CFC’s Thanksgiving Prep Guide
Cooking a Thanksgiving meal is not an easy task! But it can be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. And it doesn’t have to be impossible or overwhelming. The trick is to plan ahead so you don’t find yourself with a long to-do list and not enough time.
Here are my very best tips for cooking a Thanksgiving meal:
First, it’s important to know when you need to start getting ready for Thanksgiving day and what you need to do.
Here’s what I suggest for a perfect prep timeline:
2-3 Weeks Before Thanksgiving:
- Plan your menu – At the end of this article are some of my all-time favorite recipes that are perfect for Thanksgiving. Choosing from these recipes is an easy way to plan your menu and shopping list.
- Order any kitchen supplies or equipment you need – For instance, if you don’t have a roasting pan, turkey baster, food processor, etc. and you know you’ll need it for cooking, now’s the time to either order them or go to the store and pick yours out.
- Make your grocery list – If you want, split this into two lists! This isn’t necessary but if you’d rather make two trips, you can.
1-2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving:
- First shopping trip – If you decided to split your list in two, go ahead and do your first shopping trip. For this first trip, get any equipment you need (as I stated above) and non-perishables from the grocery list. Also, be sure to stock up on staples (butter, sugar, flour, eggs, etc.)
- Make pie crust – Braving baking a homemade pie crust rather than buying one from the store? Go ahead and make it now! Then roll it, put it in your pie pan, and freeze it.
- Make dressings – I don’t mean the Thanksgiving dressing side dish, but actual salad dressing. You can prepare vinaigrette for salad and cranberry salsa ahead of time and store it in the fridge.
- Delegate Recipes – Assign dishes to other family members to make for the big day! Or, if someone offers to make something, make a note so you don’t accidentally make it too.
5-7 Days Before Thanksgiving:
- SHOPPING – Either buy all the remaining items from your list or if you didn’t split it into two trips, get everything from your grocery list now! The sooner you go, the less crowded the store will be.
- Decorate – Going all out for Thanksgiving? Be sure to decorate, make centerpieces, put out table runners, and anything else now so you don’t have to worry about it later.
2-4 Days Before Thanksgiving:
- Stuffing – You can begin preparing the stuffing three days early and store it in the fridge (although many like to wait until the night before or the day off to cook).
- Sweet Potatoes – (I suggest 2-3 days before) Prepare sweet potato casserole and refrigerate.
2 Days Before Thanksgiving:
- Beverages – Prepare any drinks you plan to offer (like hot apple cider).
- Clean – Do any last-minute tidying or cleaning!
1 Day Before Thanksgiving:
- Vegetables & fruit – Prepare the fruits and veggies for all dishes by chopping them, placing them in a sealed container, and refrigerating. You can also prepare herbs or season the vegetables as needed.
- Peel Potatoes – Future-you will be so thankful if you peel the potatoes ahead of time. You can also cube them! Just make sure you cover them with water, place them in a sealed container, and refrigerate them.
- Salad – Toss salad, cover it, and place it in the fridge.
- Dough – Prepare bread dough, form rolls, cover them, and refrigerate.
- Pies – Make the fillings for any pies you plan to serve and put them in the fridge.
- Potatoes – Finish your sweet potato dish if you haven’t already. Refrigerate.
- Side dishes – Prepare any make-ahead side dishes, (roasted vegetables, casseroles, etc.) cover, and store in the fridge.
- Turkey – Depending on the kind you’re making, you may want to prepare and brine your turkey now.
- Table – Go ahead and set the table now, so you don’t have to do it tomorrow! Or you can wait and delegate this task to a family member or guest.
- Roast turkey – This depends on your recipe, but it’s time to cook the turkey (if you didn’t start already).
- Start baking – Anything that needs baking, you should start doing that now! Stuffing, pies, rolls, potatoes, etc.
- Mash the potatoes.
- Make gravy
- Prepare any other dishes such as green beans or additional veggies.
