One Month Before
- Plan the menu.
- Finalize the guest list and send out invitations. Request RSVP's so you can plan seating and quantity of food needed!! Option: Ask your guests to bring a specific food so you can control the menu.
First Weekend in November
- To begin planning the Turkey Day time-line, establish the time you are going to serve dinner.
- Make a list of all ingredients needed to prepare your recipes. Check your pantry, to see what you have on hand. Create a shopping list.
- Plan your breakfast and lunch for Thanksgiving Day, keep it light and simple.
- Check your time-line and put dates on the calendar to accomplish certain tasks.
Two Weeks Before
- Check the condition of the serving bowls and platters you will be using on Thanksgiving. Shop for any additional serving pieces you need.
- Polish your silver, find the candlesticks and all you need for the table.
- Arrange to borrow or rent any tables or chairs, etc. you need.
- Plan your centerpiece and order what you need to create it.
- Shop for all nonperishable ingredients, including plastic bags and take home containers for guests that would like to take home leftovers.
- Make your final seating chart (and place cards).
- Iron linens and drape over hangers so they are ready for the table. If they are washable you can wait to do this, put them in the dryer just before you set the table or spray them with wrinkle release product.
The Week Before
- Clean out the fridge and freezer to clear room for the make ahead dishes.
The Weekend Before Thanksgiving (Prepare your make ahead recipes)
- Vicki's Sweet Potato Casserole (without topping)- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Cranberry Sausage Stuffing- Chop and measure out all ingredients and store in sealed plastic bags.
- Mom's Molded Cranberry Salad- cover and store in fridge
- Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Torte- keep in the freezer (this is a two day process).
- Brine the Turkey- Do this on Sunday and store in the fridge.
- Put sticky notes in the serving bowls, indicating which dish goes in which bowl... Then on Thanksgiving Day guests can help dish up.
- Get your house ready for company or consider hiring a cleaning service to help out with this.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
- Remove turkey from the brine, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Stuff and cook the turkey at 350 degrees for 45 minutes +7 minutes per pound (the internal temperature should be 180 degrees). Remove from oven and drain all drippings into a heat proof dish and cool to room temp. Store in the fridge until ready to use for the gravy. Cool the turkey to room temperature, wrap in foil and refrigerate (to be reheated on Thanksgiving Day).
- Prepare the mashed potatoes and put them in a metal or glass heat proof bowl, ready for reheating on Thanksgiving Day. Allow them to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap, pressed to the surface, to keep them fresh. Store in the fridge.
- Cranberry Sausage Stuffing- Assemble all ingredients, bake, let cool, cover with foil and refrigerate. At this point, you may need to start using the neighbor's refrigerator... better invite them!
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
- Mom's Cranberry Salad- release from the mold and place on serving dish, cover with plastic and restore in fridge.
- Prepare the buffet table.
- Set the dinner table.
Thanksgiving Day- if you are serving dinner at 5PM, here is our day of.... Time-line:
- This will require two ovens or for us this indispensable turkey roaster!!
- 11:00AM- Remove the Rhodes rolls from freezer, let rise and bake according to package directions.
- 12:00PM- Place the foil wrapped turkey into a 200 degree oven to reheat.
- 12:30PM- Prepare the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- 3:30PM- Reheat the Cranberry Sausage Stuffing with the turkey in a 200 degree oven.
- 4:00PM- Make your gravy and keep warm on a low burner.
- 4:20PM- Place your Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 min.
- 4:30PM- Add topping to Vicki's Sweet Potato Casserole and place in 400 degree oven for 15-20 min. (with the brussels sprouts).
- 4:45PM- Remove the turkey from the oven. Then carve, plate and cover until ready to serve.
- 4:50PM- Reheat your Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes in the microwave for 2 min., then stir, and add additional minutes as needed. Assign someone to pour the wine and fill the water glasses.
- 5:00PM- Remove the dessert from the freezer before sitting down to eat (needs to soften slightly).
- After dinner cut and serve the Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Torte!
Frequently Asked Turkey Questions
How long do I defrost my turkey?
Use this timetable as a guide. You should defrost a turkey in it's original wrapping in the refrigerator (don't count Thanksgiving Day).
10- to 12-pound bird 2 days
12- to 14-pound bird 3 days
14- to 18-pound bird 4 days
18-pound-plus bird 5 days
When is the Turkey done?
The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh (don't touch the bone) reads 180 degrees F and the stuffing reads 165 degrees F. The juice from the thigh should be clear when pierced with a fork and the drumstick and wings could just about fall off the bird when moved a bit.
How often should I baste the turkey?
Actually, basting is not necessary, it can prevent a wonderfully brown crackly skin and will extend the cooking time from the opening and shutting of the oven door. Keep the oven door shut as much as possible.
How big a turkey do I need?
Butterball has a great turkey calculator which will even let you account for leftovers and how much stuffing will be needed. If you are cooking for a small group (2-5), consider a turkey breast, or a smaller bird (duck, chicken, quail, game hen).