Turkey Day Countdown: The beauty of back-timing

Let’s face it, hosting the family feast is a big job. But for the dedicated, organized baker, Thanksgiving, or any holiday, is a chance to really show what you can do.

Ever wonder how restaurants (the good ones, at least) are able to put out seemingly endless amounts of food, with no visible effort?

The secret is a skill called back-timing. You look at your menu, and see what items can (and should) be made in advance. Some recipes taste better when their flavors have had some time to meld (pumpkin pie filling is a perfect example).

Next, you spread the work over the week or so before the big event. As you pick off the dishes on your menu, one by one, you get a sense of accomplishment, and steady progress toward a wonderful meal. Best of all, you get to sit down and eat, too, without feeling like you’re collapsing at the finish line of a marathon.

One of the greatest challenges in the process is finding adequate refrigerator space. Most folks who regularly host the feast have contingency plans worked out already. I have a second refrigerator in our garage that’s my “project” fridge. It only gets plugged in when I’m in the middle of a week-long prep adventure, like this one; or making a wedding cake.

Right now. Like, as soon as you’re done reading.


“B” for bottoms, “T” for tops. PJ will tell you why. Everybody into the freezer!

Pie dough. Make dough for as many pies as you’ll need. Divide it (see PJ’s A-ha moment blog), wrap, and freeze. Some of us keep pie dough in the freezer at all times, just because. If you’re a real go-getter, make your pumpkin pie filling, too, and freeze it. Yes. You can freeze it raw. It will still bake perfectly after thawing, and will taste better, too.

turkeybrothbeginningsBuy a couple of turkey legs and wings if you can get them. Use them to make turkey broth: about a half gallon’s worth. Your guests, pot pies, and hot turkey sandwiches be thanking you later. There’s never enough gravy,  but you don’t have to fall into that trap.

10 days before T-day:

menuFinalize your menu, give food assignments to family/guests. Don’t forget to tell them how many people you’re expecting. If your list includes 20 people, and your cousin’s apple tart only serves six, you’re going to need more than one dessert.

Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring something specific. They want to feel like they’re helping with the meal, and even assigning something as simple as cheese and crackers or a crudité platter will ensure you don’t end up with three green bean casseroles on the big day, and no pumpkin pie.

7 days before T-day:

Make your list and go shopping. There’s nothing worse than wading through throngs of fellow procrastinators on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the big event. Even the weekend before T-day is a madhouse. Try to get most of your staples in hand before then.

dishesandlabelsIf you have the space, it’s not too early to get out the serving dishes for everything on your menu, find a serving utensil for each item, and put them all on the sideboard, enclosed back porch, or dining room table. Label what goes in which dish with a sticky note or slip of paper. This will save you an enormous amount of scrambling on the actual day, when you’re trying to get all the food out at once.

Ok, T-day is Thursday. The  real countdown begins.


baggedonionsPeel 3 pounds of onions; store in a large bag in the refrigerator. You’ll be using them all week.

rollkitvertMake kits for your dinner rolls (measure out all the dry ingredients in the recipe, and put them in a storage bag). Label with a piece of masking tape. Print the recipe and attach to the bag. Put someplace where you’ll remember – maybe the dish you have set aside for the rolls.

If your turkey is more than 15 pounds and frozen, it’s time to find a spot for it in the refrigerator so it can thaw. If you have a good friend, relative, or neighbor who isn’t hosting their own feast, perhaps you can get them to adopt your bird for a few days in exchange for the baked good of their choice, to be named later.


ChutneyCollageMake cranberry chutney. Put in a serving dish, cover, and refrigerate.

applefillingCollageMake apple pie filling, bake at 350°F in a 9″ x 13″ pan for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool and refrigerate.

cheesecake prepMake cheesecake crust mixture and filling; refrigerate.



Bake the cheesecake. Cool, cover, and freeze (if you’re shy on refrigerator space).

