An hour-by-hour guide for Thanksgiving Day

Julia Heffelfinger
October 03, 2017

It’s Thanksgiving day and you’ve spent weeks preparing for the biggest and best meal of the year. Now you just need to finish it off. Here, a time-stamped schedule to follow to make sure you get everything done with plenty of time to spare.

NOTE: This schedule works best if you've read the rest of our Thanksgiving planner.

8:00am: Take the turkey and brine out of the fridge (or bring it inside). Let it sit at room temperature while you have a light breakfast and review your game plan.

8:30am: Empty the dishwasher, which you ran the night before.

9:00am: Finish your pies. Mix your fillings, roll out your dough and bake. Let the pies sit at room temperature until it’s time for dessert.

11:00am: One final clean. Give the kitchen floor another sweep before your guests arrive and wipe down the countertops

11:30am: Set up the bar area with glasses and cocktail napkins and put out any wine that is fine at room temperature. If you’re offering spirits, keep it simple with one “house” cocktail. We’ll be serving this Autumn-Fruit Old Fashioned recipe that uses leftover fruit for a DIY infused bourbon.

12:30pm: Set up your coffee pot, so it’s ready to brew as dinner is wrapping up

1:00pm: Organize the “dessert station.” Put a bunch of small plates, forks, coffee cups, sugar, a vessel for cream and serving utensils for dessert on a big tray and store it somewhere out of the way. When it’s time for dessert, pull this out and set it near your pies and coffee.

2:00pm: Take the turkey out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Set a rack in your roasting pan and transfer the turkey to the pan. If you’ve spatchcocked your turkey, make sure that it’s lying flat, breast-side up. Let it sit while you preheat your oven.

2:30pm: Roast your turkey. This will vary depending on the size of your bird, but a whole 12- to 14-pound turkey will take roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes to roast at 400°. If you spatchcocked your turkey, put it in the oven about 45 minutes before your guests arrive. A 10- to 12-pound bird will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 450°.

While the bird is roasting, go clean yourself up and turn on some music.

3:30pm: Lay out the hors d'oeuvres. Place this food as far away from the kitchen as possible, or you’ll have hungry on-lookers crowding your kitchen while you’re trying to finish up the meal.

3:45pm: If you have two ovens, start popping in any sides that need more than an hour to bake (stuffing, potato gratin, corn pudding).

4:00pm: Light the candles as your guests start trickling in. Your turkey should also be close to finished now, so keep an eye on the internal temp. It can rest on the countertop while you finish up the rest of the meal.

4:15pm: Your oven should be free now, so reheat any sides you made in advance or bake anything that still needs time in the oven (for example, biscuits).

4:30pm: Gently reheat your gravy and mashed potatoes on the stove. Whisk the pan drippings from your turkey into your gravy or freeze them for future use.

4:45pm: Assemble your salad. Wait to dress it until right before serving. When you are finished with the oven, turn it off and let it cool slightly. Then put your dinner plates, platters and serving bowls in there to warm.

5:00pm: Carve the turkey. Transfer it to a warmed platter and cover with foil until ready to serve

5:15pm: Transfer the warm gravy and mashed potatoes to preheated serving bowls, if using. Transfer the biscuits to a bread basket. Arrange the food on the buffet.

5:25pm: Dress your salad.

5:30pm: EAT! Have a drink. Enjoy yourself and fight the urge to jump up and start doing dishes.

6:30pm-ish: As dinner is wrapping up, take the ice cream for the pie out of the freezer and/or make your whipped cream. Start the coffee machine. Move your dessert station to the buffet.

End of the night: Pat yourself on the back, then pack up your leftovers and slice or shred any leftover turkey from the bones. Add the turkey carcass to the stock bag of vegetable scraps in your freezer.

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