A Easier Way To Plan Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around the meal. Making a perfect meal is a lot of pressure on home cooks. It takes a lot of planning and prep work to cook a perfect Thanksgiving buffet. Without proper planning and preparation, it is very easy to become overwhelmed.

In this blog post, I am sharing my favorite tips, tricks, and easy Thanksgiving suggestions. Feel free to tweak the menu to make your family’s favorite dishes. Planning is the key to a successful Thanksgiving meal. I start planning a week before the holiday to give myself plenty of time to get everything done without stress.

Here is this year’s plan: I have included all the recipes I am plan to use and have provided some helpful tips as well. Make sure to download your easy- to -print and use cooking schedule. I developed this calendar to make your holiday as painless as possible.

And don't forget that you can easily download my guide here - where everyday cooking and prepping tasks are broken down for you.

Friday: Planning Day

I start off by reviewing my menu plan and ensuring that I have enough pots & pans to create and store all the recipes. While I am reviewing the recipes, I also make a mental list of the ingredients that I will need to purchase at the grocery store. Remember Chicory.com powers all the recipes on RecipeSavants, so you might be able to skip the grocery store altogether.

Saturday: Grocery Shopping Day

  • On Saturday, I compile all the ingredients I need to make my entire menu and compare what I have in the cupboards and pantry. I do this inspection manually, because the years I have tried to do it via my memory have turned out, frankly bad. I always end up purchasing something I don’t need, or even worse forgetting about a critical ingredient. The extra 20 minutes of planning goes a long way in making sure that I have a stress- free Thanksgiving Day.
  • If you are ordering your groceries online, make sure that you compile your list early in the day and lock in your delivery time. Ideally, you are looking for a delivery window on Sunday or Monday at the latest. You can always add more items to your list, but I would hate that you missed your delivery window. (This is a trick I often use myself – I know it works wonders for both PeaPod and Amazon Fresh.)
  • While I love ordering from online groceries, I always hand- pick my bird. I love the process of choosing the biggest bird my roasting pans can support. I strongly suggest you do the same. Remember if you purchase a frozen bird, you need to account for several days of defrosting in the refrigerator. Therefore, I almost always buy a fresh bird from my meat CSA or butcher.

Sunday: Inventory Day

  • On Sunday, I double check that I have enough roasting pans, pie pans and saucepans for my menu. I must admit that I often purchase a set of disposable pie tins and roasting pans so I have less mess to clean up after the feast. Also, make sure you have enough flatware and china for your entire party. If there are going to be children at your Thanksgiving supper, you might want to consider high-quality paper plates and plastic cups, to reduce the chances of breakage (and as a bonus, less clean up to do).
  • Also, on Sunday I clean out the refrigerator, making sure I have enough room to store the bird, the pre-prepared dishes and my fruits and vegetables.
  • Most importantly, if your turkey is frozen, start defrosting the bird in the refrigerator. (I highly suggest that you use a disposable roasting pan to collect any juices or mess; I learned this lesson the hard way!)

Monday: Soup Stock, Gravy & Cornbread

  • On Monday, I will start the day off by making a large batch of my slow cooker chicken stock. Of course, you could easily make a batch of stock in your Instapot or even on the stove, but I love the convenience of a large batch of set- it- and- forget-it stock. If you prefer to purchase the stock in the box, feel free to do so.
  • Also, I would make a large batch of gravy. My gravy recipe will keep in the refrigerator for several days and even freezes beautifully. I often make a double batch and divide it in half – using half for the Thanksgiving feast, and the half I freeze for leftovers, or to use as a base for a Thanksgiving leftover casserole.
  • On Monday, I would also make your cornbread for the dressing. You need to make this a few days ahead of time and let it sit out room temperature, so it goes slightly stale. For the perfect dressing, stale bread is ideal. If you are not making my cornbread stuffing, feel free to substitute the bread of your choice. When I make my Challah & Fruit stuffing, I cube the Challah and let it sit at room temperature for a day or so.

Tuesday: Mise En Place, Brine & Pie Shells

  • On Tuesday, I prep as much as I possibly can. I clean and chop all of my fruits and vegetables, except for apples and potatoes (since they will discolor.) I also mince all the garlic and herbs that I need for my menu.
  • After everything is sliced, diced and chopped, I assemble everything needed for a recipe in a set of releasable bags. If a recipe calls for both onions and celery to be sautéed at the same time, I will put both of those ingredients into the one bag.
  • Creating step by step ingredient bags is a bit of chore, but a stitch of time here in prep can save you hours of frustration on the big day.
  • As I am prepping my vegetables and fruits, I am multitasking (taking advantage of the meanwhile) by preparing my brine for the turkey, and I let it sit out at room temperature until cool. After the brine has cooled to room temperature, you can start brine your turkey. Pro tip – put the turkey in the brine pot first and pour the brine over the bird. You might need to add cold water to the brine pot. You want to make sure that the turkey is full submerged in the brine. Allow the turkey to brine for at least 24 hours.
  • If I am making homemade pie/tart shells, I would make the dough on Tuesday. Remember you can make and form the dough a day or so ahead and bake your desserts on Wednesday or even on Thursday as the bird rests. Remember, there is no shame in using a store-bought pie shell – I often do it myself. Make sure if you buy a frozen crust to follow the package instructions on defrosting it before attempting to fill it.