Pull pumpkin pie filling and pie-dough disks from the freezer, and transfer to the refrigerator. You’ll be baking pies tomorrow.

cookstuffinggarnishCut the vegetables and cook the sausage (if using) for stuffing. Refrigerate.


Cook and mash potatoes for Sweet Potato Cloverleaf Buns.

Take out your turkey – it’s time to get it ready. In putting this post together I had an “a-ha” moment: How many times have you set up the bird, then realized you put the label with the weight on it in the trash, and had to go digging through God-knows-what to retrieve it?

labeltryptychPlease do one of these two things: get out your phone and take a picture of the label before you open the wrapper; or cut the label out (wash it if you’re creeped out by poultry cooties) and just tape it to the oven door. Got it? OK, next step.


For this 12+ pound turkey, I used a little over half the dry brine. Bigger birds will use more, but the amounts given are enough for up to a 20-pound bird. The mixture is handy to have on hand for any kind of poultry.

Dry-brine the turkey: Pull the neck and giblets from inside the bird, then rub all over and inside the cavity with this seasoning mixture: 1/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons onion powder, 1 tablespoon dried sage, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper. If you love garlic, feel free to put a tablespoon of granulated or garlic powder in the mix as well. Mix up all the spices and herbs and go to it. Put the bird in a roasting bag and turn it over once or twice a day.

cookgibletsCook the giblets and neck in the turkey broth you made earlier: simmer for 2 hours with a bay leaf, half a cut onion, and a chopped celery stalk. Strain, chop, and save the giblets, if using.

gravybaseCollageGet a head start on your gravy: in a large saucepan, melt 4 ounces butter and whisk in 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the 2 quarts fortified broth a half cup at a time, whisking well between additions to eliminate lumps. Once all the broth is in the pot, simmer for 25 minutes. The mixture will be thick, but you’ll be adding more liquid from the roasting pan later. Cool and refrigerate.


Early in the day, while you’re still fresh (but after coffee), do the math and determine when the bird goes into the oven tomorrow. Remember, you’ll want to give the bird at least 45 minutes to rest, covered, before carving. For a stuffed, 18-pound turkey that’s going to be served at 5 p.m., it should go into a preheated 350°F oven at noon. If you want to roast slower, at 325°, make it 11:30. You’ll be taking it out around 4.

Write your “start baking” time down and put it on the oven door under that label you have taped there.

applepierawAssemble and bake the apple and pumpkin pies.

pumpkinpieRemember, your fillings are all set: all you have to do is roll dough, fill, and put the pies in the oven. Apple pie will be fine at room temp. until tomorrow; refrigerate the pumpkin.

assembled stuffingAssemble your stuffing/dressing.

toast almondsToast the almonds for the green beans.


Peel potatoes for mashers, and hold in the pot you plan to cook them in covered in cold, salted water. (This is a great job to farm out to the kids.) Here’s hoping it’s cold enough outside to make use of the mudroom, garage, or back porch to store them. Once the kids have peeled the spuds, make them set the table.

neepsCook and mash rutabagas (this is a Reid family must-have; a bow to our Scots ancestry). I highly recommend putting a cubed Granny Smith apple in the pot with the neeps; cook until they’re tender, mash all together, and finish with butter, salt, pepper, and a dash of boiled cider.

rolldoughLate in the day, make the dough for your dinner rolls. Put it in a greased bag (no need to let them rise first) and refrigerate overnight. If you froze the cheesecake, pull it out and put it on the porch, in your backup fridge, or in the mudroom.


dinnerrollCollage10:00 am: Shape and bake the rolls. You’ll reheat them later, once the bird is out of the oven.


I line the cavity with a simple bag I sewed from cheesecloth, to make taking the stuffing out much simpler later on.

12:00 noon: Stuff the turkey (loosely! it will expand) and put in the oven. Put any extra in a buttered baking dish, mix together 1 or 2 eggs and 3/4 cup chicken stock, pour over, stir, and cover. Refrigerate. If you have them, now’s the time to dig out those electric warming trays.

