*Note: This post was first published on our site four years ago and every year (and throughout), it is requested so due to popular demand for it, we are once again bringing it forward. We hope that you, too, will also reap benefit from it. A number of you have also requested a spreadsheet format for this schedule so I am preparing a PDF format of this which should be ready in the next day or so. This planner is great not only for Thanksgiving, but for your Christmas entertaining or any other major holiday or event. Feel free to print out this time-line and share it with your friends and family. It was specially created just for you, to assist you with ALL of your holiday preparations, from the meal itself all the way down to doing dishes!
Thanksgiving is family time, a time for gatherings and a time for reflection and celebration. If you’re like most, it’s also likely one of the biggest meals you’ll prepare all year. And if you are not accustomed to cooking for large crowds, it can be intimidating. Well, there’s no need to get all razzled-frazzled this time around because all of us here at OUAP gathered around and offered to share some of the tips which we have used in the past that got us through the “big day” without a hitch. Through this sharing, we thought this will help make this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner as enjoyable and stress free as possible for you — and your family and guests. Chef Robert also sat down with all of us as we put our heads together and came up with this outline. It was great because we had input not only from the pros, we were also represented by housewives, who usually are the ones running the kitchen for these large meals. We hope you get some assistance from this plan to help make your Day as uneventful and stress-free as possible!
Chef Robert and our staff states noted three major points about meal planning at this level that are usually the cause for kitchen chaos:
* Lack of planning. “A little planning can really go a long way in helping you avoid all the stress and anxiety you’ve had in years past.”
* “Too many people keep making the same mistakes over and over again and they keep getting the same results each year, rushing this and mistiming that.”
* The kitchen real estate is usually inadequate. “It’s especially difficult for many because their kitchen was never designed to accommodate the volume of food they’ll be preparing on this one special day. Lack of sufficient counter space, one oven, one refrigerator, etc. That’s why planning is so important.”
Now, here is the schedule that was created:
AT 2 WEEKS –
1). The Guest List is created and finalized.
a). Likes and dislikes
b). Food allergies (if any)
2). Write down your menu with all the fixin’s.
a). Mark which dishes you know you’re going to prepare and which items your guests may be asked to or may want to contribute.
b). Locate those thanksgiving recipes now to avoid the panic later!
c). Avoid trying new recipes for this holiday, unless you’ve had time to practice making them. You will be setting yourself up for failure if you attempt a new recipe for today’s meal, so play it safe, all around!
3). When you know your guest count is finalized, check the cupboards to be sure you have enough:
a). Place settings
c). Stem ware and goblets
d). Napkins, tablecloths and decorations
If you do not have enough of something, and you intend to rent, place your order immediately! If you’ll be buying additional pieces or items, shop for them this week.
AT 10 DAYS TO GO –
1). If you haven’t ordered your fresh/Amish/special turkey, duck or ham, DO IT NOW
2). Review your menu and check to see that you have all the appropriate bowls, platters, service wares for the turkey and all the side dishes. For dessert, too. In addition, be sure you have all the cookware, pots, pans, skillets, casserole dishes, roasting pans and such.
3). Place your order for any fresh flowers or arrangements for your Thanksgiving Day table or arrangements for any other table or room.
AT 7 DAYS TO GO –
1). If your menu includes homemade cranberry sauce, marmalade, chutney or marinates or brines, go ahead and make them this week. They’ll last well past Thanksgiving!
2). Buy any beverages this week (beer, wine, liquor, mixers and all soft drinks). Most all can hang out well in the garage or storage space.
3). Buy any snacks, chips, nuts and dips. All of these can be purchased this early and stored in some out of the way place.
4). Fuel for the grill, fat for the deep fryer (if you prepare your bird that way) and logs for the fireplace (…if you have one of course).
5). IMPORTANT:….Read our additional time saving tips below.
AT 3 DAYS TO GO –
1). If possible, do all your major shopping today to avoid the Tuesday & Wednesday rush. If you purchase a frozen turkey, leave it in its sealed package, immerse it in cold water, remove it from the water before you go to bed and place it in the refrigerator until Wednesday evening. Your produce such as onions, celery, sweet potatoes, Idaho potatoes and dairy products will all be fine for Thanksgiving if bought today, too.
