Choose a menu. If you're ordering a fresh turkey, do it now; if you're buying a frozen turkey, you still have time, but don't wait until the last minute. Remember: It's best to allow four to five days for it to thaw. (For advice on buying, defrosting, and cooking your turkey, see How Big a Bird, and Other Turkey Tips.) Floral centerpieces finish off a well-set table. Florists are busy this time of year, so order flowers now.
Four Days Before Thanksgiving
Start defrosting the frozen turkey in the back of the refrigerator, where it is coldest. Compose a shopping list, and purchase all non-perishables. Wait until the day before Thanksgiving to buy salad greens, fresh bread, or seafood.If you're baking pies for dessert, make the dough for the crust, roll it out, lay it into pie plates, and freeze.
Two Days Before Thanksgiving
Prepare the serving pieces, plates, flatware, glasses, etc.If you're using cloth napkins or tablecloths, iron them now.Make the cranberry sauce (try our Cranberry Orange Relish); a couple of days in the refrigerator will give the flavors time to develop. Homemade stuffing often calls for stale bread; cut and cube the bread now, and set the cubes out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
One Day Before Thanksgiving
Pick up the fresh turkey from the market. Prepare the stuffing (try our Classic Stuffing), but leave out any raw eggs until you stuff the bird. Make the Giblet Stock for the gravy. Defrost pie dough; assemble and bake pies.Peel the potatoes, then refrigerate them in a pot of cold water.Make the vegetables and other side dishes that require baking, such as casseroles, and reheat them tomorrow; or assemble them today, and cook them right before dinner.Set the table tonight or first thing in the morning.
Thanksgiving Day: Dinner at 5 p.m.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator, allowing it to sit for ninety minutes to two hours at room temperature. If your stuffing recipe calls for eggs, add them now.
Preheat the oven, and stuff the turkey. (See Roast Turkey 101 for step-by-step directions.)
Put the turkey in the oven, basting it every half hour.
Chill the white wine.
Make the mashed potatoes. Closer to dinnertime, place them in a heat-proof bowl and set them at the back of the stove over simmering water.
Prepare the coffee, but do not brew it until about twenty minutes before it will be served.
Check the temperature of the turkey at the thigh, which is the thickest part. If the thermometer reads 180 degrees , remove the turkey from the oven. If not, check the temperature every fifteen minutes until the bird is done.
The turkey will need to sit for thirty minutes prior to carving. Take advantage of the break to make the gravy and last-minute vegetables.
4:30 to 5 p.m.
Call everyone to the table.