A Thanksgiving Host’s Guide
Thanksgiving is a time of opening up our homes to friends, relatives, and loved ones. Below is a great guide in how to prepare for your Thanksgiving Eat-a-thon courtesy of Epicurious.com.
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The Day Before: Get a Jump Start on Thanksgiving
To make Thursday more manageable, try to do as much as possible the day before. Of course your list will vary depending on your specific menu, but here are some suggested tasks for Wednesday:
- What to Defrost
¢ Move turkey stock from the freezer to the fridge to defrost overnight.
¢ Defrost pie crusts: Leave the disks of dough on the counter for a couple of hours until they’re nice and pliable, then refrigerate until you’re ready to roll them out. (Consult our pie primer for helpful tips and how-to videos.)
- What to Cook Ahead
¢ Assemble and bake pies; store them at room temperature (unless they’re custard-based, such as pumpkin pie, which should be refrigerated).
¢ Prep any hors d’oeuvres that can be made ahead. (Dips and spiced nuts are good options.)
¢ Cook soups, then cool and refrigerate.
¢ Prepare mashed or roasted root veggies such as sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, celery root, carrots, and beets, then refrigerate. If you have a microwave, you can add mashed potatoes to the list of vegetable sides that can be prepared in advance and reheated. If you don’t, plan on making your mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day, as they tend to get gluey when reheated on the stove.
¢ Make any other sides that will reheat well, including candied yams, casseroles, or creamed onions. (Leave Brussels sprouts and green beans for Thursday.)
¢ Prep any garnishes or toppings, such as toasted nuts or grated cheese, for the recipes you’ll make on Thursday.
- Prepare for Thursday
¢ Clean and dry salad greens and store them in resealable plastic bags with a paper towel tucked inside.
¢ Prep ingredients for stuffing: If you’re stuffing the turkey, the stuffing itself must be assembled at the last minute to avoid bacterial growth. But the day before, you can cut and toast the bread cubes to dry them out (if you’re making corn bread stuffing, now’s a good time to bake the bread), and you can dice and sautÃ© the veggies. (For more on stuffing and dressing, including recipes, see our stuffing how-to guide.)
- Get Organized
¢ Get the house ready for guests: Move furniture if necessary, set the table, and arrange flowers. (Looking for tips? See Flower Arranging 101 for how-to advice, and check out our classic and modern centerpieces for specific ideas.)
¢ Get out all serving platters and bowls and label each with a sticky note that says what goes in it. Place the necessary serving utensils alongside. Trust us: During the Thanksgiving Day rush, this will save your sanity! Plus it‘ll make it easier for other people to help you arrange everything on the table. (Get tips on arranging a buffet table in our how-to video.)
¢ If you’re brining the turkey, prep it and leave it in the brine overnight. (Brining is easy with our step-by-step video.)
¢ Check to make sure you have the following dinner party essentials: aluminum foil, containers for leftovers, paper towels, butter, ice, clean dish towels, dishwashing detergent, and a good soundtrack to cook to tomorrow.
If you get all these tasks done, congratulations! You’ll be in very good shape for a stress-free Thanksgiving!
Turkey Day: Make Thanksgiving Dinner
Finally, the big day is here. To help you sail through the holiday with ease, here’s a step-by-step schedule:
The turkey will be the most time-consuming item, so getting it in the oven is the first thing you should do.
¢ Start the turkey: Preheat the oven. If you’re stuffing your bird, assemble the stuffing and fill the cavity. Do any other prep work your recipe calls for (such as massaging the turkey with butter) and load it into the oven. Set a timer to remind you to baste or check the temperature. (Consult your recipe for specifics, and for lots more information on roasting”plus handy how-to videos”see our Turkey Primer.)
¢ If you premade bread or rolls and froze them, take them out of the freezer and leave them in their bag on the counter to defrost.
¢ Chill white wine and beer. Set up the bar for any other drinks you’re serving.
