I volunteered to make Thanksgiving dinner, now what?

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Dessert Spread from last Thanksgiving. I really like making pie.

Did you accidentally tell your friends and/or family that you wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner? Do you now realize that you’ve made a horrible time-consuming mistake? Don’t fear, I did the same thing, we’ll get through this together.

When I started my own custom-order baking business, I decided to take on the task of pie orders a few years in a row. This involved two weeks of ingredient gathering, pumpkin puree making, spending hours elbow deep in pie crust and pie filling, bribing my sister and best friend to help me, all in a tiny kitchen. I would show up at thanksgiving dinner, haggard, my arms fresh with new exhaustion-related carelessness burns, and a feeling of accomplishment. Despite the fact that I would have compromised my immune system by exhausting myself and ended up in Urgent Care on Christmas Morning each year, I still get the urge around November first to do it again. In recent years, I have successfully talked myself out of this desire, but the season just feels ripe for cooking, and so I have taken on the task of Thanksgiving dinner.

The trick is to treat your kitchen like a professional kitchen for the next week. If you are prepared you can pull that dinner together, with time to shower and change, and still get dinner on the table on time. How, don’t worry, I’ll tell you.

  1. Make a detailed menu.

If you haven’t made your menu yet. Make it today. I cannot emphasize this enough, if you do not do this, you will be going to the store blind. Write out each dish, what you will need to buy for each one, and whether or not it needs to be made the day of. Remember that Thanksgiving is probably not the time to try a recipe you are not familiar with, make things that you know you can make or at least make sure you aren’t overloading your menu with complicated recipes.

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

I’ll admit, I am not good at asking for help in the kitchen. This is partially because I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to watching the way other people cook, but it is also because I can generally do it faster. This being said, I have to remember that I am just one person, and it is nice to have help with the dishes, prep work like slicing and dicing, setting the table, and running to the store. Ask your guests to bring beverages, or things like bread, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts (I always make my own desserts, but that’s just because they’re my favorite thing to make).

  1. Start your pies now.

So, you didn’t delegate the pies, don’t fret, you have time to get ahead. As soon as you are done reading this, make your pie crusts. You can freeze them, thaw them Sunday night, roll them out and put them in the tins on Monday. I freeze my crust like this until I am ready to bake off the pies on Wednesday. On Tuesday, make all of your pie fillings (if you are doing your own pumpkin puree, make it today, and freeze it until you’re ready to use it). This way you avoid spending all of Wednesday focused on making the pies, and you can just put them in the oven. I always think that pies should be made the day before, the filling benefits from sitting for a day, and you’ll need that oven space on Thursday. Cream pies should go in the fridge, but I leave my pumpkin, pecan and fruit pies out at room temp overnight, the refrigerator ruins the crust.

  1. Plan your schedule for the week, and the oven.

Do your last minute shopping this weekend. Yes, this weekend is last minute. Gather up all of the ingredients you need, this gives you plenty of time to look for harder to find ingredients, or change your menu. Consider how long everything needs to be in the oven and how long it needs to rest before being served. Write out a schedule for when you plan to bake off each item, consider which items can be baked off in the morning and then warmed over right before you serve.

Monday: Finalize your menu, that specialty item that you wanted to use on your sweet potatoes is a lost cause, save that dream for next year. If you are making stuffing from scratch, dry out your bread.

Tuesday: Brine the Turkey if you are planning on doing so. Cut any veggies that need to be diced, like onions, carrots and celery, trim the ends of your green beans, do all the little prep things that should be ready before you begin cooking

Wednesday: Make your salads, but do not dress them. This can also be done on Thursday morning if you find yourself short on fridge space. I also would get any casseroles prepped so that you can just pop them in the oven at their allotted time. Boil your potatoes so they are ready to be mashed on Thursday. Set your table and do any cosmetic things you need to do around the house.

Thursday: Get that turkey out of the fridge ASAP. You want your turkey to be room temperature before you put it in the oven, so get it out an hour before you intend to roast it. Keep to your schedule, and don’t fret if things don’t turn out perfectly.

  1. Take a spa day on Friday.

Seriously, do it. You’ll need it. At the very least, don’t get out of your PJ’s and watch a bunch of Netflix.

Hope this helps with the holiday madness! Feel free to comment below with any further questions, or tips I may have forgotten.

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