Your Make-Ahead Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner
Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be one of the most flustering things you ever do. Between roasting a perfectly juicy turkey, mashing potatoes to a perfect smoothness, and whisking together a bomb cranberry sauce, something is likely to go wrong. And, if you’re hosting family, you *know* someone is going to call you out on it. The good news? Thanksgiving turmoil is totally preventable. With some smart planning, you will SLAY. Show your fam who the real MVP is this holiday season with these helpful tips.
a month before thanksgiving
Before you start planning the dinner in great detail, decide whether or not you want this to be a potluck-style dinner or not. There’s no shame in it either way. If you *do* decide to run the show on your own, don’t deny any extra help that might be offered — even if you have everything precisely planned out. An extra side dish, appetizer, or bottle of wine certainly won’t hurt.
Since many of the dishes you whip up to accompany your turkey can be made in advance, take advantage. Doing so alleviates a lot of pressure and stress. You can make up freezer-friendly meals up to two weeks before Turkey Day — like mashed potatoes, pie shells, casseroles, cranberry sauce, and even gravy! (Just don’t forget to take them out the day before.)
the weekend before thanksgiving
First and foremost, if you’ve purchased a frozen turkey, start thawing it in the fridge on Sunday and, if you’re brining it, start that process on Monday or Tuesday. Aside from thawing your bird, this weekend should be dedicated to cleaning, groceries (don’t forget ice!), organizing, and some prep. Clean out your fridge, pull out your serving dishes, and decide which platters and bowls will carry what. If you’re lacking in servingware, ask your relatives to bring some. The last thing you want to do is set your green beans out in a plastic container among ornate bowls and platters.
Monday and Tuesday Prep
Use Monday and Tuesday to deal with tedious tasks like chopping vegetables, cutting bread for stuffing, and toasting nuts. Additionally, you can remove any of your made-ahead sides from the freezer so they can start to defrost. If you didn’t whip up your gravy and cranberry sauce ahead of time and freeze them, Tuesday would be a great time to get those made up. They will keep in the fridge until Thursday just fine.
The day before thanksgiving
Now you’re down to the wire, so make your desserts, stuffing, and any sides or casseroles you haven’t already made. You can also prepare your leafy salads and homespun dressing, but don’t combine the two until serving time. Last but not least, take the evening to set the table. This may seem a little overboard as far as prepping in advance goes, but you’ll thank yourself.
In the morning, make yourself a timeline of what items you want to heat up and when, like your casseroles, sides, and of course your turkey. Cooking times will vary depending on what types of casseroles you’re baking and how much your turkey weighs, etc. While things cook and heat up, you can arrange the bar setup for cocktails, dump ice into coolers for your cold brews, and lay out any appetizers and cheese plates until your guests arrive.
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