- Take the turkey out about 30 min before serving. Tent it with foil and let it rest
- Toss salad with vinaigrette
- Serving bowls – Go ahead and transfer your dishes, such as vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy, etc., into serving bowls. You can have kids or guests help with this.
- Set refrigerated items on the table!
- Pour waters and drinks – This is another task that is easily delegated! Or your guests can get their drinks.
- SERVE AND ENJOY!
Notice I didn’t state when to start thawing your turkey? Well, it’s a little complicated and honestly one of the hardest lessons I learned when I did my first turkey!
You have to be precise when thawing to make sure it’s thawed in time for the oven. No one wants to get caught with a frozen turkey when it’s time to start cooking! Yes, you can also do a cool water thaw, but the fridge is considered much safer.
So, When Should You Thaw Your Turkey?
Generally speaking, these are the best times to move your turkey to the fridge:
- 20-24 lb turkey – Friday before Thanksgiving (6 days before roasting)
- 16-20 lb turkey – Saturday before Thanksgiving (5 days before roasting)
- 12-16 lb turkey – Sunday before Thanksgiving (4 days before roasting)
- 4-12 lb turkey – Monday before Thanksgiving (3 days before roasting)
Now that you have a guide, it’s time to plan the menu!
Here are ten of my favorite recipes to serve on Thanksgiving day. And if you need more options, check out this blog post for 25 more delicious dishes, and come back next week for a list of my favorite holiday appetizers!
I have been working on perfecting this recipe and technique for many years and I’m SO EXCITED to finally share it! With this guide, you can delightfully present your guests with a beautiful, golden-brown, perfectly juicy turkey. I LOVE this turkey and I hope you and all your guests do as well!
I’m not going to lie: this is my FAVORITE stuffing recipe, and it’s super popular amongst CRUSHers! It’s delicious and healthy and perfect for thanksgiving. Ezekiel bread is not gluten-free; however, sprouted grains (gluten-free and non-gluten-free) are the way to go!
Bonus – if you want to try something a little different, try our brand new Wild Rice + Sausage Stuffing!
This is my personal favorite green bean recipe, and you will never see my Thanksgiving table without it! It’s fresh, irresistible, and GREAT for your gluten-free family members!
This cranberry sauce could not be any simpler to make but is sure to be a crowd favorite! It’s sweetened with just the right amount of pure maple syrup and fresh-squeezed orange juice, so you can rest easy knowing you’re not serving cups of white sugar.
This is probably the MOST requested recipe throughout November within our CFC communities. Gravy is a must-have for Thanksgiving, and this recipe is perfectly seasoned and full of flavor without being loaded in unhealthy fats like many other gravies.
If you really want to impress your guests this Holiday season, then you absolutely MUST make these sweet potatoes! I promise it’s not that difficult to make, and the result is totally worth the effort, and the perfect mix of sweet, savory, and creamy.
Not only do these Brussel sprouts taste amazing, but the dish is also beautiful and will look fantastic on your Thanksgiving dinner table. The Rustic Aesthetic Autumn flair and the Flavor Combo here are just so surprisingly GOOD!
With homemade pesto and pomegranates, this roasted broccoli tastes phenomenal and is perfectly festive for the Holidays. PLUS, it’s packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants!
Need a perfect mashed potato recipe that won’t take up valuable oven space on Thanksgiving? Look no further! Not only does this recipe free up oven space, but you can also switch the setting to “warm” once they’re done so they’ll still be fresh and delicious when dinner time rolls around.
Roasting your veggies rather than steaming or boiling is an absolute game-changer! Have you tried them yet?!! They are phenomenal when prepared this way, and it’s super easy too!
With the high heat, caramelization occurs, and those dark-browned crispy edges are an edible crunchy delight. Thanksgiving WIN!
There you go!
A Thanksgiving guide with all my best tips. 🙌 🦃 💚
Just remember to take it one step at a time and I promise you’ve got this! Make sure to share all your favorite recipes and creations!
Make this a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving, CRUSHers!