2:45 pm: Cook the mashed potatoes, finish with butter and salt, cover, and transfer to a warming oven if you have one, or a slow cooker to keep warm. If you have more than one oven, preheat the second one to 350°F. If you don’t, don’t fret. Turn on the warming trays to low if you have them.

3:30 pm: Put the turnips in a casserole dish to heat through. If you have more than one oven, you can put them in the one you just preheated. If you’re baking dressing out of the bird, put that in there, too. If not, you can always microwave the neeps to heat through and hold on a warming tray, and put the dressing in to bake while the bird is resting. Put the turkey gravy base you made on the stove over low heat, as well. Set up the green beans. Deputize someone to take care of them.

RestafterroastCollage 4:00 pm: The turkey should be done. Take it out of the oven. If it’s your only oven, put in the dressing and turnips to heat. If it’s one of two, turn it down to 200°F. Put the bird on a rack over the carving board or serving platter, and cover it with foil and a big old blanket or a couple of layers of dish towels. As it rests the juices in the bird will redistribute themselves, giving you much moister meat when you go to cut it later.

Deglaze the roasting pan with 1 cup of water or chicken stock, stirring to release all the good crusty bits on the bottom (fond, in chef’s parlance). Pour the liquid into a tall, narrow container or one of those gravy separators and let it settle. The fat will come to the top, and some solids will go to the bottom.

Either skim off the fat or pour the good brown juice from underneath it from your separator into the gravy base. Stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Gravy’s done.

finishgravy4:30 pm:  Put the serving platter for the turkey, the gravy boat(s), and the dinner rolls in to heat through. Have one of your most “helpful” relatives open the wine and get drinks for the kids.

4:45 pm: Carving and dish-up. This is where you can send people to your serving dish setup, with commands like, “Bring me the bowl that says green beans, and the spoon with it!”

Thanksgiving_SReid-3_5:00 pm:  Let’s give thanks for all of our blessings, this bounty, and being together.  Raise a glass and toast yourself. Let’s eat!

Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.


  1. waikikirie

    Susan……thank you sooooo much for all the lovely tips and showing us how to take (some of) the stress out of the holiday. I have turkey stock that I have been making in smaller amounts over the month in my freezer. This year I will not be without enough. Didn’t get the opportunity to make PJ’s “Aha moment” crus but will do so next weekend. Hope you have wonderful holiday!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Waikikirie: Thank you so much for getting all the way through it. I hope I didn’t make you tired in advance! 🙂 Susan

  2. waikikirie

    Oops…Back again. Forgot to ask my question. In the above post you say to bake the apple pie filling and then refrigerate but the recipe it is linked to doesn’t say to pre-bake the filling. Why prebake?

    1. PJ Hamel

      Just to save time; you can pre-bake any apple pie filling, the tip isn’t recipe-specific. Works like a charm, too! PJH

    2. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, waikikirie. The prebake is just a technique I want people to know about; you can do it with any fruit pie filling, but since apples take the longest to cook through, I thought it would help people free up their oven space on the big day. Susan

    3. JudeL

      Hi Susan,
      If you’ve prebaked the filling, how long will you need to bake the assembled double crust pie? Will this stop the pie from getting too brown before the insides are done? Thanks!

    4. Susan Reid, post author

      Judy, I still start the pie at a higher temperature for 15 minutes and then turn it down; the pie takes about 15 minutes less time this way, and yes, it helps you get it out of the oven before the edges go too far! Susan

  3. maw2map

    Thank you! I hope I can follow this time line-I’ve never quite mastered this holiday. Maybe this will be the year-I’m always trying different ways to prep ahead. This year I’ll try this.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Best of luck; remember, one step at a time, and just pick ’em off and don’t to forget to pat yourself on the back. Susan

  4. PAUL from Ohio

    My GOODNESS Susan – what a time consuming TREASURE you have worked out. Folks with great numbers of people coming for the big day – TAPE THIS BLOG to a very front and center kitchen cabinet front so you can tick off the items on the list as you follow Susan’s lead. Way to go Susan A+++++++

