Preparing for Thanksgiving: Creating a Cooking Schedule

source: jamesjyu
source: jamesjyu

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving and doing most of the cooking, it’s important to put together a cooking schedule ahead of time so that you can make sure you don’t forget anything or end up with room temperature mashed potatoes by the time everything else is ready. Although it can be overwhelming to think about how to best schedule your food preparations, especially if you’re not a natural in the kitchen, here are some steps to get you started:

Plan Your Menu

Start by writing down every dish that you plan to serve, from appetizers and drinks to desserts.

If I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner, my list would look like this:

  • Cheeseball with crackers
  • Soda
  • Sweet tea
  • Water
  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Green bean casserole
  • Corn
  • Gravy
  • Dinner rolls
  • Pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Next, add notes to your list to indicate any dishes your guests will be bringing. For my pretend Thanksgiving, I would have my mom bring her famous cheeseball and crackers, and then she would help me finish dinner preparations at my house.

Make Notes About Prep Times

Next, take your recipes for each of the above items and write down notes about prep times, oven temperatures and cook times.

Make sure you include all of the important details in this step. For example, if you plan to prepare your sweet potato casserole the day before and need to bring it to room temperature before baking, write that down. Also include notes about what time each item needs to come out of the oven. For instance, the turkey can be taken out and covered with foil while you finish baking your sides. Also note which dishes are cooked at the same temperature.

Work from the Beginning and the End

Take a look at your list and decide what can be prepared ahead of time. Some casseroles can be prepared and frozen, and others can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator. Make sure to make notes about how this affects each dish’s cook time, as noted above.

Next, work from the end of your list, starting with the dish that you want to pull out of the oven last. We like our rolls piping hot, so that would be the last thing I would bake, as we were putting everything else out on the table. I also use stone bakers, so my casseroles stay nice and warm, making it easier to juggle things in the oven.

Finally, write out your final plan, making sure to double check prep times and oven temperatures. Figure out how you’re going to juggle it all ahead of time so that you’re not left figuring it out in the moment!

What do you think is the hardest part about preparing Thanksgiving dinner? What tips or tricks do you use to make it a little bit easier?