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Please enjoy this checklist found at http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/thanksgiving/planningchecklist
Thanksgiving Planning Checklist
Hosting Thanksgiving dinner and not sure where to start? Relax: Getting ready for the holiday is easy with our complete list of to-dos.
If you're hosting Thanksgiving for the first time—or even the tenth—getting everything organized and done in time can be daunting. How early do you need to order your turkey? What items can you make ahead and freeze? It can be hard to know where to start.
That's why we created this handy checklist. We've divided it week by week, leading up to the final stretch, when we have a plan for each day. You can print it out and post it on your fridge or, if you like, get reminders sent to you by e-mail or RSS feed.
So relax and take a deep breath: Here's your (long but completely doable) list of to-dos:
Six Weeks Ahead:
This is the time to brainstorm—let your creativity flow as you consider these questions, which will shape your plans:
- Think about the general feel you want for your gathering: Big, casual, and kid-friendly? Intimate, elegant, and grown-up? This will help you decide how many people to invite.
- Invite guests. Try to get an approximate head count to start the planning below, but if people need time to figure out their plans, ask them to tell you by next week.
- Start planning your menu. Think about what kind of meal you want to have. Are there classics that everyone would miss if they weren't included? Want to try something new this year? Is there a specific turkey recipe you want to use? Do you want a special type of bird, such as a heritage or kosher turkey? (This can affect what recipe you can use—for more on different types of turkeys, see our turkey primer.)
- Based on your general ideas for the menu, figure out what's doable. Are you willing and able to make everything yourself, or are you going to need help? Decide whether to enlist a cohost or make it a potluck. (See our Thanksgiving potluck guide for more on sharing the cooking duties.)
- Begin to choose specific recipes. (For help creating your menu, see our Thanksgiving menu planner.) If you want guests to bring anything, discuss that with each person. You can do this before or after you choose the recipes—if you want people to contribute ideas on what to bring, ask them what they prefer and then fill in the menu around their ideas. Or, you can choose your menu and then ask people to bring specific things.
- Think about whether you want to do anything special for decor and ambience. Will you serve your menu buffet-style or as a sit-down dinner? Do you want to make a centerpiece? (For entertaining and decorating ideas, see our entertaining videos.)
Five Weeks Ahead:
Now we get down to the details—this is the week to turn your ideas into a concrete plan and make shopping lists:
- Once you have a final head count, finalize the recipes in your menu.
- Working from your menu, make a shopping list of all the ingredients you'll need. Compare the list with what's in your cupboards and cross out anything you already have.
- Also list any cooking gear you'll need that you don't have. (For more on what gear you'll need, see ourThanksgiving equipment checklist.)
- Finalize your general serving plan (buffet or sit-down? Hors d'oeuvres and cocktails served beforehand in the living room?) and list any materials you'll need, such as extra chairs or linens, card tables for hors d'oeuvres, barware, etc.
- Plan how each menu item will be served and list any serving equipment you'll need to buy, such as a gravy boat, carving set, or warming tray to keep items hot. Don't forget to make sure you have plenty of plates and flatware for each course.
- Finalize your plans for decor and list any items you'll need, such as centerpiece materials, candles, a wreath for the door, etc.
- Think about anything else you want to get or do for your home, such as buying new guest towels or replacing exposed electric plugs if you'll be hosting children, and add those items to your list. Congratulations! You now have your master shopping list.
Four Weeks Ahead:
Now that you have your list, you can make a cooking and shopping schedule and buy the first items:
- Order your turkey. It's especially important to do this early if you're getting a special type, such as a heritage or farmer's market bird, which can sell out in early November. But even if you're getting supermarket turkey, it can't hurt to get your order in now. (For more on how big a bird to get, see our turkey primer.)
- Scan your list for anything that you won't be able to find in local stores, such as exotic ingredients or specialty cooking gear. Order these items online now so they'll have plenty of time to arrive.
- If there's anything on your list that you don't want to buy (such as extra folding chairs), arrange to rent the items from a party supply store. Or, see if you can borrow some things from friends or family.
- Divide the rest of your list by when you'll buy the items. First, divide out all nonperishables and gear. You'll buy these next weekend (see below).
- Next, make your cooking plan: Compare your menu with the last two weeks of this timeline (where we make general suggestions as to what to cook when). Using your specific recipes, come up with a personalized cooking timeline.
- Based on this cooking plan, divide the perishables on your list by the date on which you'll buy them. Aim to buy perishables no more than three days before you'll be cooking them.
Three Weeks Ahead:
This week is your first shopping trip:
- First, to avoid clutter, clean out your cupboards and make room for the things you'll be buying.
- Next, buy all nonperishables and gear.
- Finally, if you planned on doing any projects in your home (see above, under "Five Weeks Ahead"), now is a good time to take care of them.
Two Weeks Ahead:
This is the week to do your first cooking—make anything that will store well in the freezer:
- First, clean the freezer to make room for the items you'll be freezing.
- Next, buy the perishable ingredients for the items you'll be making this week.
- Cook as many things as you can now. Good candidates: pie dough, bread, and turkey stock. All of these can be frozen and defrosted just before Thanksgiving.
- To get as much done ahead as possible, also make any nonperishable table decorations (such as pine-cone napkin holders or centerpieces) this week.
One and a Half Weeks Ahead:
The week before Thanksgiving is a good time to prep your home and kitchen for the holiday:
- If you'll be hosting houseguests, make sure you have clean sheets and towels.
- Clean the house, press table linens, and polish silver.
Weekend Before Thanksgiving:
Get ready for next week by doing a few more things now:
- On Friday, do a big fridge-cleaning: Clear out as much as you can to make space for all the ingredients and dishes you'll need to refrigerate in the coming week.
- On Saturday, buy the ingredients for the cranberry sauce.
- If you're getting a frozen turkey and haven't bought it yet, also buy that on Saturday and stow it in the fridge to defrost. It'll need about five hours per pound, so a 15-pound bird bought on Saturday should be thawed by Tuesday evening. You can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days after it's thawed. If your turkey is much larger, buy it sooner to give it ample time to defrost.
- On Sunday, make the cranberry sauce and refrigerate it. (You can make it a bit sooner if that works better for your schedule—it will keep up to two weeks in the fridge.)
Monday Before Thanksgiving:
- Buy the rest of your perishables today or tomorrow.
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving:
To make tomorrow manageable, do as much cooking as you can today. Here's a list of ideas:
- Defrost pie crusts and turkey stock.
- Assemble and bake pies; store them at room temperature (unless they're custard-based, such as pumpkin pie, which should be refrigerated).
- Prepare any side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, that can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave.
- Clean and dry salad greens and store them in a resealable plastic bag.
- Set the table; arrange chairs; set out flowers, candles, and any other decorations.
- If brining your turkey, prep it and leave it in the brine overnight.
The big day! Here's a schedule to help you sail through with ease:morning:
- If stuffing your turkey, prepare the stuffing and fill the turkey.
- Put the turkey in to roast.
- Defrost breads and any other prepared items that have been frozen.
- Chill white wine and beer. Set up the bar for any other drinks you'll be making.
- While the turkey is roasting, complete all the other dishes. Let them stand at room temperature or, if ready more than one hour ahead, refrigerate.
half an hour before dinnertime:
- When the turkey comes out, let it rest while you make the gravy and reheat the side dishes on the stovetop, in the oven, or in the microwave.
- Dress the salad.
- Carve the turkey and serve the meal. (Don't forget to save the carcass for turkey soup.)
- Wrap up leftovers within two hours. (See recipe ideas for using up leftover turkey.)
- Make coffee and tea, whip cream for pies, and serve dessert.