Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thanksgiving Timeline

The timeline is also available as a Microsoft Excel file for you to download and modify for your own personal use.

Thanksgiving Planner Download

Thanksgiving Checklist

You will be making a time table for dishes that can be made ahead of time, consult this daily the last week in November to keep on schedule.

First Weekend in November
1 Determine the menu
2 Decide when you are going serve dinner and who you are going to invite
3 Decide what dishes you will ask others to bring, if they offer. Accept their offer!
4 Figure out a Thanksgiving Day Timetable for preparation of dishes and specifically of when dishes need to begin cooking in order to serve on time
5 Determine when you need to start defrosting your turkey, or order a fresh turkey
6 Issues invitations either formally or verbally
7 Make a complete list of ingredients needed so you aren't caught with last minute trips to the grocery store, remember beverages
8 Take an inventory of your pantry and make a grocery list
9 Pick up everything you need except perishables two weeks in advance
10 Make a timetable of items that can be made in advance
11 Plan your breakfast and lunch, if necessary for Thursday morning
12 Add any items you want to get accomplished between now and Thanksgiving to the calendar

Second Weekend in November
1 Plan and order or create your centerpiece
2 Clean your house, polish silver, switch to fall d├ęcor, make a plan to keep on top of the cleaning and clutter over the next two weeks
3 Find all of the utensils and items that you only use this time of year and make sure they are in good working order
4 Make arrangements to rent or borrow any additional seating, tables, linens, or other items

The Weekend Before
1 Wash and/or iron any linens, as needed
2 Pick up all perishables and anything else you haven't bought already
3 Clean out your fridge and freezer to make room for all the make ahead dishes
4 Make a meal for Wednesday night that can just be heated up quickly
5 Write down everything you are serving on small pieces of paper, assemble all of your serving platters and utensils and put the corresponding slip of paper with them. Borrow additional items, if needed.
6 Clean out your ice trays and start making extra ice for Thursday.

Two Days Before
1 Dust and vacuum the rooms you will be using
2 Clean the powder room
3 Have all dishes washed and put away (you will want an empty dishwasher ready to go) and counters wiped down and ready for service

The Night Before
1 Put the turkey in brine solution, if applicable
2 Set the table
3 Have all dishes washed and put away (you will want an empty dishwasher ready to go) and counters wiped down and ready for service
4 Consult your timetable for tomorrow
5 Go To Bed Early! You will need to wake up early to get everything done on time.

Thanksgiving Day
1 Pull turkey out of the brine, rinse well, and pat dry, follow recipes from here
2 Follow your timetable you made the first weekend of November

Frequently Asked Turkey Questions

How long do I defrost my turkey?
Use this timetable as a guide. You should defrost a frozen turkey in its original wrapping in the refrigerator (don't count Thanksgiving day):
10- to 12-pound bird 2 days
12- to 14-pound bird 3 days
14- to 18-pound bird 4 days
18-pound-plus bird 5 days

When is the Turkey done?
The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh (don't touch the bone) reads 180 F and the stuffing reads 165 F. The juice from the thigh should be clear when pierced with a fork and the drumstick and wings could just about fall off the bird when moved a bit.

How often should I baste the turkey?
Actually, basting is not necessary, can prevent a wonderfully brown crackly skin and will extend the cooking time from the opening and shutting of the oven door. Keep the oven door shut as much as possible.

How big a turkey do I need?
Butterball has a great turkey calculator which will even let you account for leftovers and how much stuffing will be needed. If you are only cooking for a smaller group (2-5), consider a turkey breast, or a smaller bird (duck, chicken, quail, game hen).

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