Whether you are a first-time host or a seasoned hostess, the final days leading up to Thanksgiving can be stressful. In Part 3 of our Countdown to Thanksgiving Series, we tackle all the last minute details to help you throw the dinner of the year.
- Start Shopping: The supermarket is going to be busy! Make your trip easier by organizing your shopping list into categories: dairy, meats, vegetables, bakery, etc. This will make navigating the grocery store easier and keep you from wandering aimlessly through the aisles. Also, don’t forget to bring a pen to cross things off your list.
- Defrost the Turkey: If you purchased a frozen turkey, transfer it to the refrigerator so it has time to properly defrost. This is especially important if you plan to brine the bird.
- Copy Your Recipes: Cooking can get messy. The last thing you want to do is ruin a recipe card that was passed down from your great-grandmother or a page in your favorite cookbook. Take the time to photocopy or print out all your recipes to protect the originals.
- Create Your Cooking Schedule: Now that you have copies of all your recipes, organize them in the order you plan prepare the dishes. Make notes on prep and cooking times and make sure that you will have enough room in the oven and on the stove. This will keep you on track leading up to and during the big day.
- It’s Go Time: Start to tackle small and tedious tasks like chopping up vegetables, making breadcrumbs and mixing up any dry ingredients you will need. Pre-measure your ingredients before storing in air-tight containers or bags. Then clearly label each bag with the quantity and recipe name so they are ready for cooking.
- Make the Brine: Combine the ingredients at least 24 hours before you plan to add the turkey. When working with a wet brine, you want all the ingredients to be chilled completely and have time to combine for the best flavor.
- Cook What You Can: Cranberry sauce, pie crusts, gravy and casseroles are all perfect items to tackle now. Wrap carefully and clearly label before placing in the refrigerator. If you plan to reheat or cook a prepared casserole later, tape a card with cooking time and oven temperature needed for easy reference.
- Set the Table: Many people like to set the table the night before Thanksgiving. I prefer to do this a couple of days earlier to give myself enough time to make any necessary changes as the big day gets closer. If you are planning to do any place cards or special decorations, get these done now.
- Brine the Bird: The centerpiece of your meal, the turkey should now be completely defrosted and ready to go. Don’t forget to take the giblets out before submerging in the brine.
- Start Baking: Finish any pies, cakes or desserts now. If you are planning to make homemade bread or biscuits, get dough setting so they are ready first thing Thanksgiving morning.
- Final Shop: Pick up any last minute items that are missing from your list. Don’t forget to pick up fresh flowers if you plan to add them to a centerpiece.
- Chill the Drinks: Space in the refrigerator may be tight, so take some time getting everything in. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere cold, you can try placing drinks on a back porch or in the garage to cool. Also, pick up extra ice.
- Final Clean: Do any last minute straightening, dusting and vacuuming. to wake up to a clean house on Thanksgiving morning.
Thanksgiving Day is different for everyone. It will be as fun or as stressful as you make it out to be. Just remember these few last minute tips and enjoy the big day:
- You’ve Got This: All the small details are out of the way and now it is time to cook and spend time with your family. Always remember that mistakes can happen: a sauce may burn, an ingredient may be forgotten or a plate might get dropped. Don’t let the little things become big deals. You may not be laughing now, but small mistakes can turn into the best stories over time.
- Keep an Eye on the Clock: Work backwards from when you plan to eat and make sure that you have enough time to cook the turkey and let it rest before serving. Allow your turkey to sit for 30-40 minutes before serving to help redistribute the juices.
- Ask for Help: If you need an extra set of hands to carry out hors d’oeuvres or a dishwasher, speak up! Most people want to help but maybe don’t know how to ask. Get people involved where you can and enjoy the company.
- Don’t Forget to Shower: Make sure you have a little bit of time to yourself to prepare for your guests. You will most likely start cooking in your pajamas, but you do not want to be greeting guests in your bathrobe. If possible, give yourself an extra half hour to sit back and enjoy what you have accomplished so far. Your family and friends will be there soon enough and they it’s time to party.