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Paul! Thanks for the good grade. I’m truly hoping this will help family holiday meals for years to come for lots of people. Susan

  5. mumpy

    love this…thanks for not just the many helpful ideas, but for pointing out that someone else can take care of the green beans and the kids can set the table…(they always have at our house)…. it’s nice to be reminded that wonder woman isn’t cooking thanksgiving dinner, and a little assistance is deserved….or as my daughter says “if you can eat here, you can help here”.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Thanks so much, Mumpy! I love your daughter’s statement! Thanks so much for sharing! Susan

  6. judeL

    Hi-I usually do a wet-brined (honey brined turkey from Bon Apetit-I think) and the recipe cautions that the drippings will be too salty to use in gravy. Do you agree? Should I just pour off all drippings before I deglaze the pan, or is deglazing the pan out too? Thanks!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Judy. As a chef, I have to say that not using the fond would be almost considered a sin in most professional kitchens. In this blog I don’t salt the veloute, the brine mixture I gave is tilted more toward herbs than salt,and the proportions given work out right where they should. It’s a good thing to have in mind; as a caution, I’d say make sure there isn’t more than a cup and a half of drippings (deglaze the pan with unsalted turkey broth) and you can always taste before you add all of it to the gravy base. Susan

  7. Susan

    Thank you so much! I had no idea there was so much I could do ahead! I have never let the turkey rest that long, or long at all, but I’m trying it this year. Neeps are not part of our menu, but Brussels Sprouts will be, and scalloped oysters. Feeling more confident now…thanks.

  8. Carla Scheall

    How large do you make the cheesecloth bag used for the stuffing? Is it washable and reuseable? Thank you for all the hints and tips you have shared!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Carla. I bought a package of cheesecloth at the store, and just cut a 18″ length. Then I folded that in half and sewed both sides. That should do it for almost any size turkey. Susan

    2. Betty L

      Hi, Carla. I just made one using my serger, and it took about 40 seconds. I serged the raw ends before folding the cheesecloth and serging the sides. I’m not at all sure that the bag will be reusable, though. I’ll decide that on Thursday after I empty it and see whether it seems to have held its shape. ‘Can’t hurt to run it through the wash, just to see.

  9. Diana Hipsley

    Ive been doing some of the things you suggested for years and my friends think I’m nuts(they dont like to cook).I picked up some great ideas I dont do however and you did a great job. I’m trying turkey parts this year and the dry brine you suggest.Usually do wet and whole turkey. Like the idea of making pie fillings ahead.

  10. JenBishop

    Thanks for the post. I’ve created my menu, grocery list and put all my recipes into a binder. I had an out of town training in class get moved to the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I fly back on wedsnesday. So I’ve been even more proactive about getting everything ready early. DH is going grocery shopping for me and picking up the turkey. I need to talk to DS#1 and see if he’ll start the bread Wednesday morning. A friend is bringing pies, another the sweet potato souffle. So this blog has been very helpful.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Thanks, Jen. I’m glad I could help. You sound like you’ve got things pretty much in hand. Susan

  11. Nel

    Once it says ‘rutabagas’ and another time ‘turnips.’ Is there a difference? We never had either, for any meal, when I was growing up…

    Also, won’t a pumpkin pie weep if you make it the day before?

    I learned a ‘slip-slide custard pie’ method from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook (1949 edition). You bake the crust blind and bake the custard in a very well-buttered pie pan of the same size that you baked the crust in. When you are ready to serve the custard pie, you warm it a little if necessary to melt the butter (in a shallow pan of hot water, for example), and then rotate the pan back and forth sharply (keep it level – like moving a steering wheel that’s lying flat on the table) to make sure the custard is loose in the pan. When it’s ready to slide out, you slide it into the pre-baked crust. Jiggle it around to settle it; pipe some whipped cream along the edge or decorate with some pie-crust cut-outs if you want to disguise the gap that shows that the custard and crust were baked separately.

