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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Prep: Timing

Timing is everything, right? That couldn’t be truer than when you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner. ESPECIALLY if you only have 1 oven. It is tricky. I thought I’d share my schedule – hopefully it’s helpful to some of you out there.

Quick Jane tip – once the turkey goes in the oven and I know approximate times for everything (based on schedule below), I write the schedule with specific times on post-it notes and stick that to the wall above the oven, That way I don’t forget when to do things. It helps so much!

A few days prior:

  • Get that frozen turkey in the fridge! You need 1 day for every 4 pounds to defrost a turkey in the fridge, and trust me, it’s much better to defrost this way rather than in water in your sink (that’s the fast way, but truly not as effective…think, partially frozen turkey Thanksgiving morning).
  • My now-favorite way to cook turkey is to spatchcock and dry brine the turkey. In this case, buy a fresh, un-brined turkey 3 days before Thanksgiving and begin the dry brine process.


  • Cut up bread for stuffing. I cut white sandwich bread into bite-sized cubes, spread on cookie sheets and leave out in open air to dry out.


  • Make the desserts/pies.
  • Make any casseroles that can sit in the fridge overnight.
  • The first half of my family’s Cranberry Slush needs to be prepared the day before (but can be prepared even earlier if you want).
  • For the years I make squash rolls, I cook the squash the day before.

Thanksgiving Day:

  • Make the stuffing. (Whatever stuffing doesn’t fit in the turkey, refrigerate until later.)
  • Prep & stuff turkey in the morning and get in the oven. Butterball has an awesome online guide, which includes a calculator to determine how long you need to cook your turkey. My 13 pound stuffed turkey will take 3 3/4 – 4 1/2 hours at 325 degrees. NOTE: If you use my new technique of spatchcocking the turkey, then the turkey will cook much faster and you can put it in the oven a little later than normal.
  • Prepare side dishes that couldn’t be made ahead of time.
  • About 2 hours before turkey is done, begin making rolls. (Click here for my favorite crescent roll recipe.)
  • About 1 hour before turkey is done, prepare mashed potatoes. Keep in pan with lid on until dinner.
  • When turkey is done, take out of oven and cover with foil until later. Casseroles and stuffing can now go in the oven. When those dishes are done, bake the rolls last.
  • Heat up any pre-prepared dishes near the end.
  • Make gravy while casseroles are cooking.
  • Mix cranberry slush at the VERY END right as everyone sits down to eat!

Just writing this up is making me tired. Glad I have my sister here as sous-chef. 🙂 Even though it’s a lot of work, it is totally worth it – I can’t wait to eat it all!

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