Published November 23, 2011
Whether you’re hosting for the first time or a seasoned pro, getting a Thanksgiving meal on the table can be a daunting task. Between the turkey, side dishes and visiting family members, a lot needs to be handled in a short time. So before the big day arrives tomorrow, here’s a quick to-do list to ensure you have everything in order.
It’s All About the Bird
First, and most important, you need to thaw your turkey. Too many people wake up on Thanksgiving Day with a rock-hard bird, forcing them to resort to potentially dangerous thawing methods, like running hot water over it. To thaw a turkey in the fridge, Butterball recommends 24 hours for every 4 pounds of turkey. If you need to hasten your bird’s unfreezing, run cold water over it in the sink, or put it in a cooler full of cold water, which will thaw an average turkey in about six hours.
Avoid yet another “uh-oh” moment by making sure your turkey fits your roasting pan. Many people overestimate the size of their cookware, only to realize far too late that they don’t have anything to cook the main dish in.
If you’re deep frying your turkey, make sure you have plenty of fresh cooking oil and a full tank of gas. You don’t want your dinner to get derailed by rancid oil or an empty propane tank
Cooking Up a Storm
Dull knives will make mincemeat of your perfectly roasted turkey and slow you down. Take them to a professional knife sharpener beforehand, or invest a few dollars in a knife sharpener or whetstone and do it yourself.
Next, double check your recipes. Do they call for things you don’t normally have in the pantry, like fresh sage and rosemary? There’s nothing worse than realizing that you’re missing a handful of all-important ingredients midway through cooking.
One of the biggest challenges of cooking the holiday meal is preparing a half-dozen side dishes while the turkey hogs the entire oven. Invest in a slow cooker to keep side dishes warm, freeing up precious oven space.
Getting It All on the Table
Unless you’re a professional chef, Thanksgiving dinner is the largest meal you’re likely to serve all year. As a result, the meal can really strain your typical kitchen resources. Write out a menu and make sure you have a serving dish for everything you plan to make. You don’t want to be forced to parcel out side dishes in cereal bowls, and serve your gravy in measuring cups.
Get a headcount and make sure you have enough chairs, cutlery, plates and glasses – maybe two or more sets — for each of your guests. If this is your first time hosting a big meal like this, you may need to buy more housewares. Head to a restaurant supply store to get a cheap bulk rate on everything you need.
Finally, to take some pressure off of you on the big day, set the table the night before hand; you’ll be thankful to have one less thing to do tomorrow.
Master Your Mixology
Thanksgiving means family, which often means arguments and stress. Lighten things up this year by making sure you have a well-stocked bar. In addition to booze, you’ll want plenty of mixers like tomato juice, club soda and orange juice. You’ll also want important garnishes, like olives, cherries and lemon wedges.
Unless your family likes warm beer and soda, never underestimate the amount of ice you’ll need. Ice is not one of those things you can make on the fly, and you probably won’t have the space in your fridge to chill a lot of drinks.
Finally, put your white wine in the fridge with plenty of time for it to chill before dinner.
Plan for Company
If you have guests spending the weekend, make sure everything is ready for their arrival. Clean the bathroom and fill it with needed toiletries like soap, shaving cream and toothpaste.
If family members are staying on a hide-a-bed or sleeper sofa, air it out the day before, so that guests aren’t forced to sleep on a musty mattress. If you’re going to use an air mattress, check to make sure that it works and hasn’t sprung a leak before your guests arrive.