Hosting Your First Thanksgiving? Use This Thanksgiving Countdown Planner As Your Guide

November 23, 2015  |  
If you’ve decided to host Thanksgiving this year, by now your guest list should be finalized. You’ve given them a call or sent an email, and your great-aunt makes an awesome stuffing that she’d like to bring. You’ve also planned your menu, picked your favorite turkey recipe and planned additional dishes around the bird. If you’re more a fan of side dishes, start with your favorite recipes and build from there. Think about family favorites and Thanksgiving classics to start, then add in a few new dishes. Be sure to also think about drink options and simple bites to serve as guests arrive.
Boom, you’re halfway there but these last three days before turkey day is where the real coordination begins. Our friends at FoodNetwork.com have put together a handy Thanksgiving countdown planner to help you stay calm, focused and ready to entertain.

You’ve got all your gear (pots, pans, aluminum foil etc.), all of your ingredients, and your turkey (or main dish of your choice) ready to go. What now? We’ve got you covered with this Thanksgiving countdown planner.

3 Days Before: Defrost Your Turkey and Buy Perishable Ingredients
Thawing a frozen turkey takes time and patience. The best way is to thaw the bird in the coldest area of the fridge with a pan underneath to catch any drips (not on the counter). If you plan on brining (a simple, hands-off way to infuse your turkey with flavor), Anne Burrell’s recipe maximizes taste but minimizes prep with a no-cook apple cider brine. Now is also the time to brave the crowds and pick up any perishable items from the store.
2 Days Before: Make Cranberry Sauce, Pie Crusts and Pie
Try fresh cranberries instead of canned this year, and buy an extra bag when you’re in the produce aisle; they keep in your freezer for up to a year. Cranberry sauce can stay fresh in the fridge up to 2 weeks because of its high acidity, so make it now and refrigerate it in a jar or bowl covered in plastic wrap. If you didn’t freeze your pie crusts ahead of time, make them today and wrap the dough to store in the fridge. If you’ve prepped items and kept them in the freezer, take them out to defrost. This includes any pie crusts or stock you made in advance.
Top Cranberry Sauce Recipes
1 Day Before: Prepare Reheatable Side Dishes, Prep Ingredients, Bake Pies
Start to make sides that will reheat well, like casseroles or creamed onions. Prep garnishes, toppings, salad greens and stuffing ingredients. Cook soups and let cool before storing in the refrigerator if you didn’t freeze any options in advance. If your stuffing recipe calls for stale bread, cut the bread now and set the cubes on a baking sheet to dry out. You can go ahead and make your pies, especially Ree Drummond’s Pecan Pie that needs to cool overnight for a natural do-ahead dessert.50+ Traditional Side Dishes
Thanksgiving Day: Don’t Stress! Stick to a Day-Of Plan
Preheat your oven in the morning and get your turkey going. If you premade bread, let it defrost at room temperature. Put your wine or beer in the fridge to chill. While the turkey roasts, prepare your other side dishes since they can stand at room temperature for an hour or keep in the fridge. When the turkey is done, let it rest while you make the gravy, reheat side dishes and prep salads.
Tyler’s 5-Minute Salad
How to Make Perfect Gravy
The Day After: Use Your Leftovers
You can store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Try to reheat only what you’ll be serving right then rather than reheating the entire portion. It’s safe to heat it all up and then re-store what you don’t use, but it’s not ideal. Soup is a great way to get every penny’s worth from your bird — try one of our favorites.
Great Thanksgiving Leftovers
Top Turkey Soups
Happy Thanksgiving!

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