    You can do this right before dinner or even right before slicing the pie. Your bottom crust will impressively crisp and flaky and experienced bakers will wonder how you didn’t end up with soggy crust.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Nel. Yes, there is a difference between rutabagas and turnips. Rutagagas are larger, usually orange, and coated with wax when you see them in the store. In Europe they’re often called Swedes. Turnips are much smaller, white with purple tops. People often use either term (a little like sweet potatoes and yams). I have the same Betty Crocker Cookbook, with the slip/slide method, which I’ve always thought was cool but have yet to try. One of these days I’ll go there. If the pumpkin is in the refrigerator and uncovered, weeping hasn’t been a problem, at least for us. Susan

  12. Liz

    Susan, I have been hosting family Thanksgiving for twenty years or so, and must thank you for this really terrific count down! I’m a big fan of make-ahead tips, and now I’m wondering – have you tried freezing the sausage stuffing? Say yes, it turns our great, and I’ll make it tomorrow!

  13. Juliet

    This is great advice, am making Amish dinner rolls right now. They freeze so well! We have family coming from Maine on Thanksgiving morning and staying for 5 days. And when they arrive I want to spend time with them!! So getting so much done ahead will be a big help. I also have jury duty that week. Enjoy everyone!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Way to go, Juliet, happy to be of service! Enjoy your family and your Thanksgiving! Susan

  14. barturpin

    Hello SUSAN,

    I am a pretty good cook,but not that good in the planning department, but by following you (God love you) that just may change. thank you so much.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hello back, Bar. One step at a time. You’ll be amazed how powerful it is to do some of these steps in advance, and how much more enjoyable your holiday will be. Good luck! Susan

  15. Janice

    This is all great info. Thanks! I can relate to sitting down to the table and feeling like I just finished a marathon. I learned last year that you can premake your mashed potatoes (and other casserole dishes) and refrigerate them in an ovenproof dish. On Turkey day remove the casserole from the fridge 1 hour before baking and reheat at 350 for about 30 minutes while your turkey is resting. This is very helpful for those of us who have only one oven.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Janice. Smart you, and yes, one oven is truly a challenge. I found a crock pot stuffing recipe a while ago, and I thought that was a brilliant idea. Have a great T-day!

  16. Sherri

    OMG. I have an obsession with making everything from scratch and this is the last post I ever should have read. 🙂 There are some super tips here and can’t wait to try some! I’m totally impressed with all the detail. I usually vow not to comment on things I haven’t actually tried, but this post was so awesome, I threw that vow out the window.

    Hope you have a very joyous and tasty Thanksgiving!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      And to you, Sherri! Years and years of restaurant production give one lots of opportunities to pick up things like this; also, my colleague Frank in the test kitchen is from another big family, and his mom had a number of hints that he was gracious enough to share. Have a great feast! Susan

  17. Rosalie

    I will be cooking for about 20. I thought I would try deconstructing the turkey and roast it on the dressing the day befor then reheat with gravy made ahead. Does that sound like it would work? Thought I would do 2 fifteen pound turkeys.
    Your ideas have been so helpful.

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Rosalie! Interesting idea, to break down the bird. I’d still dry brine the parts, and once you cut the bird up you’ll have lots of bones for broth right off the bat. When you break down the bird, leave the breasts on the ribs; it will keep the meat juicier when it roasts. Susan

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      The reader was thinking about prepping ahead, and I was saying she could make the stuffing start to finish, and freeze it until the day or so before; it would be ready to thaw and use to stuff the bird. That said, you can certainly freeze stuffing after it’s been cooked to stretch the holiday fun into the new year. Susan

  18. Brandie

    Hello Susan … we met today at the Baking and Sweets show!
    Just wanted to say hi.
    And who, some great tips here. I didn’t realize some of this stuff could be made already. And definitely going to get some pie crusts in the freezer asap!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Brandie! Great talking to you. Good luck with your feast, and thanks for finding us here! Susan

