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Countdown to Thanksgiving Dinner

When it comes to hosting Thanksgiving dinner, having a well thought out timeline and plan will make your life a lot easier as the countdown the T-Day begins, and we’re here to help!

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blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

SEE THE RECIPE

Whether it's your first time hosting or you’ve served Thanksgiving dinner every year for many years, putting together a timetable and plan is very important. Planning ahead, beginning about three weeks in advance, can help you have a successful, stress-free Thanksgiving celebration. 

First Thing To Do When Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

A Thanksgiving Timetable:

Once you have your lists (and menu) finalized, you can begin outlining your timeline. It’s important to have a detailed timeline leading up to Thanksgiving because it will help prevent any last minute “woulda, coulda, shouldas” on the day of, even if your Thanksgiving dinner is just for two.

What to do Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving - 11/12 

  • Define your space: Two weeks before Thanksgiving you should be thinking about where you want to serve dinner and determining how it will be served. Will you serve Thanksgiving dinner family style at the table, as a buffet, or in courses? 
    Where you serve dinner may also depend on how many guests you’ll have. Does the room accommodate that number and do you need to consider spacing between chairs?
    Don't limit yourself to the kitchen or dining room, either! Think of ways you can get creative in the living room, family room, the garage or even outside. Getting imaginative with your space can lead to a fun and unique experience for you and your guests! 

  • Determine your décor:
    If you plan on decorating, two weeks before Thanksgiving is the time to visualize your tablescape and determine your decorations. This includes your centerpiece, napkins, dinnerware, serving dishes and serving utensils.

    Are you a visual person? We find it helpful to write down each menu item on individual pieces of paper and place them in the serving dish you plan on using. It's a great way to confirm you have enough dishes and you aren't scrambling to find a bowl last minute. 

What to do One Week Before Thanksgiving - 11/19

  • One week leading up to Thanksgiving, you should put together the grocery list for the dinner and shop for your nonperishable ingredients as well as a 12- to 14-pound frozen turkey, unless you want to serve a fresh turkey. Of course, the size of your turkey will vary depending on number of guests. Typically, it's 1-pound per person or 1 1/2-pounds per person if you want leftovers. And remember, it may seem obvious, but place the frozen turkey in the freezer. At one week out, it's not quite time to thaw it yet.

    Hosting a smaller gathering? Think about cooking a whole chicken or turkey breast instead.

What to do Five Days Before - 11/21

  • Five days before Thanksgiving, remove the turkey from the freezer and place it into a 13x9-inch baking pan or large roasting pan. Place it in the refrigerator and let it thaw gradually until Thanksgiving Day.

What to do Three Days Before - 11/23

  • Shop for perishable ingredients for the meal; things like fresh produce and Land O Lakes Butter with Canola Oil.

  • ​Three days out from Thanksgiving This is also the time you should buy a fresh turkey if you didn't purchase a frozen one earlier.

What to do Two Days Before -11/24

  • If you plan on baking bread to serve with dinner, you should plan on doing so two days before Thanksgiving. For something classic, we recommend our Grandma's Dinner Rolls. For something a little different, but equally buttery and satisfying, try our Perfect Flaky Butter Biscuits. The biscuit recipe can easily be cut in half for smaller gatherings!

    When your breads are baked and cooled, place them into a resealable plastic food bag and freeze so they are fresh on Thanksgiving Day.

  • You should also make your pie crust for dessert two days out from Thanksgiving. Pie crusts can easily be stored in the refrigerator until it’s time to make your pie (at one day out).

    Why make your pie crust ahead of time? Well, there are a couple reasons:

    1. If you make your pie crust two days before Thanksgiving, it’s one less thing to do the day before. You’ll just have to assemble and bake the pie!

    2. Letting the dough for your pie crust relax overnight in the fridge will keep it tender and the butter cold, which is ideal for a perfectly flakey crust.

