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Turkey Day Meal Planning Guide

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  • Plan your Thanksgiving

    Plan your Thanksgiving

    Playing host for any meal can be trying, but when that meal happens to be Thanksgiving, stress levels increase.

    Like all holidays, Thanksgiving brings special challenges. Coordinating timing for multiple dishes makes proper meal planning crucial.

    Whether you’re cooking for two people or 10, these tips will help you navigate through each part of the day to create a memorable holiday feast.

  • Morning


    To be sure that food is ready by mealtime, it’s important to get an early start. Begin your preparations first thing in the morning by doing the following: 

    1. Clean the turkey — don’t forget to remove the giblets from the cavity.
    2. If you’re using giblets for the gravy, simmer them, adding water until tender, and keep them refrigerated in liquid.
    3. If you don’t have a disposable roasting pan, prepare your pan by wrapping it in foil and placing the turkey on it. Keep the roasting pan in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
    4. Make the stuffing of your choice, then cover and refrigerate it.
    5. Defrost breads and prepare any pre-dinner snacks and appetizers.
    6. Chill wine, beer, and soft drinks.
  • Four hours before dinner

    Four hours before dinner

    Midday preparations should focus on the turkey. It’s important to stuff the bird and get it in the oven well in advance of mealtime.

    A medium-sized turkey generally takes around four hours to cook, though roasting time will depend on the size of the bird.

    The USDA’s guide can help you determine how long you should cook your bird.

    Fill the turkey with the stuffing that you prepared in the morning. Then, put it in the oven to roast. Use a meat thermometer to monitor its progress.

  • Two to three hours before dinner

    Two to three hours before dinner

    Now that the turkey is in the oven, you can turn your attention to other dishes, by following these steps:

    1. Prepare any side dishes and desserts that were not pre-prepared. Let them stand at room temperature, or refrigerate if they’re ready more than an hour before the turkey is served.
    2. Clean green beans, then cover and set them aside.
    3. Cook the yams or sweet potatoes.
    4. Peel and cube potatoes, then simmer until tender.
  • One hour before dinner

    One hour before dinner

    The smell of a Thanksgiving feast will probably get some stomachs growling at this point. Just a few more steps before everyone can eat. Remember to:

    • Set out appetizers and serve beverages.
    • Fill the sugar bowl and butter dish.
    • Make a salad.
    • Enlist kids to help set the table.
    • Prepare a small pitcher of half-and-half or milk for coffee, and refrigerate until after dinner.
  • Half an hour before dinner

    Half an hour before dinner

    The turkey is done and now it’s time to put the finishing touches on the meal.

    1. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes before carving.
    2. Start the gravy, using the giblets you prepared in the morning along with turkey drippings.
    3. Mash the potatoes.
    4. Reheat the bread, vegetables, and side dishes in the oven, on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
    5. Place the cranberry sauce, vegetables, and other sides in serving bowls and move them to the table.
    6. Dress the salad and put the bread, butter dish, salt and pepper shakers, and wine on the table.
  • Mealtime


    Get everyone seated before the food cools, and don’t forget to do the following:

    • Whisk the gravy and pour it into a gravy boat.
    • Pop open some wine for the table.
    • Place water glasses on the table along with a pitcher of water.
    • Make sure every dish has a serving spoon.


    And enjoy!

  • After dinner

    After dinner

    After everyone has enjoyed the meal, it still isn’t over. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without dessert!

    1. Brew coffee and tea and set out milk, half-and-half, sugar, and tea bags.
    2. Put finishing touches (like whipped cream) on pies, and serve dessert.
    3. Make sure all leftovers are wrapped and refrigerated within two hours of the meal.
    4. Go on an after-dinner stroll together if weather permits to aid digestion and relax after a successful meal.