashed potatoes and casseroles if you haven’t already. Lastly, brine your turkey. For wet and dry brines, you’ll need to start the process at least 8 to 24 hours before cooking.\
Thanksgiving Day: Game time!
Roast your turkey and give yourself more time than you think… remember to factor in resting time once the turkey’s out of the oven. Cook or set your sides in slow cookers and heating trays, and set out your appetizers. Enjoy the meal!