While the turkey is roasting, complete everything else on your menu that’s not already made. Keep items warm by covering with foil or, if they’re ready more than two hours ahead, refrigerate until it’s time to serve them and then briefly reheat.
¢ Make salad dressing; prep any ingredients for the salad. (Refrigerate cut veggies until you’re ready to serve them.)
¢ Prep ingredients for hors d’oeuvres such as toppings and toasts for bruschetta or cut-up veggies for dip. If perishable, refrigerate until ready to serve.
¢ Prep casseroles or baked items such as baked stuffing. If possible, bake them alongside the turkey during the last hour or two of roasting. Or, if necessary, pop them into the oven as soon as the turkey comes out.
¢ Prepare the mashed potatoes, unless you already did so yesterday. Keep warm in a pot on the stove.
¢ Prepare any items that are cooked on top of the stove, such as sautÃ©ed or steamed veggies. If possible, cook to slightly less than done, then cover and keep warm.
¢ Just before guests are due to arrive, assemble hors d’oeuvres and set them out. (If you haven’t already done so, designate someone to take guests’ coats and offer them drinks so you can finish cooking.) This is also a very good time to step back, enjoy a sip or two of wine, and admire your work.
- Half Hour Before Dinnertime
When the turkey comes out, transfer it to a platter and let it rest while you do the last-minute tasks. It has to rest at least half an hour for the juices to redistribute, and depending on size, it’ll stay warm for at least 45 minutes. If you need longer than that, tent the turkey loosely with foil to keep warm.
¢ Make the gravy. (Don’t panic: We have everything you need to know in our complete guide to gravy.)
¢ Reheat everything that’s been made ahead (sides, soup, etc.), either in the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave. Then transfer to serving platters or bowls and cover with foil. (This is a great task to delegate so you can concentrate on the last bits of cooking. If you’ve labeled your serving trays, it’ll be easy for others to know where everything goes.)
¢ Pop the rolls or bread into the oven (covered with foil) to heat slightly. Then transfer to a cloth-lined basket and cover with foil to keep warm.
¢ Dress the salad.
¢ Carve the turkey. Watch our turkey-carving video for pointers.
¢ Serve the meal. (Don’t forget about the cranberry sauce! It’s easy to lose track of, since it doesn’t have to be reheated.)
- After Dinner
¢ Make coffee or tea.
¢ Whip cream for pies.
¢ Serve dessert.
¢ Pack up and refrigerate leftovers within two hours. If you have a lot, guests will love being sent home with extras. See our complete guide to Thanksgiving leftovers for storing and reheating guidelines. And don’t forget to save the turkey carcass to make stock or soup!
The Day After: Enjoy Your Leftovers
The big feast is over. Congratulations! We hope everything went exactly as planned.
- Get Creative with Leftovers
After all your hard work, you might not want to do anything more complicated than microwave a plate of delicious turkey and stuffing. But if you’re looking for other creative ways to use up all the extra turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, and cranberries, our ultimate guide to leftovers has you covered. We provide all the how-to essentials on storing and reheating your holiday favorites, plus tons of ideas for putting a fresh new spin on them. A turkey sandwich might satisfy for a meal or two, but after a couple of days, we predict you’ll be craving something different. Get ready for Turkey Chilaquiles, Porcini and Stuffing Strata, and Mashed Potato Pancakes. For even more suggestions, check out our recipe collection of 21 tasty ideas for leftover turkey.
- Treat Your Guests to a Cozy Brunch
If you have houseguests, this post-holiday brunch menu would be a nice send-off”as a bonus, the recipes use up leftover turkey and canned pumpkin! For more easy morning meals, browse all our breakfast menus.
- Make Tonight a Quick and Easy Pizza Night
If you’re heading out to start your holiday shopping today, this simple pizza dinner will definitely come in handy when you get back from a long day at the mall. To find more effortless Friday night meal options, peruse all our quick and easy menus.