Here are my specific tips for the last 4 days before Thanksgiving:
1. Buy the Turkey
3- 4 days in advance. You can determine how much time the turkey needs to defrost by allowing 24 hours for every 5 lbs. the turkey weighs. For instance, a 15 pound turkey would take 3 full days (or 72 hours). Make sure you defrost the turkey in it’s wrapping on a tray (to catch any liquid drips) in the refrigerator.
2. Purchase your perishable ingredients.
It’s time to buy everything else on your grocery list or the non highlighted items. This can be done the same day as the turkey purchase or 2-3 days before Thanksgiving. Double check your list for beverages (wine, beer, soda, cocktail mixers, coffee, liquor, etc.), paper towels and napkins and extra ice if you need it. If you live in a cold climate like I do, storing extra ice outside is simple and takes up no extra space. Also, storing your beverages in the garage is a great space saver to keep drinks cold.
3. Premake or prep food that will hold up for a day.
Recipes like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams, appetizers, salads (keep dressings separate and toss before serving), pies and other desserts can likely be made the day before and reheated before serving. Also, chopping salad ingredients or ingredients for the stuffing or vegetables for roasting can all be done ahead of time so only the cooking or assembly remains the day before. I like to prep all of my ingredients (slicing, chopping, and measuring) including the seasonings the day before. I then place each ingredient in a snack size to quart size resealable plastic bag. Finally, I take all the single ingredient bags for one recipe and place them in a large resealable plastic bag(s) and write the recipe name on it with a marker. Into the refrigerator they go for easy retrieval the next day. I often use this technique when I am going to be cooking from scratch at a photo shoot. I prep (measure and chop) ingredients the day before and organize all my ingredients so I can zip through my recipes.
4. Set the table.
Plates, silverware, serving dishes and utensils, napkins, trivets if bringing hot items to the table, salt and pepper shakers, place cards, decorations and centerpieces. Trust me, do this the day before. You will feel amazing waking up on Thanksgiving morning with this detail completed.
Thanksgiving day will arrive and you will be feeling sooooooo thankful that you did all the preplanning you did! You will actually be able to enjoy the day. Get your recipe folder in front of you and work down your recipe list starting with the turkey. Enlist some help. Assign someone to appetizers, another to drinks and someone to help with clean up. Delegating responsibilities will be another big help. If at all possible, discuss this with friends or family a few days before so they are in on the plan. People like to help. Take them up on it!
So hopefully you gained some insight and are excited to plan. Thanksgiving will be here soon. So…..ready, set, go!