The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide from The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide Slideshow

The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide Slideshow

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The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide

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The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide

It’s T-minus 15 days until Turkey Day, and for most cooks, Thanksgiving is the foodie Super Bowl.

It’s the moment of truth; expectations are high and the pressure is on — how will you handle cooking a multi-dish dinner for a group of friends and family?

Our editorial team is here to help, sharing expert recipes and advice for hosting and cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Whether you’re a veteran host looking for a new challenge in the kitchen or a Thanksgiving novice making a turkey for the first time, here's the essentila guide for all your Thanksgiving needs. 

This Thanksgiving countdown planning guide takes you day by day leading up to the main event, outlining tasks that you may find beneficial in making your Thanksgiving stress-free and, of course, delicious.

Above all, the important thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and think about the blessings in life — put eating a good meal at the top of that list. Click on to read The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide .

14 Days Out: Confirm Guest List

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14 Days Out: Confirm Guest List

Confirm who is attending. This is a necessary step for planning a menu and ensuring that your meal caters to those with allergies or food aversions.

If you are preparing dinner for a big group, you may need a little help from a rental company for a larger table or extra chairs or dinnerware. Put your call in to reserve the needed equipment.

Click here to read “The 8 Worst Thanksgiving Mistakes and How to Avoid Them”

13 Days Out: Research Recipes

Ed Anderson

13 Days Out: Research Recipes

Pore over favorite cookbooks, stained family recipe cards, websites (especially this one), and recipe blogs. Read reviews and poll guests on their favorite dishes — Pinterest is great for inspiration as well.

Click here to see our best Thanksgiving recipes

12 Days Out: Place Food Orders

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12 Days Out: Place Food Orders

First, decide how much of the dinner you would like to make yourself; a semi-homemade meal is totally acceptable and can make a world of difference if you pressed for time. (Don’t be afraid to delegate certain dishes to your guests!) Bread and desserts specifically can be tricky and time-consuming, plus if you’re banking on leftovers for the ultimate thanksgiving turkey sandwich, make sure you have copious amounts of good bread.

Place orders for pre-made dishes or and specialty ingredients from bakeries or purveyors before they sell out. 

11 Days Out: Clean

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11 Days Out: Clean

Give your kitchen a good scrub. A clean and organized space will help you feel relaxed and make cooking much easier and enjoyable.

10 Days Out: Have a Test Kitchen Day

Gentl & Hyers

10 Days Out: Have a Test Kitchen Day

Try out that new roll recipe or practice your lattice crust technique — because one can never have too much pie, after all.

Click here to see the Salted Caramel Apple Pie recipe

9 Days Out: Create a “Master Run of Show”

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9 Days Out: Create a “Master Run of Show”

Plan your cooking schedule day by day, and then hour by hour, for Thanksgiving Day. Work backward from the time you wish to begin eating. For example, turkey generally needs to cook for 20 minutes per pound, so a 10-pound turkey needs three and a half hours of oven time plus a good 30-minute rest period. If dinner is at 5 p.m., your 10-pounder must be out of the oven by 4:30 p.m., meaning it must first go into the oven at 1 p.m. Repeat for each dish and delineate every action on a master list.

This practice will help you figure out which dishes can be made in advance and when; there simply isn’t oven room and stovetop space — or time — to cook everything on the day of.

8 Days Out: Make Your Shopping List

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8 Days Out: Make Your Shopping List

Make a list of every dish you plan on making followed by the ingredients and the amounts you need to purchase. 

For 24 Ways to Cut Your Food Bill Without Clipping a Single Coupon, click here.

7 Days Out: Plan and Prep Non-Thanksgiving Day Meals

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7 Days Out: Plan and Prep Non-Thanksgiving Day Meals

Since your fridge is bound to be full to the brim with ingredients and supplies, prep a few meals in advance. Make and freeze ready-to-eat dinners for the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Your fridge will be full of Thanksgiving foods off-limits to hungry family members, so it may be prudent to have alternatives readily available.

Click here to read “Start Early for Thanksgiving: 10 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes”

6 Days Out: Grocery Shop

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6 Days Out: Grocery Shop

Armed with your list, brave the crowds to gather your ingredients; make sure your refrigerator and cabinets are clean in order to facilitate organization and storage.

Click here to read “These 10 Strategies Are Guaranteed to Save You Money Grocery Shopping”

5 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 1

Gentl & Hyers

5 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 1

4 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 2

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4 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 2

Make your cranberry sauce — or perhaps a cranberry relish or cranberry fluff?

Also, if you plan on prepping your own bread for stuffing, take time now to cube the bread and lay out the pieces to dry on a sheet tray.

For Every Stuffing Recipe You'll Ever Need, click here.

3 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 3

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3 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 3

Pull out serving dishes and serving spoons; write out which foods are destined for which plates with sticky notes.

Also take this time to set the table and decorate; this is sure to set the festive tone for the holiday! Enlist little ones to make place cards or craft other awesome Pinterest crafts.

Click here to read “Serving Thanksgiving: Buffet vs. Family Style”

2 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 4

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2 Days Out: Food Prep Phase 4

Defrost your pie crust in anticipation for pie making.

Begin to prepare simple casseroles dishes. For instance, you can cook and assemble your sweet potato casserole base days in advance; simply cover it tightly with plastic and store it in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving Day when you can then re-heat it with the marshmallow topping. Make-ahead dishes can be a lifesaver and will let you enjoy the day more. 

For 10 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes, click here,

1 Day Out: Food Prep Phase 5

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1 Day Out: Food Prep Phase 5

Double check you have all your ingredients necessary for the main day.

Wash, trim, clean, and process vegetables like Brussels sprouts or onions in preparation for their respective dishes. Although, save chopping herbs or potatoes for the day of to avoid oxidation. 

Prepare and brine your turkey (if applicable).

Make the pies; structurally, they will benefit from an overnight rest — plus you’ll free up oven space for tomorrow.

Click here to read “What Your Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dish Says About You”

Thanksgiving Day

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Thanksgiving Day

You are ready. Reference your Master Run of Show (see 9 Days Out) and stick to it hour by hour. Put on some music, get pumped, and get cooking!

For more food inspiration, click here to read through our 101 Best Thanksgiving Recipes.

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The Essential Thanksgiving Countdown Planning Guide Slideshow