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Thanksgiving Planning, Part III: Creating a Timeline

November 14, 2012

As I said in my earlier posts, they key to a successful Thanksgiving meal is organization. Creating a timeline is probably the single most important thing you can do to ensure dinner is on the table on-time and everything is warm. I start the weekend before and try to accomplish as much as I can in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. For Thursday, I work backwards from the time we plan to eat dinner.

Below is an example of the schedule I like to follow, broken into day before and day of tasks:

I have two ovens which gives me more flexibility the morning of Thanksgiving but it’s just as easy with one oven. It takes a tad bit more organization so here are a few tips for those of you with one oven:

-Other than the turkey, pies are the biggest oven utilizers. Ask your guests to bring dessert or make your pies on Wednesday or first thing Thursday. When I made Thanksgiving in my New York City apartment, I stuck to two pies and made one on Wednesday night. The first thing I did Thursday morning was bake the second pie so the oven would be clear for the turkey.

-Utilize your stovetop! Mashed potatoes and butternut squash (even sweet potatoes) can be made on the stovetop and kept warm in a pot over low heat or in a bowl set over simmering water. Plan your menu to minimize dishes that require the oven since the turkey will monopolize the oven for a few hours.

-The turkey needs to rest for 30 minutes before carving so you have about 40 minutes after the turkey is out of the oven to reheat stuffing or other items. You can easily fit 2-4 baking dishes in the oven (depending on size) if you space the racks in the upper and lower third. For stuffing and most dishes, you can heat them at +/- 25° from the specified temperature. If you are decreasing the baking time slightly, increase the temperature a bit. If you are squeezing several items into the oven, just make sure there is space for air to circulate around the baking dishes. If it looks like a tight squeeze, increase the temperature a bit.

Equipment Check
While you’re in planning mode, take an inventory of your kitchen this week to make sure you have all the equipment you need. Chances are you have most of what you’ll need but it’s always good to check. Look at your platters and make sure you have enough serving vessels for all the dishes being served. If you need additional platters, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath and Beyond have good white platters that aren’t too pricey. Williams-Sonoma has great dishwares as well but they are a bit more expensive.

The equipment you’ll need:
-large roasting pan with V rack
-wood carving board
-carving knife
-cotton kitchen string or butcher twine
-turkey lifters (optional but helpful – my All-Clad roasting pan came with a V rack and lifters)
-brine bags or other large container
-pie plates

The usuals:
-dishes or china
-wine glasses
-platters (you don’t need anything fancy but it’s nice to have some special items like your grandmother’s platter or a crystal wedding gift)

Special touches:
-centerpiece (order flowers ahead of time or use a simple potted plant or bowl of apples)
-seasonal candles
-menus (template coming soon!)

After all this, is it crazy that I’m getting excited for Christmas?!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2012 12:42 pm

    Great tips and schedule! 🙂

  2. November 21, 2012 10:13 pm

    I’ll have to save these posts for Christmas too! Awesome!

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