  19. Lorrainesfav

    Susan, you always give such great tips, recipes and advice! You are my baking mentor and I will miss the Baking Sheet. About Thanksgiving…after my Mom passed away, I took over making Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, I had so many people from our extended families (newly married and in- laws) at my house I prepped, shopped, cooked and baked for 2 weeks. The food bill was enormous and I was totally wiped out. This year we made reservations at a fabulous restaurant on Clearwater Beach. We will be about 25 people and I will enjoy every minute of the Thanksgiving celebration. Everyone pays his own dinner and everyone goes home happy. I will make a little Thanksgiving dinner for my own family on the weekend following and enjoy every minute of it too. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Lorraine

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Lorraine. I consider that high praise from such an accomplished baking hand, thank you! My immediate family when all hands are on deck is 27 people; everyone says you need a doctor and lawyer in the family, but in our case, a chef has been more than useful!! Happy T-day to you and yours. Susan

  20. Liz

    Susan, must ask one more stuffing question. I’m guessing the made-ahead stuffing might turn out moister (is that a word?) if I freeze it unbaked. Is there a safety issue here, given the eggs in the recipe? Don’t want to have my family doubting my judgement after all these years.

    And – okay, this makes two questions – in a separate post you mention a recipe for crock pot stuffing. Did you try it, and of so, what did you think of the results? I’ve been tempted –

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Liz. Yes, freeze the prepared stuffing unbaked, then thaw overnight in the fridge before filling the bird or baking. No problem with the eggs in the mixture, I promise. They’ll be fine and still do what you want them to do. As for the crock pot stuffing, I published it in the Baking Sheet a couple of years ago. I was more impressed than I expected to be, I can say that. And you could always cook it 90% of the way and pop the crock pot’s liner into the oven for 10 or 15 minutes to crisp up the top at the end…Susan

  21. Monica

    What great ideas! I would never have thought of making and freezing pumpkin pie filling in advance, nor of buying turkey parts and making broth for the gravy beforehand. Luckily for me, my DIL has taken on most of the cooking for Thanksgiving, but I’m in charge of rolls and dessert. No worries – already have soft white dinner rolls and honey wheat rolls in the freezer ready to be defrosted and warmed at the last minute, unbaked “Secret Ingredient” apple pie (What would we do without that boiled cider?) in the freezer, and I plan to use the “No Fuss” pie crust recipe for the pumpkin pie. Thanks for all the great recipes and tips, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  22. Monica

    Oops! I meant “No Roll Pie Crust” in my previous comment. Also wanted to mention that I too have used my slow cooker to make bread stuffing. Just sauteed the celery, carrots and onions in butter with Bell’s Seasoning a day or two in advance, and on T-day combined this with unseasoned bread cubes and turkey or chicken broth in my Crock Pot (lined with one of those slow cooker liners), and set it on low heat for a few hours. Tastes great, and NO CLEANUP!

  23. Robyn

    Thank you for this detailed list. I love the idea of using my Crockpots as mini-warmers!

    This is the first year I made and froze my apple pie filling. Here’s another advantage: I bought all those apples way ahead of time, prepped them and got them off the counter.

    I love to cook for my family, and I’m honored that almost everyone is coming this year (including our chef). In my case, I’ll be cooking Wednesday night, Thursday, Friday and Saturday! Wednesday night is KA’s Butternut Spinach Lasagna, after 2 trips to the airport. 😉

    Thanks again for this relaxing and supportive post!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Glad to hear we could provide some relaxation. Sounds like you have quite a bit of cooking ahead of you! I am just in charge of pies this year, so not too bad. Jon@KAF

  24. bonnixon

    My family and I participate in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year as balloon handlers (Papa Smurf this year!), which means postponing the great feast until Friday. We love doing the parade, it’s huge fun but requires being there at 5:30am and is totally exhausting! So your do-ahead tips will help us enormously! Thanks so much!

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Wow, what a coincidence! I’ve had nephews and nieces marching in bands at the Macy’s parade for the last 3 years, and another walking the avenue with her piccolo this year. Glad to be of help in any way I can. Susan

  25. Sand

    Re: washing label before taping it you your oven door. Everyone SHOULD take cognizance of “poultry cooties;” it’s very easy to spread them all over your kitchen, and salmonella is no joke!
    Otherwise, absolutely genius post. Thank you.

