When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, knowing what you can make ahead and what needs to be made day-of can be a big challenge… and quite overwhelming! Here are some ideas that will help you to reduce some of that stress so you can focus on what matters most on Thanksgiving—cherishing family and friends.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, create your menu. Decide if you are going to make everything from scratch or buy some pre-made items for ease and convenience. And be sure to check out our Thanksgiving Slow Cooker Side Dishes blog for some delicious ideas to make your holiday planning easier!
First, determine how much time your turkey will need to cook. You’ll do the actual cooking on Thursday, but take a few minutes to prepare using the table and information below. The general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound at 350º. Times are approximate, as all ovens vary slightly in temperature. To ensure your bird is fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. If you are using a frozen turkey make sure to start defrosting it a few days in advance so that it's ready when you are.
- Use some paper towels and dry the turkey. If you plan to season it, now is the time. This will give the seasoning time to meld and will add a ton of flavor to the turkey. Place the turkey on a large baking sheet in the refrigerator uncovered. This will help to dry out the skin and give you a really crispy and beautiful skin when its roasted.
- Next, make the cornbread for the cornbread stuffing. Cover, and let sit at room temperature.
- Chop up all your onions and celery for the stuffing, place in a zip-lock bag, and refrigerate.
- Then, make your cranberry sauce. Place it in your serving dish, cover, and refrigerate. This one is all set to go.
- Roast up the garlic for your garlic mashed potatoes.
- Make your pumpkin pie—or the pie(s) of your choosing—cover, and refrigerate. Save yourself a few steps, and ask someone else to make the pie(s), or pick them up from your local bakery. Most pies can even be made a week ahead and frozen. Thaw at room temp starting on Wednesday.
- Make your sweet potatoes, cover, and refrigerate.
- Make your gravy. Gravy can be made up to five days in advance and refrigerated. Add the drippings after the turkey comes out of the oven. Your gravy will be just as delicious!
Today is the day! You may need to get started early, but if you have done the prep work already mentioned, it will be a snap.
- Preheat your oven to 350º.
- Sauté the onions and celery that you cut up yesterday. Add in sausage (if you’re using it for the stuffing), and set aside.
- Boil and drain your potatoes for the garlic mashed potatoes, and set aside.
- While your potatoes are boiling, assemble the cornbread stuffing. Bake the stuffing for 30–40 minutes. Remove and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Now, get that turkey in the oven! Use the following timetable:
|Weight of Bird||Unstuffed roasting time||STUFFED ROASTING TIME|
|10–18 lbs.||3–3.5 hours||3.75–4.5 hours|
|18–22 lbs.||3.5–4 hours||4.5–5 hours|
|22–24 lbs.||4–4.5 hours||5–5.5 hours|
|24–29 lbs.||4–5.5 hours||5.5–6.25 hours|
How to Know when Turkey is Done
Your turkey is done when the thermometer reads 165º in the thickest part of the breast and 180º in the thickest part of the leg. Remember to let the turkey rest at least 20 minutes before carving to let all the juices redistribute.
Under normal circumstances, you might ask for help with cooking from family or friends. Due to the ongoing pandemic, though, your Thanksgiving holiday might be a bit different. If you're looking for ways to keep in-person gatherings a bit safer, we suggest people bring their own side dish(es), dessert, and serving utensils for their family. This act can help lower the risk of touching shared surfaces. Read more ideas about how to safely celebrate Thanksgiving in another one of our blogs.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holiday, I hope your day is full of joy, laughter, and good times with loved ones. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!