Thanksgiving Menus for Beginners to Experts Article -
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Thanksgiving Menus for Beginners to Experts

Whether this is your first time preparing Thanksgiving dinner or your fiftieth, we've got a menu just for you.

Game Plan for Easy Menu

The trickiest part of preparing a holiday meal is the timing. The key is to make as many items ahead of time as you can, and reheat them on Thanksgiving Day.

One to Two Weeks Ahead:

  • Make a shopping list; beat the holiday rush
  • Make and freeze Yummy Yam Casserole (omit topping)

Two Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Place turkey in refrigerator to thaw (birds larger than 12 lbs. will require 3 days to thaw)
  • Make cranberry sauce
  • Bake pecan bars. Cool completely; slice bars. Store tightly covered with plastic wrap in a cool, dry place.

Day Before:

  • Toast almonds for green beans in ungreased skillet over med. heat until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl or lidded container. Cook bacon for green beans, if using; crumble and mix with toasted almonds & refrigerate.
  • Make mashed potatoes; store in the refrigerator
  • Make stuffing; store in the refrigerator
  • Prepare Pumpkin Cream Pie
  • Set the dining room table. Include serving dishes for gravy, dinner rolls, butter, and green beans, plus serving utensils.

Night Before:

  • Place Yam Casserole in the fridge to thaw
  • Chop onion for Jazzed up Gravy; sauté with herbs as directed. Add to prepared gravy; store jar or container in fridge.

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Remove an oven rack, if necessary. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Roast turkey as directed. Remove from oven and let stand for 30 minutes before carving.
  • Add pecan topping to yam casserole.

An hour before dinner:

  • Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Replace oven rack. Bake the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, and the yam casserole.

Half an hour before dinner:

  • Wrap dinner rolls in foil. Place in oven to heat.
  • Warm gravy in saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Melt butter for green beans in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Cook beans until tender. Stir in almonds and crumbled bacon and cook until heated through.

Finishing Touches:

  • Transfer gravy, rolls and green beans into serving bowls.
  • Carve the turkey and arrange meat on a warmed platter.
  • Turkey Day troubles? Find quick fixes for lumpy or thin gravy, soggy stuffing, dry turkey meat and other common Thanksgiving disasters with our Thanksgiving Disaster Savers.

Game Plan for Advanced Menu

One to Two Weeks Before:

  • Make a shopping list; beat the holiday rush
  • Make dinner rolls; proof for twenty minutes, then freeze. When firm, transfer rolls to plastic freezer bag.
  • Make pastry for pecan pie (use recipe of your choice). Chill dough, then roll out and line a nine-inch pie shell. Freeze until firm. Wrap frozen dough and pan with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Three Days Before:

  • Thaw turkey in refrigerator
  • Prepare and bake cheesecake crust; cool and wrap with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature in a cool, dry place.

Two Days Before:

  • Make chutney
  • Cube bread for stuffing: use a mix of multigrain, rye, and country white bread for Old-Fashioned Stuffing, or make pumpkin bread for Ibby's Pumpkin-Mushroom Stuffing
  • Bake pie shell (see Perfect Pie Crusts for instructions on blind baking). Cool and wrap with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature in a cool, dry place.

Day Before:

  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity
  • Brine turkey
  • Make stock out of turkey neck and giblets (do not use the liver for making stock, as it can make broth bitter), celery, onion, carrot and aromatics
  • Bake cheesecake
  • Bake pecan pie
  • Prep veggies for roasting
  • Toast pine nuts and cook bacon for Brussels Sprouts; store in refrigerator
  • Make stuffing

Night Before:

  • If you have room in the fridge, arrange frozen dinner rolls on sheet pan and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. (Otherwise, thaw at room temperature on Thanksgiving morning.)
  • Set the dining room table. Include serving dishes for gravy, dinner rolls, butter, and side dishes, plus serving utensils.

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Brush dinner rolls with egg wash
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake rolls and stuffing.
  • Light coals; prep grill
  • Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F and roast vegetables
  • Grill turkey

One hour before dinner:

  • Make mashed potatoes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and rest bowl over pan of simmering water to keep warm.

