Thanksgiving Preparations: The Complete Week Before Checklist
Thanksgiving is just over one week away! I am especially excited (and nervous) this year because I am hosting for the very first time. I have always helped my mom cook Thanksgiving dinner but this is the very first year that I will be hosting the in-laws at my house.
I will be serving a whopping 16 dishes so the only way for everything to come out perfectly (and warm at the same time) is to be extremely organized ahead of time.
Since I tend to be a little bit of a perfectionist (some may call it OCD), I've been putting together a Thanksgiving Day notebook. It includes printouts of all the recipes that I will be making (which a lot of research and testing went into as well as asking family members for their recipes), a gusset list (now's the time to confirm invitations and RSVP's), a Thanksgiving outline (which includes a menu and a to do list for the week leading up to the big day), a grocery list and a Thanksgiving day schedule. I'm also going to print out tips for carving the turkey and temperature requirements just so I have everything all in one spot (better to be over-prepared right?!).
Here's some of my planning to hopefully help you with yours:
Start your Thanksgiving planning by making a complete menu. Right down what your guests are bringing, what you need to pick up and what you will be making. Here's mine:
Ham (picking up)
Broccoli Cheese Casserole (mother-in-law bringing)
Macaroni and cheese
pumpkin pie with brûlée top
caramel pecan fudge pie
brie with cranberries and pecans for appetizer
(you think I've lost my mind? I keep asking myself the same thing…)
The Week Before:
You can do several things the week before to go ahead and get a head-start. I have already made and frozen my pie crusts (check out recipe HERE).
Growing up my step-dad always made THE BEST dressing. I snagged his recipe and the key is making your own chicken stock ahead of time.
I used Ina Garten's Chicken Stock Recipe and I have to tell you it was so fun to make (I sound like a nerd). Basically you get a giant stock pot (if you follow me on Instagram, you saw my adventure to L & L Restaurant Supply - in love), rough chop a bunch of vegetables and herbs, throw them in with three whole chickens, fill it with water and let it simmer for 4 hours.
It makes the most beautiful chicken broth that is perfect for freezing.
There is more than enough to use for thanksgiving (will go in my dressing, turnip greens and gravy) and plenty more to cook with down the road. I already made chicken noodle soup with it for dinner last night (I shredded some of the chicken left over from the stock to use in the soup and also stored a bunch to make chicken salad and casseroles later).
Speaking of dressing, you can go ahead and make fresh bread and cornbread and freeze it in preparation. I went ahead and made a skillet cornbread and will be picking up some home-made sour dough bread next week from a friend (she makes the best).
A cornbread trick that my grandmother taught me is to put about a 1/2 cup canola oil in a iron skillet and place it in your preheated oven (just follow your recipe temp, mine is at 400 degrees) for 5-10 minutes until the oil is hot. Then pour your cornbread batter straight into the skillet (on top of the hot oil) and put it back in the oven to bake. It makes the crispiest crunchy texture to your cornbread. She also flips her cornbread in the skillet when it comes out (so the top gets crisp too).
Finally, I went ahead and made my mom's yeast rolls. I baked them just until they were cooked (not browned), let them cool and then wrapped them and placed them in the freezer. I'll bring them out on Thanksgiving and heat and brown them (Sister Schubert can do it, why can't I?).
Also, if you are getting a fresh turkey (or ordering a pre-cooked turkey) now's the time. I went online and reserved a fresh turkey at Whole Foods that I'll pick up next week. Go ahead and buy beer and wine and make sure that you have enough dishes, glasses, silverware and serving dishes.
Preparing Your Home:
Luckily, all of our family lives in town so no one will be staying with us over the holidays. If you do have guests staying with you, you'll want to make sure your guest quarters are like a hotel—clean sheets, fresh towels, new toiletries, ect. Do NOT put your guests in a room that you are using for storage. Sometimes guest bedrooms are used as being a dumping ground for things that do not have a place in your home (ours is totally guilty). Clean it completely out and make sure it is free of personal clutter.
The week leading up the Thanksgiving, you want to deep clean your house. Go ahead and do all those things you've been putting off—pressure wash the walkway, change lightbulbs, press the napkins, polish the silver, dust ceiling fans, vacuum blinds. You also want to make sure your kitchen is ready: the Thanksgiving HUB.
Clean out your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Go ahead and take inventory of what you have and once you've made your grocery list, you can compare what you need vs. what you've already got (this is especially important for spices). Clean your oven, microwave, and clean out your cabinets (this seems extreme but guests are going to be looking in there - make sure everything is organized if it's not already). Clean things like oven mitts and dish towels. Mine totally get grimy, soak them in Biz and wash everything. Also, make sure that all your appliances are working properly. Use a oven thermometer to check to make sure that your oven is cooking at the correct temperature, change out your water filter, dump your ice and clean out the tray.
On top of all that? Decorate your home. While I have my table done (check it out here), I still need to decorate my mantle and den coffee table.
Think I've gone overboard? Check back here tomorrow for my Thanksgiving week of preparations, grocery list and Thanksgiving Day minute-by-minute schedule.
- Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas & How To Host Thanksgiving | Pottery Barn (potterybarn.com)
- The Food Lab's Complete Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, 2013 (seriouseats.com)
- Top holiday cooking apps on iOS (reviews.cnet.com)