Thanksgiving is only seven days away! Whether you’re an old pro at hosting dinner or this is your first time out, getting a traditional meal on the table -- and on-time -- is a challenge. Here’s a handy One Week Checklist to help make preparations for the big day a bit less stressful.
Last week we got started on the menu, shopping list, decor, flowers, music, seating, kitchen equipment, dishes, and serving pieces. This week we’ll cover everything else you need for a delicous celebration.
One Week Ahead
1. Menu finalized and recipes indexed, shop for non-perishables, including wines, spirits or non-alcoholic drinks noq. Buy perishables only two days in advance.
2. Sketch out a cooking timeline based on your work schedule. Some dishes can be cooked days in advance (cranberry sauce will keep for a week in the fridge) while others, such as gravy, are best prepared at the last minute.
3. Deep clean and organize your kitchen and house (possibly making up beds for overnight guests).
4. De-clutter your cupboards and fridge, and double-check that you're stocked up on necessary ingredients and supplies.
5. Make sure your turkey, if frozen, has plenty of time to defrost. Figure about five hours per pound to thaw out; you can keep it in the fridge a couple of days afterwards, too, with no ill effects. (For a big turkey, you might need to start defrosting it – in the coldest part of the fridge – as early as Monday.)
6. Baking pies? They can be prepared in stages. Make the crust (but don’t bake yet) and freeze on Monday. On Wednesday you can bake; then you only have to warm and garnish pies on the big day.
7. On Tuesday, chop all the veggies and store in fridge until needed. Prepare table settings (dishes, silverware, glasses), serving pieces, napkins, table cloth, and floral arrangements.
8. On Wednesday, bake veggies and sides that require that now (turkey will crowd out other dishes) to reheat later. Set the table, put out candles, hang wreathes and other decorations.
Thanksgiving Day – it’s showtime!
9. Start on your turkey five to seven hours ahead of dinner time, depending on the size of your bird. Follow your recipe or family traditions; cook turkey and let it "rest" before carving to maintain juices.
10. Practice kitchen safety. Stuff the turkey right before roasting it, for instance. (It’s dangerous to leave a stuffed turkey in the fridge overnight.) Use a cooking thermometer to make sure the turkey is fully cooked. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate knives and cutting boards for raw turkey and veggies.
11. Finish or reheat gravy, vegetables, side dishes, rolls, and after dinner, pies. Set out beverages.