Half an hour before dinner:

  • Collect drippings from roasting pan under turkey. Make gravy.
  • Prepare Brussels sprouts
  • Keep stuffing and roasted vegetables warm in a 300 degree F oven.
  • Wrap rolls in foil and warm in oven, if desired

Thanksgiving Helper

    Sep. 26, 2009 7:49 am
    very helpful
    Oct. 7, 2009 9:01 am
    Very helpful tips.
    Oct. 24, 2009 4:34 pm
    This is my first Thanksgiving so I am a little nervous. This helped me to calm down and see that I can make stuff a day or two ahead of time.
    Oct. 25, 2009 1:26 pm
    Using this guide, I know that my Thanksgiving menu will be perfect.
    Nov. 3, 2009 10:33 pm
    sounds great. not printer-friendly.
    Nov. 4, 2009 5:49 am
    Excellent guide, but you need a more user friendly printing format like your recipes.
    Nov. 4, 2009 8:53 am
    When are you supposed to make the Macaroni & Cheese ?
    Nov. 5, 2009 9:46 am
    Thank you. Always did everything the day of, now I will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving instead of making myself tired and not able to visit!
    Nov. 12, 2009 9:25 am
    The tip for keeping the mashed potatoes warm was great! No more cold potatoes in my house!
    Nov. 16, 2009 5:44 pm
    I went through this list, and discovered that either I had already added a recipe for most things, or that my family has a tradition for most things. I realized I wasn't really missing anything, and that was helpful to me.
    Nov. 18, 2009 7:47 am
    To print, just highlight what you want to print, right click on mouse, select print preview, on preview, click on drop down at (as laid out on screen) and select (as selected on screen) and print. Or copy and paste to blank page.
    Nov. 19, 2009 8:19 pm
    These are all great ideas. I've been having Thanksgiving for about 35 years at my house now and do most of the cooking. I usually cook my turkey the night before Thanksgiving. Stuff it with celery/onion/and an apple, salt/pepper and a stick of butter and 2 cups water in a roasting pan, bake at 500 degrees for an hour then turn it off till morning, do not open oven. Then you have the drippings to make your gravy and some for the cornbread dressing too. WoW, I can't wait!!! I love this site, I learn something every day. Joan Bunge/Happy Turkey day everyone, all good cooks everywhere.
    Nov. 19, 2009 8:22 pm
    one more tip, use a premade graham cracker pie crust for your pumpkin pie, it adds a nice little sweetness to the pie that a flour pie crust just can't touch.They bake up very nice.
    Nov. 20, 2009 6:47 am
    I've used this guide every year for the last 3 years. I love love love it. It really takes the stress out of cooking and breaks it up for you. I cook for 12-20 people every year and last year, everyone was amazed when I was sitting on the couch watching football with the family instead of slaving in the kitchen. I didn't need to! I was so organized, I had no running around to do!
    Nov. 23, 2009 1:46 pm
    Any ideas for breakfast items? It is easier for my family to have a Thanksgiving breakfast so we all can get together and spend more time together.I'm getting tired of fixing Quiche and muffins.
    Nov. 26, 2009 7:32 am
    I forgot and left my frozen turkey out of the refridgerator over night, is it any good?
    Nov. 26, 2009 8:39 am
    Thankyou thankyou thankyou!
    Nov. 16, 2010 4:13 pm
    Last year I used this as a guide with my own version of recipes. It worked perfect!I wasn't crazy like usual and was able to enjoy my company! I will use it again this year! Thank You!
    Nov. 23, 2010 1:32 pm
    Don't forget about music! has a bunch of different Thanksgiving-themed playlists on their site including a classy Thanksgiving Dinner mix as well as playlists submitted by guests including the food blog "Taste as you Go"! It's totally free to listen (you don't need to create an account or anything) AND you can even create and share your own playlist if you like!
    Nov. 13, 2011 2:17 pm
    Nov. 14, 2012 11:28 am
    This is such a wonderful guideline.
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