Kitchen Focus

This list, while not exactly a step-by-step guide, lays out some basic planning tips and a schedule for things that can be done ahead.

A week ahead:

  • Decide what style of meal you want to have. Will you plate individual servings in the kitchen, have a buffet or serve everything family-style?
  • If serving buffet or family-style, look at your serving platters, bowls and serving utensils -- envision what food will be put into which serving pieces. Make sure you have enough flatware, plates, glasses and napkins.
  • Think about how your table will look. Will you need candles, flowers, more tablecloths and chairs?
  • Decide on the number of people, what time you will eat and how much time you'll have to cook. If guests want to bring dishes, plan that into the menu.
  • Find out if any guests have allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • If you're cooking a fresh turkey, order one now.
  • Make a complete list of everything needed, including paper goods, decorations and beverages. Then make a master shopping list from all the recipes and decide what you can purchase the weekend before Thanksgiving and what items, like vegetables, might require a last-minute trip.
  • Do the major shopping. If you're using a frozen turkey, start defrosting it in the refrigerator.
3-4 days ahead:
  • Prepare the cranberry relish, if serving.
2 days ahead:
  • Do the last-minute shopping.
  • Clear the kitchen counters of unneeded items so that you have room to work.
  • Pick up your fresh turkey, if using.
  • Prepare any pie crusts and chill, if making from scratch.
1 day ahead:
  • Prepare as much as you can.
  • Chop the bread for stuffing or dressing and allow it to dry.
  • Put the turkey in the brine, if using.
  • Chop the onion, celery and mushrooms, etc., for the stuffing, wrap tightly and refrigerate.
  • Set up the buffet or table. Get out all of the serving platters, bowls, serving utensils flatware, plates, glasses and napkins.

Thanksgiving morning:

  • Start with the time you want to serve and work backward, determining a turkey cooking time that allows the bird to come out of the oven 30 minutes before you plan to serve it.
  • Roll out the dough and bake pecan or pumpkin pies, if serving.
  • Assemble the stuffing or dressing, wrap tightly and refrigerate.
  • Prepare the vegetable side dishes early. Many dishes are just as good at room temperature.

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