Don't make the mistake of waiting until Thanksgiving morning to start preparing your meal. If nothing else, you need a few days to start defrosting your turkey. Here's a game plan for a standard Thanksgiving meal. Steps:
- One month ahead of time: Make turkey stock for the gravy and freeze.
- One week ahead of time: Make cranberry sauce and refrigerate.
- At least three days ahead of time: If using a frozen turkey, take the bird out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to defrost.
- Two days ahead of time: Make pastry dough for the pumpkin pie. Make a spinach dip or another do-ahead appetizer.
- One day ahead of time: Bake bread for the stuffing and let it stand at room temperature overnight. Chop vegetables for the desired stuffing. Make the dinner rolls. Make the sweet potatoes. Make the pumpkin pie.
- Eight hours before serving the turkey: Make the stuffing. Make the mashed potatoes and refrigerate.
- Five to seven hours before serving the turkey: Roast the turkey. Make cheese crisps or another appetizer. Prepare a vegetable side dish.
- When guests arrive: Serve your appetizers.
- One hour before serving the turkey: Place the turkey on a serving dish. Pour the drippings into a bowl until you're ready to make the gravy. Bake any stuffing that didn't get into the turkey. Reheat the sweet potatoes. Reheat the mashed potatoes. Reheat the dinner rolls. Whip cream for the pumpkin pie and refrigerate. Make the gravy.
Turkey cooking times vary depending on the size of your turkey. You may need to start roasting the turkey earlier if the bird is very large, or perhaps a little later if the bird is small.