Your step-by-step guide to planning Thanksgiving dinner
Nov. 13, 2013 at 9:35 AM ET
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planning thanksgiving dinner
Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving:
- Make your guest list and invite friends and family you haven't yet contacted. Be sure to ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions.
- Decide your Thanksgiving menu—consider the number of people you will be entertaining.
- If you're throwing a potluck-style meal, ask guests if they would like to contribute a special dish.
- If you are planning to cook a turkey, decide whether you're going with a fresh, frozen or smoked bird. When selecting a turkey, plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per person, which will also leave you with some leftovers. And be certain the bird will fit in your freezer, fridge and oven!
- Stock up on staples (butter, sugar, flour, eggs) when grocery shopping.
- Make or purchase bread and rolls and freeze them for later.
- Purchase disposable supplies, if using, such as paper plates, napkins, cups.
One Week Before Thanksgiving:
- If you're buying a frozen turkey, purchase it now.
- Decide on a centerpiece and any other tabletop decorations.
- Prepare your cranberry relish and store it in the fridge.
- Select wine to go with your meal.
- Ask your kids to help organize games for the younger guests
Thanksgiving Week: Monday
- Clean out the refrigerator and freezer.
- Go shopping for perishable items on your shopping list.
- Place your turkey in the fridge to begin defrosting. Take a few minutes to learn more about food safety at the holidays.
Thanksgiving Week: Tuesday
- Iron linens, if necessary.
- Polish silverware, if necessary.
- Print out recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients needed.
Thanksgiving Week: Wednesday
- Cut up bread for stuffing. Season as desired and place on cookie sheet(s) in a preheated (then turned off) oven overnight to dry. Store in plastic zip-top bags.
- Chop vegetables, fruits and herbs for stuffing, and seal in plastic zip-top bags.
- Prepare pies. Cover and refrigerate.
- Prepare any make-ahead side dishes (roasted vegetables, casseroles). Cover and store in the fridge.
- Set up an extra table and chairs if more dining space is needed.
- Chill drinks. If you're short on refrigerator space, store them in a cold garage or out on the porch—or place drinks in a large basin filled with ice and water.
- Prepare the stuffing. Cover and refrigerate.
- Wrap your roasting pan with foil or use a disposable roasting pan or cooking bag for a quick cleanup.
- Clean the turkey, removing the bag of giblets. Place the turkey in the prepared roasting pan and put it back in the fridge.
- Simmer the giblets, adding water as needed until tender. Then refrigerate, covered with liquid, until needed for the gravy.
- Use your slow cooker if extra space is needed to keep menu items warm.
- Children can help set the table and create placecards for each setting.
- Prep any pre-dinner appetizers.
- Clean as you go to avoid big cleanups later.
Four Hours Before Dinner:
- Stuff the turkey.
- Put the turkey in the oven. The roasting time will depend on size of the bird.
Three Hours Before Dinner:
- Clean green beans, cover and set aside.
- Cook sweet potatoes.
Two Hours Before Dinner:
- Peel potatoes, then cube them and cover with salt water—simmer until tender.
- Finish preparing any additional vegetables.
One Hour Before Dinner:
- Fill a small pitcher with half-and-half or milk for coffee—cover and refrigerate. Fill sugar bowl.
- Set out appetizers along with napkins and small plates, if using.
One Half-Hour Before Dinner:
- Remove the turkey from the oven. Let it sit 20 minutes before carving.
- Reheat bread, vegetables and other side dishes, if necessary.
- Make gravy, using the drippings from turkey and the giblets.
- Mash the potatoes.
- Place vegetables, cranberry sauce and other side dishes in serving bowls.
- Whisk the gravy and pour it into a gravy boat.
- Open wine and pour into decanters or glasses.
- Set out a pitcher of water so people can help themselves.
- Make sure there are salt and pepper shakers on the table.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.
- Put coffee on to brew and boil hot water for tea.
- Set out the milk or cream and sugar, as well as tea bags.
- Serve dessert, coffee and after-dinner drinks.
- If the weather permits, take a walk to enjoy each other's company and digest.