  26. Rozanna

    Great timeline. I have started already. Regarding the fond in the roasting pan, I have an induction cooktop and my roasting pan is not magnetic. Any suggestions on getting the fond off to use on gravy?

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Rozanna. You can deglaze with hot broth; the pan will be warm already from the oven. Use half a cup, get what you can get, pour it off, then repeat with another half cup. Should be fine. Susan

  27. Jaytee

    What a great post! Clearly we’re all thinking along the same lines 😉
    This year our meal goes 100% mobile so I made my timeline last week.
    Then I changed it up- again, and again, lol

    Aging parents with health issues has meant changes to our tradition but the matriarch protests change, lol.
    Just because *she* can’t do all this doesn’t mean it should not be done, for tradition and for principle. 🙂
    In the past going out for dinner was suggested and she almost passed out.
    This year their health prevents them from going out, but not from having traditional expectations. 🙂

    The only solution is making and freezing side dishes and rolls in advance and baking them on site.
    Turkey, too will be roasted a day ahead and sliced and stored in bone stock to be re-heating on the Day.
    (That was a great weekend project and now I have a gallon of thick bone broth in my freezer- even after using a quart making the stuffing and freezing it. And did the whole house smell amazing?!)

    Now with your great pie ideas, I can save more time. We’ll be baking pies once we arrive but making the filling in advance will save TONS of time I think.

    Yes, we could purchase already made sides (again, Matriarch will not be happy) or I could do it all by myself from scratch on T-Day in her kitchen (with all the accompanied stress- which Matriarch thrives on but *I* do not.)

    Taking from scratch Thanksgiving dinner is my gift to her. Doing it ahead and making the day pleasant is my gift to myself and my husband. 🙂
    Thanks for ideas to help it all go a little more smoothly~

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Wow, Jaytee, that’s amazing. Props to you for making the effort; as time goes by and you look back I know you’ll be glad you did. The very best to you and your family for the holiday. I’m glad you’ll be all together, eating a marvelous meal, obviously made with care and love. Susan

  28. Kalisa

    Fortune favors the bold and luck favors the prepared, so plan without fear and your Thanksgiving will be a success!

    I am free of any major cooking duties but I have been tasked with dessert duty. I will be doing a test run of a KAF cheesecake this weekend and I hope I’ll find some willing test subjects somewhere! 😉

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Kalisa. I’ve been called both bold and lucky, so I hope all good things happen to you in your quest! 🙂 Susan

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Lena,
      You can make a cooked filling 2-3 days in advance, then add to your crust and bake the day off for fresh warm pie. ~ MJ

  29. Linda

    wow the gravy base ! I am super excited to try that, it might finally end the much cherished tradition of my mom crying over the gravy, passed down by her mom (who once put purple food coloring in to darken it ). So maybe it can stop with this generation lol!

  30. EL

    Hi Susan:

    Love the cheesecloth bag for stuffing idea. Thank you.

    Why cut out the turkey label and keep it? Is it just for reference for how long to cook? Can’t you just note how many lbs it is?

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Because, in my case at least, I’m usually so focused on getting the bird into the oven that I pitch the label into the trash before even looking at it. 🙂 Cutting it out when I’m opening the bag anyway keeps me from digging through the bin in disgrace. Susan

  31. Karen

    I got on the King Arthur site to see how soon before Thanksgiving I could make pumpkin pie, then got pulled into reading this post. All I kept thinking was that I wanted to eat at Susan’s house. 🙂

    Now, back to my original purpose…

  32. Lisa Lieske

    Love this exceedingly helpful to-do list! I have been using the one from your Holiday 2007 Baking Sheet!! What caught my eye was the coffee break! When Turkey day starts, there’s no stopping. To see a break written in…. brilliant! We cooks need to stop and chill for a few minutes and sometimes it takes pencilling it in to get it done! Thanks!


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