Even though the purpose of Thanksgiving is to celebrate dining together, that doesn’t mean you have to spend all day in the kitchen. Follow our checklist to get you organized and on schedule.
Two weeks ahead:
- Finalize your menu, and gather all recipes.
- Make a detailed grocery list of everything you’ll need, including often-overlooked items such as ice for drinks, salt and pepper for the table, and butter for serving with bread. Go through your pantry and cabinets to see what you already have on hand, and then shop for nonperishables. Don’t forget storage containers for leftovers.
- Confirm the head count of your guests, and let them handle some of the workload. Ask them to bring drinks, a side dish, or dessert.
- Buy your frozen turkey, or order your fresh turkey.
- Gather serving pieces, beverage pitchers, napkins, dishware and glassware, utensils, and any other items you’ll need for your Thanksgiving meal.
- Clean out your refrigerator to make room for groceries and anything that can be prepped in advance.
- Shop for fresh produce and other perishables, and make sure they’re stored properly.
- Make bread or rolls. Let cool completely, then freeze in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags.
- If you purchased a frozen turkey, put it in the refrigerator to thaw. An 8- to 10-pound turkey will take 2 to 3 days to fully thaw in the refrigerator. Allow 6 hours of thawing for every pound of turkey.
- If you plan on serving pork, ham, or another main dish that has been frozen, take into account any thawing time it will need.
- Prepare any congealed salads, relishes, dressings, or condiments and refrigerate.
- Wash salad greens and other produce, and dry thoroughly. Wrap greens loosely in paper towels, and refrigerate in resealable plastic bags.
- Make cake, pie, or other dessert(s). Desserts containing dairy such as whipped cream, cream cheese frosting, or a milk glaze need to be refrigerated; other desserts can be stored in airtight containers.
- Prepare your buffet table, and set your dining table.
- Make tea, punch, or any other beverage that will be served cold, and refrigerate it (you’ll need less ice for glasses). Refrigerate wine if you’ll be serving it, too.
- Assemble casseroles and other vegetables for side dishes, and refrigerate.
- In the morning, put frozen bread or rolls in refrigerator to defrost.
- Bake casseroles and sides. Don’t forget to keep track of cooking times for each dish if you’re baking more than one in the same oven.
- While turkey or other main dish is resting after roasting:
- Heat bread or rolls.
- Make gravy, and keep warm.
- Finish any side dishes.
- After dinner:
- Brew coffee to serve with dessert.
- Warm pies for dessert, if desired. Place in oven (turned off) if it’s still hot from baking the turkey and sides, or heat oven to a low temperature (180° to 200°).
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