A stressed out hostess makes for a lousy shindig, and let’s face it, orchestrating a Thanksgiving dinner is no therapy. Our national feast typically features multiple different dishes that all require different cooking times and temperatures. If you’re making Thanksgiving dinner this year, relax, and remember there are plenty of dishes you can prepare ahead of time.
Planning will help eliminate the stress of holiday cooking. Plan out what days you’ll make what dishes in advance, and then make a “day-of” map so everything gets it’s proper time in the oven and arrives warm to the table. This list should help you spread out your workload and make the process a whole lot easier.
Pie dough or Fruit Pies
1 day to 4 weeks in advance
Whole fruit pies can go in the freezer up to a month before Thanksgiving. Wrap your pie in several layers of plastic wrap to minimize air exposure, then wrap in one layer of tin foil to help keep the plastic wrap in place as it freezes. Pies will be delicious, but will have a slightly jammier texture than those right from the oven. If that’s not something you can give up on, prepare just the pie crust ahead of time. Homemade pie crust can be formed into a medium-sized flattened disc, about an ice thick, and frozen up to 1 month ahead of the holiday. (Pumpkin, cream and pecan pies aren’t great candidates for freezing. Save these for day before/day of.)
1 day to 3 weeks in advance
The high sugar content of cranberry sauce makes it a perfect make-ahead candidate. It’s essentially a quick jam that can be frozen or even kept in the refrigerator for a while without any change in consistency. Some people even say it’s better made a few days ahead since it gives the flavors a chance to mingle. If you choose to freeze it, just leave 24 hours for it to thaw in the fridge.
2 days to 2 weeks in advance
Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash and corn are great options for freezing. Prepare in an oven-safe dish and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then foil, or use a baking dish with a lid. Defrost in refrigerator for 24 hours before reheating. Toppings like marshmallows and crispy onions don’t freeze well so add them when you take the dish while reheating.
Dinner rolls and Biscuits
1 to 10 days in advance
Biscuits dough will typically hold up in the fridge for a few days without any problems. Homemade yeast rolls can be fully baked ahead of time and frozen. Thaw the morning of and pop in the oven last minute to serve warm with your meal.
1 to 7 days in advance
Prepare stuffing as you usually would with celery, onions, walnuts, sausage, butter, milk, dried bread — or whatever recipe you like. Pro tip: Freeze this one in two to three smaller baking dishes to help speed up defrosting times.
1 day in advance
The best way to prep for a salad is to have all your greens washed, dried and chopped and store in large salad serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or store in airtight container. Also, chop any veggies for the salad, but store them separately in the refrigerator. Thanksgiving day, you’ll just have to assemble your salad stuff.
Prep the night before
Consider adding a few cold dishes to your Thanksgiving table or appetizer bar that won’t require any cooking at all. Think: shrimp cocktail, stuffed olives or oysters on the half-shell. Jell-O salads can even have a place at the table. All of these can be prepped the night before and kept cold in the fridge.
and on THANKSGIVING DAY…
- Cook the turkey
- Assemble the green salad
- Make the mashed potatoes
- Make pumpkin pie