- Two Week Prior to Thanksgiving:
Plan your entire menu. Go through the recipes you plan to use. From appetizer to sides – decide now, including reviewing the recipes so you can make your grocery list. This way you can watch out for specials on the things you will need for Thanksgiving dinner. You can also buy some items in advance to avoid having one huge hit on your grocery budget. Items like flour, sugar, marshmallow, canned pumpkin and sweet potato, packaged stuffing and cornbread mixes, rice, and frozen cranberries and veggies can all be purchased at this time.
- Get a guest count. Call or email friends and family so that you know exactly how many guests you are cooking for.
- Based on the number of guests, calculate how much food you will need. It is recommended that you have 1 lb of turkey (or ham, port, etc.) per person. So if you have 20 guests, buy a 20 pound turkey. It is also suggested that you have 1/2 cup pp of vegetables, casseroles, rice/grain/pasta or potato and stuffing. Have about 1/4 cup of gravy & cranberry sauce pp, and each 9 inch pie will serve about 8 people so make sure you have enough dessert.
Sample menu with serving sizes for 12 dinner guests: 24 small appetizers (such as quiche, pizza bites, brie cups,) 12 pound turkey, 6 cups of stuffing, 6 cups mashed potatoes, 2 pounds roasted vegetables, 2 pounds of Green Bean Casserole, 2 pounds of Sweet potato casserole, 4 cups of pearl onions, 8 cups cranberry sauce, 2 boxes of corn bread mix of 18 rolls, 6 cups mac & cheese and 2.75 cups of gravy. 1 to 2 pies. If you are serving alcohol 4 to 5 bottles of wine and a case of beer will be more than enough.
One Week Prior to Thanksgiving:
- Plan your table setting. If things have been stored from the previous year, you will want to wash your table clothes and napkins.
- Decide if you want a seating chart and make place cards.
- Clean out the fridge and pantry to make room for what you are buying.
- Make sure you have enough containers to store left overs.
- Finalize your menu. Is there anything that can be made the night before? If you only have one oven keep in mind that the turkey will occupy a lot of room so plan ahead.
- Items such as heavy cream, fresh cranberries, canned pumpkin, boxed stuffing and marshmallows to put on a sweet potatoes can run out a few days before Thanksgiving, so buy then now.
Weekend Before Thanksgiving:
- Buy all of the groceries on your list (consider leaving items like salad, bread or seafood for the day before Thanksgiving so they are fresh.)
- Set your table in advance. Yes its still a few days away but you will be very busy cooking so it’s a good idea to have this done.
- Take out all your serving spoons and bowls to figure out what you want to serve on each of them. Make sure you have a pan large enough to cook the turkey in. They sell large aluminum pans at most grocery stores – just make sure you are careful when taking the turkey out of the oven, as these pans are not always sturdy.
- Clean your wine glasses if you will be serving wine. Polish your silver if you are putting out formal dishes.
- Clean the house. With guests coming don’t leave cleaning until the last minute.
Monday Before Thanksgiving:
- If frozen, put your turkey in the fridge so it can begin to defrost.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving:
- Go through and see what you can prepare in advance. For example today you can make your cranberry sauce and cut bread into cubes if you are making home made stuffing. Don’t forget the slow cooker as an option.
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving:
- Marinate the turkey. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinade for every 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of turkey. Popular items to use to marinate turkey include wine, naranja agria, Mojo, olive oil, garlic, basil, lemon, oregano, sage, rosemary, Cajun seasonings for deep fried turkey….it really depends on what recipe you are using as there are countless options.
- Chop vegetables and place in plastic bags or in covered bowls to have them ready for tomorrow.
- Peel potatoes and store in a bowl with water in the fridge if you are planning on making home made mashed potatoes. We actually boil them and then store in fridge to save time. Boil pasta if you are making mac & cheese. Goal is to not leave everything for the last minute.
- Make any side dishes or pies that can be made in advance. Assemble casseroles (like sweet potato, carrot or green bean); they can be stored uncooked in the fridge and baked tomorrow.
- Remove turkey from fridge, discard marinade and let sit out for a bit so it comes to room temperature. If you are stuffing the turkey, do so just before putting in the oven.
- Make the stuffing, mash potatoes and other side dishes.
- Put your turkey in the oven between 11 am and noon if you plan to have dinner between 5 and 6 pm.
- Baste turkey often with liquid and don’t forget to turn half way through so that the meat is not dry.
- When the turkey is done, pull out of the oven and leave covered with aluminum foil for about 20 to 30 minutes before carving. This gives you time to reheat anything you made the day before in the oven.
- Chill the wine. Make extra ice for cocktails.
Enjoy dinner and time with family and friends!