Trying to orchestrate a sit-down turkey dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday can be a daunting task for many. Although shopping for ingredients and supplies, making dessert, and decorating can be done the day before or even up to a week in advance, there is a lot that must be done the day of. To keep Thanksgiving day organized and running efficiently, I’ve compiled a guideline of what to do and when to pull of a traditional turkey dinner:
1-2 weeks before:
- Decide on a guest list: Figure out how many people will be coming for dinner. This will be important when planning out the menu and grocery items to be purchased.
- Plan the menu: Are you hosting a sit-down meal or a buffet? Consider whether anyone has dietary concerns like celiac or gluten intolerant and dairy intolerant. Make note of dishes that may have to be changed or optional dishes that may need to be prepared.
- Create a shopping list: Working backwards from the menu, plan out what produce and other ingredients will be needed to purchased and when. Purchase your frozen turkey when they are on sale. Fresh turkeys should be ordered early to avoid disappointment. Local farmers such as Country Lane Farms supplies fresh turkeys.
- Grocery shopping: Ingredients like beverages, napkins, and condiments can be purchased well in advance.
- Prepare bread cubes: Bread can be dried and cubed a couple of weeks in advance and stuffing can be made and frozen until the day before you stuff the turkey. This is an easy task to get done ahead of time!
4 days before:
- Turkey: At this time, take the turkey out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge.
- Baking: If you’re planning on making cookies or other baked goods that can be stored for a couple of days before eating, they can be made now and kept in a sealed container or frozen until needed.
2 days before:
- Grocery shopping: Produce and perishables should be purchased 1-2 days in advance.
The day before:
- Prepare vegetables: A lot of vegetables like glazed carrots and mashed potatoes can be prepared the day before and then cooked, reheated or baked before the meal is served. Less time spent in the kitchen the day of! Choosing a menu that allows you to prepare early is where your early planning can really pay off.
- Bread cubes: Take the bread cubesor your own pre-made stuffing out of the freezer so it defrosts in time to be stuffed into the turkey.
- Bake pies: What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin or pecan pie? The actual pies can be baked they day before and still taste as good as if it were baked fresh.
The night before:
- Dinnerware: This is a good time to pull out the necessary serving dishes and utensils that will be needed. The table can also be set the night before in preparation for the next day.
- Condiments: Fill your table serving dishes with cranberry sauce, pickles and goodies. Wrap and keep in fridge.
- Cookie trays: Are you serving cookies? Now's a great time to make up an assorted cookie platter and put in the fridge.
- Bar set-up:Great time to gather your beverages, chill your beer and wine. No space in the fridge? Put your beer and wine in a cooler - Day of, top with ice!
The day of:
- Stuff the turkey
o Allow for 4-5 hours of cooking time depending on the size of the bird. To find out exactly how long you should be cooking your turkey for, visit Tasty Turkey.
o After the turkey is finished cooking, make sure to let it rest for 20-30 minutes. My mom always had her gravy made in the morning. Ready to go!
- Side dishes: heat/cook the vegetables
- Relax! Take the time to get ready and great your guests when they come. Everything is ready to go and all you have to do now is enjoy the meal.