Thanksgiving Made Thankfully Easy
While everyone looks forward to the holidays, pulling off a perfect Thanksgiving feast is no easy feat. In fact, it can be utterly exhausting! The key to success and less stress is coming up with a more leisurely plan of attack.
First, you'll want to plan your menu, including any appetizers and desserts. Write out all your ideas and see if it's doable based on refrigerator space and heat sources. While you may want to serve a hot artichoke dip as an appetizer, it may not work if the bird is in the oven and the mashed potatoes are keeping warm in your slow cooker. Match your menu to the tools and resources that will be available.
Once your menu is finalized, you can then tackle the shopping—don't forget to snoop around in your pantry first. You might be able to check a few things off your grocery list and even find inspiration for a dish or appetizer.
Now let's talk about the table. If your family and friends are the casual types, paper plates and good plasticware will do just fine. However, if you plan on dressing up the formal dining room to the nines, start pulling tablecloths and serving platters out of all your hiding spots.
Get everything cleaned and ready, then assess if there's anything missing so you can borrow, rent (like extra chairs) or purchase whatever you might need ahead of the big day.
More Info on Menus, Apps and Decor
- Dishes for Your Thanksgiving Menu
- Thanksgiving Side Dishes
- Main Course Alternatives to Turkey
- No-Cook Appetizers
- Easy Thanksgiving Appetizers
- Thanksgiving Table Decor
- Chic, Minimalist Thanksgiving Table Decor
One last thing. If you're hosting extended family or a Friendsgiving, you can always delegate. Make it a potluck. Ask for help! This will take some stress off your plate and give your guests a chance to show off their own culinary skills.
Your No-Stress Turkey Day Schedule
Even if you remembered to thaw your turkey in plenty of time for the big day, there's nothing like waking up on Thanksgiving morning and tackling a vast menu of casseroles and potatoes and vegetables and pies and that big turkey. Talk about pressure!
Here we map out how to take on your Thanksgiving feast starting a week in advance. There are plenty of items that can be made ahead of time and hang out in the fridge for a day or two. Is it the end of the world if you don't make gravy from turkey drippings? Absolutely not. And it beats a rushed gravy that turns out lumpy, burned or broken.
So, here's the schedule. You can certainly use it as a jumping-off point if your menu is more elaborate, but this gives you an idea of how to de-stress your day so you can actually enjoy it!
1 WEEK OUT
- Clean out fridge and freezer to make space
- Make gravy from stock or broth and freeze
- Make pie dough, roll out and freeze discs
- Move a 20-pound turkey into the fridge to thaw
- Plan tools, serving dishes, and prep the table
- Cube and dry/toast bread for stuffing
- Prep and refrigerate casseroles
- Prep and refrigerate fresh cranberry sauce
- Prep potatoes and refrigerate covered in water
- Wash and chop any needed vegetables
- Assemble stuffing and refrigerate
- Defrost pie dough and bake pies
- Put wine and drinks in the fridge or a cooler to chill
- Boil and mash potatoes (keep warm in a slow cooker)
- Roast the turkey until done, rest for up to one hour
- Heat sides, casseroles, and gravy
- Assemble salads, cook veggies
- Bring it all to the table, carve your turkey and enjoy!
And here are even more articles on planning and timing the big day in advance:
- Your Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Schedule
- A Sanity-Saving Thanksgiving Dinner Planner
- When To Cook Every Dish For Thanksgiving Dinner
- A Make-Ahead Schedule for Thanksgiving
- How to Plan Thanksgiving Dinner: The Food Lab's Complete Guide
Perfect Turkey Tips
Let's also address the star of your Thanksgiving meal first since just getting the bird right can be stressful all on its own. Here are some quick numbers to get you started:
- Plan for 1-1.5 Pounds of Turkey Per Person
- Thaw Frozen Turkey 1 Day Per 4-5 Pounds
- Bring to Room Temp, 45 Minutes to 1 Hour
- Roast at 350° for 15-20 Minutes Per Pound
- Cook to 165°in Breast & 170-175° in Thigh
- Rest 30-45 Minutes After, Untented
If you plan on brining your bird, you'll also want to back up your thawing time by about a day. Not sure what brining is? Well, it's a great way to ensure your chances of putting a juicy, tender turkey on the table. A brine is a basic solution of water and salt. By steeping your turkey in this mix, you can actually get a bit more moisture and flavor into the bird before it’s ready to roast.
Of course, your brine doesn't have to be just water and salt. You can add garlic, herbs, citrus, and other spices to create a more dynamic flavor profile. For inspiration and brine recipes, check out this article from The Spruce Eats.