Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be overwhelming. Menu planning, food preparation, dining table arrangements, and that’s all before anybody even arrives. With the big day approaching quickly, Great Plains Communications has created a Thanksgiving countdown – mapping out when to do what in the next week to ensure your Thanksgiving is spent with family and not a to-do-list.

1 Week Out

  • Plan the menu: Though most people know it is safest to thaw your turkey in the fridge, they don’t know that according to, defrosting time to pound ratio is 24 hrs. for every 4-5 lbs. That means if you have a 15 lb. turkey, you should take it out of the freezer on Sunday. Also, don’t forget to make sure your roasting pan is big enough for the turkey. Small details like these will make the big day run much smoother.
  • Think about oven space: With many side dishes planned and your turkey needing hours to cook, consider swapping in side dishes that can be served cold or at room temperature. There is always the option of using a cooler to keep food warm, just make sure to place a towel between each warm dish and don’t open the lid until you are ready to serve. You can also opt to use a separate roaster and/or crockpot to ensure your side dishes stay warm and your turkey has time to cook to perfection.
  • Make your shopping list: You can either split your shopping list into two lists, one with items that will save for a week, and the other with last minute items or plan to make one big trip once Thanksgiving gets closer. Either way, make the list now so that if you remember things throughout the week you will have time to write them down.
  • Clean out your fridge: You are going to need a lot of space to hold dips, appetizers and the abundance of leftovers, so make sure to eat up as much as you can. This is also the time you can start looking for things on your list in your fridge and pantry. Make sure you have the essentials like – salt, pepper, and flour.

The Weekend Before

  • Start your make-ahead recipes: Many parts of Thanksgiving dinner can be made ahead, from stocks to pies. Check out these make-ahead recipes from our cable channel, Food Network.

Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving

  • Shop: Now is the time to make sure you have everything you need for the big day. Ensure all the herbs are accounted for, beverages have been purchased and side dishes are ready for assembly.
  • Turkey Prep: If you plan on brining your turkey, do it now. It will cook more evenly if you leave it to air dry in the fridge for at least 12 hours before roasting it.
  • Keep cooking: There are multiple dishes you can continue to cook throughout the week – cranberry sauce, pie crusts, compound butters. You can also peel potatoes now and soak them in cold water in the fridge.

The Day Before

  • Make Desserts: Your oven won’t have room for pies and other sweet treats on the day of Thanksgiving, so make sure you get all dessert baking done the day before.
  • Clean and Chop: Another thing there won’t be room for on the big day is vegetable preparation. Trim the green beans, wash the lettuce, and get through as much vegetable prep as possible.

The Night before Thanksgiving

  • Set the table: If you have a lot of people coming over and different place settings, get it done the night before. Here are some fun table setting ideas from our cable channel HGTV.

The Big Day – It’s Show Time

  • Assemble your dishes and plan cooking times: You have planned for this, keep cool and start the assembly of your side dishes.
  • 4 hours before dinner: Get your turkey in the oven. This will vary depending on the size of your turkey. Remember that you can rest it before carving.
  • 2 hours before dinner: Make sure you are cooking your side dishes according to schedule and start reheating any premade dishes. This is when you also want to plate up appetizers if your guests aren’t already munching on them.

Right before Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Carve and plate: Your turkey should be done and ready to be carved. You can always carve a little ahead of time and then cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Finishing Touches: All the cooking is done and people are starting to find their places around the dinner table. Make sure glasses are filled and all dishes are plated. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the holiday with your family and friends.


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