What to do One Day Before - 11/25

  • The day before Thanksgiving should be the day you make your desserts! 
    If you are making pies for Thanksgiving, they should be cooled to room temperature prior to placing in the refrigerator. Once cooled, cover with plastic food wrap and store in the refrigerator until it’s near time to enjoy!

    Looking for dessert inspiration for Thanksgiving? Check out our Thanksgiving Pies and Tarts collection! It’s full of delectable bites that are sure to please and impress everyone at the table.

    If you're hosting a smaller crowd this year, or simply like having options, we developed a new pie perfect for the occasion! This Pumpkin and Pecan Pie, two Thanksgiving pie classics, is the best of both worlds and won’t result a ton of pie leftovers!

  • One day prior to Thanksgiving, you should set your table with your centerpiece, dishes, glasses and silverware (remember to include salt and pepper on the table). Confirm serving dishes and serving utensils.

  • Peel and chop potatoes the day before Thanksgiving. Estimate 1 medium potato per person. Cover the potatoes with cool water so the potatoes do not discolor. Put the bowl of potatoes into the refrigerator. Better yet, ask someone to help and do this for you!

  • ​Prepare some of your side dishes one day out from Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes and Fresh Herb Browned Butter Stuffing can be made up until the bake step! Once prepared, cover with plastic food wrap and refrigerated until the day of Thanksgiving. These recipes can also be cut in half for smaller portions.

  • The day before Thanksgiving you should also double check your lists and make sure you aren't missing anything. Based on your original timeline, determine the time to begin roasting the turkey. This will depend on when you plan to serve the meal. For specific turkey roasting information and the perfectly seasoned bird, use our Butter Herb Roasted Turkey recipe. The technique used in the recipe can easily be cut in half and used for a whole chicken.

What to do on Thanksgiving Day

  • Panic and leave town. (OK, just kidding. Sort of.) Make a pot of coffee and take a deep breath. You've made it this far - we're coming into the home stretch!

The Morning of Thanksgiving

  • On the morning of Thanksgiving, you should remove your turkey from the refrigerator (you did get a turkey, didn’t you?😉), rinse it and pat it dry. Make sure you remove the bag of giblets and neck that are packaged inside the turkey. 

  • Turkey doesn’t take quite as long people think, over-roasting leads to a dry bird and a gravy shortage. Remember to allow at least 20 minutes to let the turkey stand at room temperature after roasting and before slicing. The meat will then slice more easily and will stay juicy!

One-two hours before serving Thanksgiving 

  • Bake those side dishes you made yesterday! Plan to place a casserole with the stuffing into the oven about one hour before serving time.

  • Drain water from peeled potatoes. Cook potatoes about 45 minutes before serving time. This will allow enough time for the potatoes to cook until fork tender and also to mash and season the Homestyle Mashed Potatoes.

  • Prepare Perfectly Roasted Carrots so they will be ready to be placed in the oven about 30 minutes before serving time. ​

20 minutes before serving Thanksgiving dinner

  • Ask someone to carve the turkey. (Don’t be shy, someone is surely willing to help.)

  • Prepare any dessert fixings, such as making Sweetened Whipped Cream for topping pies, so it will be ready by the time you serve desserts.

  • Place all the food in serving dishes and announce dinner is ready! 

  • Relax – you’ve earned it – and enjoy! You successfully served a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. (There, aren’t you glad you didn’t leave town?)

Need a Little More Help?​

We're here for you! Don't hesitate to reach out with any cooking, baking or product questions during the holiday season. You can message our consumer affairs team by sending us a message or by calling 1-800-328-4155 Monday 9am – 3:30pm Central and Tuesday - Friday 8am – 3:30pm Central.

Do you have any helpful tips for a successful Thanksgiving? We would love to hear them! Share in the comments below and be sure to share your Thanksgiving table with us on Instagram by tagging @landolakesktchn. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Ready to make the recipe? Let’s get started making Pumpkin and Pecan Pie!

Pumpkin and Pecan Pie Image
Pumpkin and Pecan Pie