Timeline for Your Traditional Thanksgiving Menu

by Dana B. Bryant

Thanksgiving dinnerSurviving and thriving on Thanksgiving depends on careful planning. Prepare as much as you can in advance. The general rule of thumb is that desserts (like cakes and pies) can be cooked a day or two ahead and covered or refrigerated. After you've squared away dessert, it's time to prepare your side dishes. Now you can stretch out for a well-earned rest in preparation for feast-day preparations. We've mapped out a timeline for a Traditional Thanksgiving Menu.


Roasted Butternut and Pear Salad:
Perfect Baked Turkey:
Aunt Helen's Corn Bread Stuffing:
Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
Turkey Gravy:
Green Bean Casserole:
Grandma's Dinner Rolls:
Cranberry Sauce:
Pumpkin Pie:

Thanksgiving Day Countdown

Choose the time you'll serve the meal. Our timeline has you working backwards from the time you choose.

-6 hours: Preheat the oven, pull out the prepared pie dough, make the pumpkin filling and get those tantalizing aromas off to an early start! While the pies bake, make up a batch of cranberry sauce. Cool and refrigerate.

-5 1/2 hours: Set the table now, unless you took care of that chore in advance.

-5 hours: Remove those lovely pies. Set aside to cool. Rinse the turkey, pat dry, place in roasting pan and season.

-4 3/4 hours: Think drinks. Get pitchers of ice water ready and in the frig. Are you serving special beverages? Prepare them now as the time crunch is beginning. Start mulling cider in the crock pot. Make punch. Chill wine.

-4 1/2 hours: Turkey's in the oven. Are your potatoes made ahead? No? Then wrap your cloves of garlic in foil and set a timer for 45 minutes. The garlic will be cooled and ready to use when the potatoes have finished boiling.

-4 1/4 hours: Give the kitchen a quick once-over.

-4 hours: If you didn't make rolls ahead of time, you can whip those up now and put in the frig for a couple of hours.

-3 1/2 hours: If you didn't bake the butternut squash for the salad yesterday, prepare that now. Once the squash is cool, make your salad and place in frig until you're ready to serve it.

-3 1/4 hours: Get a glass of ice water, grab a snack and take a breather. You've earned it!

-2 1/2 hours: Arrange a relish tray if it's part of your family's tradition. Refrigerate until needed.

-2 hours: Prepare the green bean casserole. Don't bake yet. Cover and refrigerate until turkey comes out of the oven.

-1 1/2 hours: Take enough roll dough from refrigerator, form into rolls and set aside to rise.

-1 1/4 hour: If you didn't make the garlic mashed potatoes yesterday, put the potatoes on to boil now.

-1 hour: Stave off guests' hunger with the butternut and pear salad and other starters we've suggested.

-45 minutes: Potatoes are boiled. Locate your "volunteer" and get them mashing. Cover with foil and set at back of stove (or cover with foil and a towel) until serving time