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Turkey Day Timeline

Thanksgiving is hectic. Between organizing the dishes, setting the table, getting the family on the same page and cooking all that food – you might just “give thanks” when it’s all over. But when the pressure is on, a solid plan and a little organization will help you keep your sanity and ensure that you get a chance to actually enjoy the holiday festivities. This is your countdown to T-Day.

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2 Weeks Til T-Day

Confirm your guest list and make sure you have enough plates, silverware and serving dishes to accommodate. If you’re going the fancy route, give your silver and china a good polish.
Since the guest list has been made, you can calculate what size turkey you’re going to need. The rule of thumb: 1 lb per guest, which will allow for leftovers too. For the remainder of the article, we’re going to be using a 15 lb turkey for our examples.

1 Week Til T-Day

Make your shopping list and start gathering supplies. If you’re doing Friendsgiving this year, get any extra supplies you’ll need for that too.

4 Days Before T-Day

It takes 24 hours to defrost 5 lbs of turkey in the fridge, which means you need to begin to defrost your 15 lb frozen turkey 3 days in advance. Adjust this time to fit whatever size turkey you’re serving. If you plan on brining your turkey, however, then you’ll want to begin to defrost your turkey on Saturday instead, which will give you 25 hours to soak the bird.

2 Days Before T-Day

Time to clean! Get your house ready for guests and clear room in the fridge for all the leftovers. Make any dishes that can be kept chilled, like your pumpkin pie and pasta salad, and save some extra time on T-Day.
If you forgot to defrost your turkey, it’s not too late! You can defrost it by submerging it in cold water for 30 minutes per pound. Keep it in its packaging while defrosting and change the water every 30 minutes to prevent bacteria buildup. 

24 hours Before T-Day

Assemble any and all dishes you can the day before so that all you need to do is toss them in the oven or on the stove the following day. This is a good plan for items like green bean casserole and stuffing. Also, clean and chop all your vegetables so they are ready for sautéing on the big day. If you decided to brine your turkey, this is the time as well.


The big day has arrived. Here’s how to handle it.

  • Chill any wine or beverages first thing in the morning and set the table.
  • 4 hours until dinner – Get your turkey in the oven. You want to make sure it reaches 160 degrees and allow enough time to let the bird rest after removing it from the oven.Pieplate
  • 3 hours 15 minutes until dinner – Break out the crock pot and start the stuffing. We highly recommend NOT stuffing the bird because it affects cooking time and can lead to an overcooked turkey.
  • 1 hour until dinner – Warm up breads and rolls.
  • 45 minutes until dinner -Make the salad and chill until ready to eat.
  • 30 minutes until dinner – Boil your potatoes, then make the mashed potatoes.
  • 25 minutes until dinner – Make the Gravy.
  • Use the stove top or oven (after the bird is cooked) to warm any side dishes.
  • 10 minutes until dinner – Open the wine to give it some time to breathe.

Once the turkey is carved, you can finally relax, eat and enjoy the company of your friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Need a crash course in Turkey Carving? Download Turkey Carving 101 and get carving!