2). Don’t forget the foil, plastic wrap, extra trash liners, paper towels. Be sure the knives are sharp, especially the one for carving the bird!
THE DAY BEFORE –
1). Last minute purchases:
a). Bake or buy your Pumpkin Pies or any & all desserts
b). Bake or buy your breads and rolls
2). Chill the beer and any other beverages. Buy your additional ice and pick up any rentals and any floral pieces for your table.
3). Set the table, turn the “wares” upside down (glasses too).
4). Peel your whole potatoes and place in cold water & refrigerate until the morning (or take it one step further and finish today for re-heating tomorrow…see below)
5). If you don’t intend to stuff your bird, you can prepare your stuffing today with strong turkey or chicken stock just the way you like it and place in a buttered casserole dish for baking tomorrow.
6). If you make a green bean and mushroom casserole, you can fully assemble it today (minus the crispy onions) and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
7). If you are making a relish or vegetable tray, make it today, cover it with a clean damp towel and mummy wrap with plastic film.
8). Check to see if your turkey is fully thawed. If not, completely immerse it in cold water and allow it to stand overnight in your sink.
9). Not sure just how to cook your turkey? Check out our helpful tips for your Thanksgiving Day turkey. You can find it here. Print it off and read it tonight.
THANKSGIVING DAY MORNING –
1). Finish prepping your turkey and get it into the oven at the “right time” so it will be done roasting on schedule!
2). Your microwave could be your best friend today. Use it to reheat/cook stuffing before finishing in your oven. Same with the green bean casserole, whipped potatoes and sweet potatoes.
3). Timing is, of course, critical today. Start preparing sides that are not yet cooked (i.e., whipped potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams, etc.), then move on later to re-heating
4). Rolls are ABSOLUTELY the LAST item to be baked (15 minutes before you sit down to eat don’t forget to take them out of the oven!!)
THE PARTY’S OVER –
You’ve done it! Enjoy dinner!! Enjoy your family! Enjoy your friends! If you’re REALLY lucky, you won’t be invited to join the “clean up” party.
THE NEXT EVENING –
Print off a copy of our “Simple Recipes for the Day After Thanksgiving”, including our recipe for Cranberry Jelly Cosmopolitans!!! You’ll need Vodka, Grand Marnier, Cranberry Jelly and ice. Sit down, take a deep breath, breathe and reminisce about your stress free Thanksgiving Day dinner.… you’ve earned it!
SOME OTHER TIME SAVING TIPS –
1). Buy a small Turkey 2 weeks out. Roast the bird, pull the meat and make a nice, rich stock/broth from the carcass, neck, wings and drumsticks. Make all of your Thanksgiving gravy right now, from this stock and use some of the giblets and turkey meat in it. Place it in 1 quart freezer containers and freeze until thawing it the day before Thanksgiving. Dice up some of the remaining meat and save it (with perhaps some of the stock) for your Turkey stuffing which you will also make the day before Thanksgiving.
2). Make your mashed potatoes the day before, place in a ceramic casserole dish and reheat in the microwave oven (covered with plastic wrap) or top with shredded cheese and serve as a mashed potato Au gratin by re-heating in the oven. If you prefer to make your mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day, have them peeled, washed and cut, ready to go. Store them in a glass bowl or stainless steel pot covered with cold water. When ready to boil, drain the water and replace it with fresh cold water. Cook as usual.
3). If you intend to serve a colorful vegetable medley, consider cutting all the vegetables today and save space on the range tomorrow. Place them in a perforated grilling skillet and grill them on your outdoor grill. A little olive oil and dry herbs, (thyme, oregano and basil) tossed in can also make a nice flavor addition.
4). Sweet potatoes can be roasted in their skins the day before, chilled, then peeled on Thanksgiving Day and topped with a bubbly mixture of butter, brown sugar or maple syrup. Pop into a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes and you’re good to go.
5). If you want to pre-portion part of your meal for easier service consider portioning prepared, cooked stuffing on a buttered casserole dish, thinly carving both dark and white meat turkey and molding it over the stuffing, basting it with broth, covering, then re-heating in an oven or microwave oven.
Happy (stress-free!) Holidays!