One of the most common questions that I get regarding Thanksgiving is….”How do I get everything to be done at the same time”? This question has a lot to do with the menu that you have selected. It also has a lot to do with proper planning and preparation. Below I have laid out a sample menu and how I would prepare for it. Using this sample menu I have planned out a cooking schedule for my Thanksgiving feast.
First – Plan your menu
Write down your menu. Sounds simple but it is nice to organize your thoughts by putting pen to paper.
|Food||Prep Time||Cook Time @325F||Cooking Location|
|14lb Frozen Turkey||1 Minute||5 hours||Lower Oven Rack|
|Green Bean Casserole||5 Minutes||1 hour since chilled||Upper Oven Rack|
|Stuffing||15 Minutes||1 hour since chilled||Upper Oven Rack|
|Mashed Potatoes||30 Minutes||45 minutes||Stove Top Large Burner|
|Gravy||5 Minutes||10 Minutes||Stove Top small Burner|
|Cranberry Sauce||10 Minutes||45 Minutes + time to chill||Refrigerator|
|Corn||1 Minute||8 Minutes||Stove Top Large Burner|
|Rolls||1 Minute||3 Minutes to warm||Oven while turkey is resting|
|Sweet Potatoes||5 Minutes||1 hour since chilled||Oven Upper Rack|
Second – Prepare a time table and shopping list
Once you have your menu down, determine cook times for everything. Organize the menu based on time required to cook. From this we can make a time table.
|Cook Times to Eat at 6:00 PM using 325F oven temperature|
|Food||Start Time||Finish Time||Resting/finishing Time|
|14lb Frozen Turkey||12:30 PM||5:30 PM||30 Minutes|
|Mashed Potatoes||4:15 PM||5:15 PM||15 to mash and season|
|Stuffing||4:55 PM||5:55 PM|
|Green Bean Casserole||4:55 PM||5:55 PM|
|Sweet Potatoes||4:55 PM||5:55 PM|
|Gravy||5:35 PM||6:00 PM|
|Corn||5:50 PM||5:58 PM||1 minute to season|
|Rolls||5:55 PM||5:58 PM|
|Cranberry Sauce||5:58 PM||Remove from fridge|
Using the list I will then print out recipes, compile a list of needed ingredients and shop. Make sure to check out all of the store ads this week. I picked up a Martin’s Turkey for $0.49 a pound. My turkey ended up being around $7. You can’t beat that.
I have created a table to determine estimated cook time for fresh and frozen Turkeys.
|Estimated Turkey Cook Times @325 degrees|
|Weight in Pounds||8 lbs||12 lbs||14 lbs||18 lbs||20 lbs||24 lbs|
|Time for Thawed Turkey||2h 45m||3h||3h 45m||4h 15m||4h 30m||5h|
|Time for Frozen Turkey||4h 10m||4h 15m||5h||6h||6h 45m||7h 30m|
Third – Prep what you can ahead
Once you have your time table for cooking, determine what can be prepped ahead of time. Making green bean casserole, make it the day before and refrigerate. Prepare everything that you can before hand (green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, dressing, etc.). The more you have prepped the less chaotic the cook will be. Note – if you make ahead and refrigerate add time to your cook for each menu item that was refrigerated.
|Prep Day Before|
|Green Bean Casserole|
|Sweet Potatoe Casserole|
Fourth – Make sure to plan enough time for prepping on the big day!
For things that have to be prepped the day of, determine the amount of time required to prep.
Based on my time schedule I have almost 4 hours between turkey on and the start of my other food to prep. Totally enough time.
Fifth – Determine serving dishes and utensils
Determine everything that you will be using for cooking and serving. Set aside the dishes on a spare table or even a folding table. Make sure it is accessible to the kitchen.
|14lb Frozen Turkey||Platter||Serving Forks|
|Green Bean Casserole||Casserole Dish 1||Serving Spoon|
|Stuffing||Casserole Dish 2||Serving Spoon|
|Mashed Potatoes||Serving Bowl 1||Serving Spoon|
|Cranberry Sauce||Crystal Bowl||Small Serving Spoon|
|Corn||Serving Bowl 2||Slotted Spoon|
|Sweet Potatoes||Casserole Dish 3||Slotted Spoon|
Sixth – Follow the plan
You can’t prepare for everything, but stay to the plan and to the schedule. Remember cooking a Turkey varies based on size, shape and oven. Therefore, you need to check the temperature near the end of cooking. The breast should measure 165 degrees and the thigh should measure 180 degrees. Don’t worry if the turkey comes out early. All you have to do is cover the turkey in foil and let it rest. Resting is not a bad thing. Plus, you need to remember that it will take you 10 to 15 minutes to carve the turkey down to the bone.
Seventh – Relax
If things go bad, stay calm. There is nothing that can’t be fixed. Relax, have a glass of wine and adapt. Everything will be ok.
I will be available all Thursday answering emails and tweets regarding all of your cook questions. If you have a question you can tweet me @savoryreviews with the hashtag #askrex. Make sure to check back tomorrow for my Turkey Tuesday Round-Up 2014. It will be full of tips, tricks and recipes.
You can download my sample menu and times Sample Menu Thanksgiving 2014.