Thanksgiving Planner: One Week Out

It’s the final countdown until Thanksgiving. Are you ready?

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Whole Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey

Photo by: Brent Hofacker

Brent Hofacker

You’ve secured a turkey, set up a menu game plan and have dug out the roasting pan from the depths of your kitchen cupboards. You’re in great shape for Thanksgiving, but now is not the time to slack. Get ahead now and you’ll be cruising straight to the dinner table. This is what you should accomplish this week.



Photo by: sergeyryzhov ©sergeyryzhov

sergeyryzhov, sergeyryzhov

Pick up a turkey if you haven’t reserved it – if you wait any longer, you may end up with no turkey at all. You’ll want to start defrosting it in the refrigerator 3 days before you start cooking, so until then, store it in the freezer or a large cooler packed with ice.

Non-Perishable Shop

If you followed our advice last week, you’ve already gone through all the recipes that you plan on making and have created three grocery lists: perishables (you’ll buy those a few days before Thanksgiving), non-perishables and staples (things you normally have in the house like salt and olive oil, but may want to check on to make sure you won’t run out while cooking). If you’re panicking now, check out this portion planner to figure out how much of everything you should be serving.

Photo by: Ihar Ulashchyk ©Ihar Ulashchyk

Ihar Ulashchyk, Ihar Ulashchyk

Your first shop should include non-perishables like chicken stock and dairy products like butter and heavy cream (buy them now because the dairy section is going to be picked clean in a few days). Make sure potatoes, onions, apples and sweet potatoes are on that list, too – these will stay fresh at room temp and these sections will be chaos when you come back for the perishable shop. Do yourself a favor and also stop by a wine shop or liquor store now, so you have one less stop to make before Thanksgiving.

Cooking Schedule

Thanksgiving Centerpience for Food Network Kitchen

Thanksgiving Centerpience for Food Network Kitchen

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

It might sound like you’re overthinking it, but go into a day of cooking with a plan. Think about how to maximize your time and minimize your effort, while also considering the space available in/on cooking surfaces. Work backwards from the moment you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner to help plan when everything needs to be in the oven or on the stovetop. This means baking in extra time for things like resting the turkey before you carve and warming dishes up before the big event. Plan to start cooking two or three days in advance – things like cranberry sauce, pie, dips and anything else that can live for a day or two in the refrigerator and are served at room temperature or can be heated up easily. On the day of you’ll want to multitask while things like cornbread or stuffing are in the oven. Pro tip: Prep all the vegetables that you’ll need for the day at one time, so you’ll be able to cook without interruptions and clear the space that the cutting board normally takes up.



Photo by: LauriPatterson ©Lauri Patterson

LauriPatterson, Lauri Patterson

Do the stuff you don’t want to deal with while you’re cooking, like diging out the table runners and setting up the dining table. Make sure linens like napkins and tablecloths are clean and easy to locate. Put together cute and easy centerpieces and set up the decorations while you have the time. Put together a playlist of soothing, coffee-house-style music that will be a great background for cooking as well as hosting so you’re not fumbling for a station when everyone arrives. Have some tricky guests? Set up a seating arrangement and put out placeholders to manage the mayhem ahead of time. Also worth noting: confirm your guest list and remind everyone to not bring anything that requires coveted (and limited) oven space to serve.

The Snacks Before the Bird

No one likes a hangry host. If you’re going to be on your feet and cooking all day, you’ll want an arsenal of easy snacks on hand.

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