Wednesday: Sides, Desserts & Turkey Prep

  • On Wednesday, I try to make everything that needs to be baked. I make both my sweet potato casserole, cornbread dressing, and apple & potato gratin. Allow them to come down to room temperature before storing them in the refrigerator covered.
  • I would also make my dough for my no-fail yeast rolls and store it in the refrigerator. I would also prepare any pies that you are planning to serve (see my new article on The Perfect Thanksgiving Pie.) I would also suggest you bake off a pie or two – and store in the refrigerator. This is not a hard and fast rule, as you can quickly bake your pies as the turkey rests after roasting.
  • If you are planning on preparing a homemade cranberry relish/chutney, I would also make it while the pies are baking.
  • Right before going to bed for the night, remove the turkey from the brine, and rinse and rest in a clean roasting pan in the refrigerator overnight. We want the bird to dry out a bit – this will give us a great crust on the skin.

Thursday: Roasting and Final Steps

  • First thing in the morning, bake the no-fail yeast rolls and let them sit at room temperature until dinner time. If you like, you could also bake them after the bird is roasted, but I prefer to bake the rolls early and then warm them up in the hot oven right before dinner.
  • About two hours before roasting the turkey, take it out of the refrigerator and allow it warm up slightly. Roast the turkey per the recipe, typically 15 minutes per pound and allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes, if not a full hour before carving.
  • While the bird is resting, warm up the casseroles and stuffing in the hot oven. And warm up the soup slowly. If you are serving a fresh green salad – get everything ready while the sides are heating up.

Finally – Eat and Enjoy Your labors!

Whew! you made it and you didn’t lose your sanity! I hope this plan helps you out as much as it does for me. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please reach out and let me know right away. Happy cooking!

After you sample my recipes, feel free to post your homemade creations on social media using the tags #ICookedThis #RecipeSavants and #HomemadeThanksgiving.

Suggestions for an EASY & PERFECT Thanksgiving Feast

Soups: Homemade Chicken Stock and Potato & Leek Soup

As tempting as it is to reach for a can or a box of chicken broth, my simple homemade chicken stock recipe is packed with flavor and nutrients from the bones. You can make enough to freeze for use in healthy soups after the holidays.

Potato Leek Soup is quite decadent and tasty with cream and butter added. The recipe is easy to follow and can be tweaked to make it a little less rich, if desired. It is nice served with warm dinner rolls. I would suggest that you make this with the homemade chicken stock and whip it up on Thursday as the bird is roasting.

Main Dish: Beer Brined Turkey

I just can’t bring myself to buy a pre-brined turkey from the market. Who knows how long the bird has been sitting in that salt solution? Brining tenderizes the bird and is not complicated to do at home with a few ingredients. You won’t regret trying this beer-brine recipe. The beer adds a bit of happiness and sweetness to the bird. It isn’t overpowering at all – if you don’t drink or would rather not use beer – feel free to substitute an equal amount of apple cider.

Gravy: Make Ahead Gravy

There is nothing easier than this few ingredient recipe for gravy. You can store it in the fridge for Thursday dinner or freeze some for later. Add some turkey pan juices before serving for added Thanksgiving flavor.

Side Dishes: Cornbread Dressing, Sweet Potato Casserole, Apple & Potato Gratin and No Fail Yeast Rolls

Definitely make your cornbread for this dressing recipe a couple of days ahead of time, as it is better the drier it is. This recipe is basic and doesn’t disappoint in texture or flavor, serve with the make ahead gravy.

A sweet potato casserole is a classic side for Thanksgiving. This recipe is enhanced with maple and pecans. It is designed to be prepared a day or 2 ahead and then assembled and baked on Thursday.

This is a savory and sweet, layered gratin with apples, potatoes, milk, and aromatics. Because the apples and potatoes are par-boiled, this dish can be assembled a day ahead of time without worrying about the ingredients discoloring.

Aside from the turkey, there is no better smell to fill a kitchen than yeast rolls baking. Make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate until you want to bake the rolls. Be sure to let them come to room temperature and to rise before putting in the oven. These are best served warm.

Dessert: Spiced Pumpkin Pie

This pie recipe has autumn spices, including cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. It calls for a prepared pie crust and canned pumpkin, which makes it a breeze to mix and bake. Make the pumpkin pie a day ahead of time and allow it to come to room temperature. Serve with hot coffee.

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About Chef Robert

Robert Felkins

My food philosophy is simple; food should be a feast of all five senses. Meals should be based on simple, tasty and smart recipes that are easy to follow. Instead of serving processed junk, I prefer to use fresh & seasonal ingredients. I gravitate towards all cuisines that are BIG on flavor. By cooking at home, we can all eat healthier and save money.

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