The Thanksgiving holiday can inspire cheers from kids and jeers from parents trying to pull off a memorable meal while hosting family and friends. We get it! You want to host the perfect Thanksgiving and save your sanity. Well, you can. Take a deep breath and read through this day-by-day countdown from Bill Apodaca, professional chef and co-owner with his wife, Shanny, of Simply Good Kitchen in Birmingham, which offers homemade ready-to-take meals and cooking classes.
Day 1: Monday Before Thanksgiving
This is the day to get all your ingredients from the store and to prep any side dishes that don’t mind spending some time in the back of your refrigerator.
- Clear out your refrigerator so you have room for all of your Thanksgiving groceries.
- Shop for all your meal ingredients, including your turkey.
- Prepare your cranberry sauce and any other sauces or relishes you plan on using (just not the gravy).
Day 2: Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
Time to get cutting! Prepping all of your vegetables beforehand will save you time and aggravation on Thanksgiving Day (you can even sleep in!). Invite your kids to join in – younger children can wash and sort vegetables. Grade-schoolers can help peel potatoes and carrots. Older children can cut up vegetables.
- Wash, peel, and cut all of your vegetables. Tip: Place diced potato pieces into a bowl and cover with water before storing – otherwise they will turn color.
- Make your favorite stuffing and refrigerate until ready to bake.
- Put together your pumpkin pie filling and pie dough, refrigerate until ready to bake – you can store the pie with the filling already in the shell or separately.
- Mix up your bread roll dough and place in the refrigerator (don’t shape them yet! That comes with the second rise – just the dough on day 3).
Day 3: Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a day away, but don’t worry; you’re already more than half way there. Today is the day to get all of your more time-intensive dishes baked and ready (just not the turkey, save the big bird for tomorrow). And for you to dig out all the silverware and platters you’ll need.
- Locate all of your silverware and other dinner plating items.
- Set your Thanksgiving table. Tip: This is a good kid job!
- Prep your turkey, including removing the giblets and placing it on the roasting pan with seasonings.
- Bake your pumpkin pie and any other desserts you plan on serving.
- Prep your green bean side dish and bake.
- Roll out bread dough, shape into rolls and place on baking sheets. Put the prepped rolls on the pan back into the refrigerator.
- Make your gravy using purchased turkey stock (you’ll add your own drippings once you’ve baked your bird).
Day 4: Thanksgiving Day
Today is the day! Most of your work today will be spent re-warming and putting the final touches on each dish. You might even have saved yourself enough time to make an extra dessert.
- Roast the turkey. Tip: To keep your turkey at its juiciest and to give you time to bake other items, let the bird rest, once cooked, for 8 minutes per pound. So a 20-pound turkey can sit before cutting for 160 minutes. Right before serving, place the turkey back into a 375 oven for 15 minutes then slice it hot.
- Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and allow to rise until doubled in size; bake.
- Warm your green beans and stuffing.
- Cook diced potatoes and then mash. (You can drain the water the potatoes have been in or simply pour into the pan and heat.)
- Reheat the gravy in a pan on the stovetop – add in broth from your cooked bird.
- Sit back and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with your family.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Cut out any step – or steps – by purchasing the items at your local grocers. For example, Simply Kitchen offers in-house made items like rolls, chutneys, turkey gravy and side dishes. Tip: Throw all of the purchased food boxes away before guests arrive so you can claim you did everything from scratch.