Here is Part 3 in my Ultimate Stress-Free guide to planning Thanksgiving series. Today is going to be all about what to make and prepare ahead of time.
**This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.
If you haven’t already read Part 1 which talks all about meal planning for Thanksgiving. You can read the PART 1 post HERE.
In Part 2, I gave my ultimate tips for grocery shopping so that you actually save money while doing your Thanksgiving grocery shopping. You can read the PART 2 post HERE.
Are you planning Thanksgiving as usual this year?
… or maybe you’re planning Thanksgiving for a smaller group.
Whichever route you choose, it’s always really helpful to do some preparing and making before the actual Thanksgiving day.
Here are some great tips of what to prepare and make ahead of time!
Thanksgiving Turkey- How to prepare your Thanksgiving Turkey ahead of time
The turkey on Thanksgiving turkey is the show stopper on the big day. It is also really time-consuming to prepare a turkey.
Here are my tips for preparing your Thanksgiving turkey ahead of time.
Will you buy a fresh or Frozen or fresh turkey
Depending on wif you choose to purchase a frozen turkey, you will want to plan ahead of time to make sure it’s completely thawed by Thanksgiving.
How far in advance do you start to thaw a frozen Thanksgiving turkey?
It’s always best to plan to thaw your meats at a controlled temperature, such as in the refrigerator for safe raw meat handling.
Thawing a frozen turkey in a refrigerator (up to one week before)
- 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
- 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
- 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
- 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days
If you choose to thaw your frozen turkey in your refrigerator, depending on how cold your refrigerator gets you might want to plan on an extra day or so for thawing.
Thawing a frozen turkey in cold water
- 4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
- 12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
- 16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours
Brining your Thanksgiving turkey before Thanksgiving (2 nights before)
Two nights before Thanksgiving I like to get my turkey brining. I brine my turkey in buttermilk with seasoning and spices.
Seasoning your Thanksgiving turkey (1 day before)
The night before Thanskgiving you can get your turkey seasoned and stuffed so it’s ready to go in the oven on Thanskgiving day. This eliminates some work the morning of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Ham- How to prepare a Thanksgiving ham ahead of time
Thawing a frozen Thanksgiving Ham (up to one week before)
Allow at least 4-6 hours per pound when thawing a frozen ham in the refrigerator.
Glazing the Thanksgiving ham (1 day before)
The night before Thanksgiving is when you can get the sugar glaze or whatever other glaze you use for your Thanksgiving ham, put on the ham.
If you place pineapple rings on the ham, you can also do this ahead of time.
Vegetable Side dishes- How to prepare and what to make ahead of time for Thanksgiving
Preparing, and or making some of your vegetable side dishes prior to Thanksgiving will help free up some kitchen time on the day of.
Preparing Devilled eggs before Thanksgiving (1-2 days before)
To prepare your deviled eggs before Thanksgiving you can do the following:
- hard boil your eggs a few days ahead of time
- separate the yolks from the hard-boiled whites
- Mix up the devilled egg filling, and place in a ziploc bag or glass container.
- Do not fill the eggs until the day of
The day of, fill the devilled eggs with the filling by snipping off the tip of the ziplock bag and piping the devilled egg filling into the hard-boiled egg whites.
Be sure to display your deviled eggs in a beautiful dish like these (click on images):
Baked vegetable sides preparation (1 day before)
Most any baked Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes that don’t require any pre-cooking can easily be assembled the day before Thanksgiving.
Place in the dish it will be baked in, and cover.
Cold salad type vegetable side dishes preparation (1-2 days before)
If you are anything like me, I’m sure you think that cold salad (non-leafy) type vegetable side dishes taste a lot better the day after. Think— potato salad, macaroni salad, broccoli salad, etc. You can make these completely make these cold salad type side dishes 1-2 days before Thanksgiving.
Mashed potatoes- How to prepare and what to do ahead of time for Thanksgiving
Preparing mashed potatoes the Night before Thanksgiving
To prepare your mashed potatoes the night beofre thanksgiving is actually really easy to do. Here is what to do:
- Cut up your potatoes and place in a large pot of water and set aside the night before.
- Bring out your sticks of butter needed for the mashed potatoes and allow them to come to room temperaute the night before as well.
We love doing this the night before, especially because soaking the potatoes in water beforehand helps remove some of the starch from the potatoes.
Thanksgiving Stuffing- How to prepare ahead of time
Preparing the bread (if using fresh) ahead of time (1-2 days ahead)
2 days ahead of time- Stuffing works best with stale bread. If using fresh bread for your stuffing, cut the bread up 2 days ahead and set out at room temperature (covered lightly) to allow it to get “stale” or hard.
Day before Thanksgiving- Mix the bread with all the dry spices and seasonings.
Day before Thanksgiving- Dice up all veggies (think- onions, carrots, celery, etc.) and place them in containers or ziplock bags.
Morning of- Sautee your veggies, and fully assemble the stuffing. Set aside in the baking dish covered, to be ready for baking time later on .
Cranberry Jelly- How to prepare ahead of time
Night before- If using canned cranberry jelly, remove the cranberry jelly out of the cans and place in your desired serving dishes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Day of Thanksgiving- Bring dish out, take off the covering.
Biscuits and Rolls- How to prepare ahead of time
The day before- If preparing things like homemade yeast rolls, follow the recipe and then once assembled into the baking dish, cover and place in the fridge.
The day before- You can make your biscuit dough ahead of time as well, and set aside for baking day.
Desserts- How to prepare ahead of time
Preparing your desserts ahead of time can take a lot of stress of you come Thanksgiving day.
Surprisingly, a lot of desserts can be made way ahead of time.
How soon can I make my Thanksgiving day desserts?
Cakes- How far in advance can you bake a cake?
2-3 days ahead. Just make sure to wrap and seal it nicely so it stays nice and moist. Ice or frost it the day of.
Pies- How early can I make pies in advance for Thanksgiving?
You can make your crust weeks ahead of time and freeze it. As far as how long you can make and assemble a whole pie in advance; 2 days.
Assemble the pie, cover and store in the fridge until the baking day!
Cookies- How early in advance can I make Thanksgiving cookies?
A few days, however my favorite is freshly baked cookies straight from the oven.
Another option is that you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze, or you can make the cookie dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge.
I personally would make the dough days ahead of time, and then bake the cookies the night before or the morning of, before placing the turkey in the oven.
I just love really fresh, homemade cookies.
Do your research!
Read the recipe notes and it will usually tell you how soon you can make the recipe ahead of time.