That’s right, y’all—only two more weeks until the big event! We know there is a shocking to-do list ahead of you to prepare for your big Thanksgiving gathering, so we wanted to help alleviate the stress a bit by giving you a helpful Thanksgiving timeline to stick to ensure everything is done with as little anxiety as possible when your guests arrive.
14 Days Out:
- Plan Your Menu: Over the next few days, pick specific recipes you want to make. Whether they are old family recipes or something new you’re hoping to try, solidifying your menu now will help alleviate stress, avoid duplication, and make executing your vision much simpler.
12 Days Out:
- Create a Timeline: Once your menu is finalized, figure out what you can make ahead. For the rest, plan how long everything will need in the stove or oven, so you can prioritize dishes and figure out how to navigate the need for more burners and conflicting oven temperatures.
10 Days Out:
- Make Grocery Lists: Yes, we said “lists”—as in multiple. We recommend making two lists. The first should include items that often sell out as Thanksgiving nears, as well as non-perishable goods, canned goods, and baking needs. The second list is for items to purchase a few days before Thanksgiving—think produce, cheese, etc.
- Clean Out Refrigerator: Get rid of anything old or that you don’t need. It’s the only way you’ll be able to fit all those dishes that you’ll be making and those ingredients that need storing.
- Delegate Dishes: If you’re having family or friends bring anything to Thanksgiving dinner, solidify that now. Make sure everyone is super clear on what they are to bring to avoid gaping holes in the menu.
- Check Kitchen Tools & Equipment: Do you have everything you need for your menu? This is the time to double check that you have the appropriate pots, pans, dishes, and tools (think turkey baster, meat thermometer, trussing string, etc.). If you don’t cook often, you may even want to double check that your stove, oven, microwave, and other kitchen gadgets you may need are in working order.
7 Days Out:
- Check Pantry: Compare the contents of your pantry to your grocery list to ensure you aren’t buying duplicates and also aren’t overestimating the basics you have on-hand, like salt, pepper, sugar, cornstarch, flour, etc. Be sure to look at expiration dates while you’re at it!
- Shopping Trip #1: This is where you’ll buy your turkey (if you haven’t already), canned goods, baking ingredients, non-perishables, and those items that always sell out
- Liquor Store: If you’re planning on serving beer, wine, or cocktails at Thanksgiving, beat the rush, and stop by the liquor store now!
6 Days Out:
- Thaw Turkey: If you purchased a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator now.
- Serving Dishes: Now is the time to match each item on your menu to its appropriate serving dish. This ensures you have enough appropriate serving ware for everything you’re making. Plus, doing it now gives you time to find proper serving dishes if you don’t have them already.
5 Days Out:
- Make Ahead: Start making what you can ahead of time, like homemade turkey stock, now so that it’s ready to go. The closer you get to Thanksgiving, the happier you’ll be that you started early!
4 Days Out:
- Shopping Trip #2: Now’s the time for your final shopping trip. You can buy all perishables and anything you couldn’t find on your initial shopping trip.
3 Days Out:
- Defrost: Any frozen dishes that were made ahead should be pulled from the freezer to be defrosted in the refrigerator. This will allow them to heat up quicker than if they were still frozen on Thanksgiving.
- Brine Turkey: If you’re recipe calls for brining your turkey, now is a good time to start; however, you can always double check against your recipe if you want to play it safe.
- Get Cooking: Now is the perfect time to make more dishes ahead of time. Think cranberry sauce, gravy, compound butters, and pie crusts.
2 Days Out:
- Food Prep: Chop, dice, or julienne your vegetables now to save time later. If you need to cube bread for stuffing, toast nuts, or measure out spices, doing it now will help you feel more organized and prepared for Thanksgiving Day cooking and baking.
1 Day Out:
- Set Table: Make your floral arrangements, fold your napkins, and put out the candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers. You’ll love waking up knowing there is one last thing on your to-do list for tomorrow.
- Double Check Timeline: Make sure your schedule hasn’t shifted and review when to start everything, how long the turkey needs to cook, etc.
- Make Dough: Everyone loves fresh baked bread. Start the dough, and let it set up overnight. Then, bake it tomorrow so that it’s still fresh.
- More Cooking: Make your dressings and casseroles today, and you’ll be thankful tomorrow.
- Ice: Make sure your ice supply is in good shape. It’s better to stock up now, rather than send someone out mid-celebration to avoid warm drinks.
- Prep Potatoes: Peel them, put them in a pot covered in water, and leave them there until they are ready to cook.
- Bake Desserts & Breads: The dough you made yesterday is now ready to bake. And to make sure your desserts are fresh, wait to bake them until now too!
- Chill Drinks: No one wants warm or even room temperature drinks. Stick them in the refrigerator or cooler now to ensure they are cool and refreshing!
4 Hours Before:
- Cook Turkey: This ought to be enough time to cook your turkey, but double check the time your recipe requires and make sure to take into account the size of your turkey.
- Blanche or Pre-Cook Veggies: Blanching or pre-cooking your vegetables will help to shorten the cook time for your vegetables when you’re stove and oven will be busiest.
2 Hours Before:
- Bring Pre-Made Foods to Room Temperature: Pre-made dishes, including but not limited to dressings, compound butters, and pies (not cream or custard pies though!), that need to be reheated (or served at room temperature) should be taken out of the refrigerator now.
- Set Out Appetizers: Keep those hungry guests out of your kitchen with some tasty appetizers. Place appetizers on trays in living areas. If you’re serving cheese, it should be served at room temperature, so now is the time to ready your cheese board.
- Cocktails: If you’re having cocktails for your guests, set up your bar and pre-make any drinks that you can.
- Whipped Cream: If you’re making fresh whipped cream for atop your cakes and pies, now’s the time to do it.
1 Hour Before:
- Let Turkey Rest: Hopefully the turkey was timed to be finished cooking one hour prior to dinner. At this time, you should let it rest. Thirty minutes before dinner, carve the turkey then cover it with foil to keep the heat in.
- Make Gravy: Whether your gravy was made ahead or you need to make it fresh from the drippings, put it in the saucepan now!
- Reheat Made-Ahead Dishes: Put those pre-made dressings and casseroles in the oven now to make sure they are warm for suppertime.
- Finish Vegetables & Potatoes: Sauté, grill, or roast your veggies, and finish boiling, mashing, or baking your potatoes! Your guests will be thankful the veggies are freshly made and the potatoes haven’t been sitting around.
- Fill Water Glasses & Pitchers: The water will still be cold when dinner is served.
- Clean Up the Kitchen: We’re nearing the finish line! If you’re lucky enough to have some extra help or extra time, clean the kitchen up now, so the post-dinner mess isn’t quite as intimidating. Wipe down the counters, wash the pots and pans, and run the dishwasher.
Right Before Dinner:
- Heat Up Gravy: No one wants cold gravy. Heat it up on the stovetop and then transfer it to your gravy boat for serving.
- Transfer Food to Serving Platters: Presentation is important. Now is the time to transfer everything from roasting pans, baking sheets, and pots to their pre-labeled serving dishes.
- Warm Pies: When the oven is turned off but still warm, place the pies in the oven so they’ll be just right when it’s time to eat them.
- Prep Tea And Coffee: Even with all the turkey and fixin’s filling up their bellies, your guests will be ready to enjoy those tasty pies and sweets you’ve prepared. And with it, they’ll want some tea or coffee. Now’s the time to fill up your tea kettles and coffee pots with water and get ready for dessert.
- Empty Dishwasher: If you had time to run your dishwasher, now’s the time to empty it, so that you can take the dinner dishes and place them directly into the wash.