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Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet: What to Make and When

Updated October 1, 2018
Wow Guide November 2017: Thanksgiving Made At Home
Stress less on the big day with this easy guide that tells you what you need to make for Thanksgiving dinner, and when!

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is no easy feat—especially if it’s your first time. But don’t panic! With a little planning and preparation, you can throw a delicious holiday dinner that’ll impress all your guests. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry about that either. We mapped out a week-long timeline of what you should do and when, so Thanksgiving Day goes off without a hitch.

1 Week To Go

Defrost and Brine the Turkey

Plan ahead! It can take up to five days to defrost a turkey, so don’t start too late. You can also brine the turkey for up to 24 hours ahead of time, so start no later than Wednesday afternoon.

Turkey in a brining bag

How (and Why!) to Brine a Turkey

Yes, you can! And, more importantly yes, you should! Don’t go through the work of roasting a turkey only to have a dry, flavorless meal. Brining ensures a tender, flavorful main every time.

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Assign Recipes

When guests ask what they can bring, don’t say “nothing” or “whatever you want.” Instead, give them an easy three-ingredient appetizer or ask them to contribute a side dish.

1 Day To Go

Prep the Turkey

Our trick to extra-crispy skin is to let the turkey sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. Simply remove the brine, pat dry and refrigerate. Have more questions about cooking the bird? Look no further.

Roasted Turkey

How to Cook a Turkey: Our Easy, No-Fail Method

You’ll be the host with the most when you use our tips and tricks for cooking a turkey. Don’t stress. You’ve got this.

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Bake the Pies

Pies are the best make-ahead dish out there…if you can avoid sneaking a slice! Pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, chocolate pie—you name it, we have a recipe for it. Not a pie expert? Learn everything you need to know about how to make pie with our easy guide.


Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie

If you’re daring to be different this year, make one of these brilliant Thanksgiving desserts.

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Tip: Save yourself some time on Thanksgiving Day by setting the table the night before.

Thanksgiving Morning

Prep the Stuffing

A good stuffing starts with dried bread. If you forgot to let your fresh bread sit out overnight, you can dry it out for an hour or so in a low-temp oven. If you plan on stuffing the turkey before cooking, prep all of your stuffing ingredients now. We are a big fan of cooking stuffing outside the bird, though—it’s easier and tastes just as delicious! If you decide to go this route, you can hold on putting the stuffing in the oven until you cook the rest of the sides closer to dinner time.

Classic Herb Stuffing

How to Make Stuffing

Move over, turkey. Stuffing could be this year’s main event! We’ll teach you the basics of how to make stuffing and make it really well.

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Roast the Turkey

An average 18-pound turkey takes about five hours to cook, so you’ll want to factor in plenty of time to roast the bird. Though there are many ways to cook a turkey, roasting is by far one of the easiest.

Roasted Turkey

Best Roast Turkey

Looking for an aromatic Thanksgiving dinner? Then check out this roasted turkey that's seasoned with herbs and spices - a flavorful meal.

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Turn on the Slow Cooker

Did you know? You can make mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and even sweet potato casserole in the slow cooker, which can help you free up some oven space!

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato Casserole

Slow-Cooker Sides That Free Up the Oven

Turn to your trusty slow cooker when the oven is busy.

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A Few Hours To Go

Set Out Small Bites

Assigning your guests appetizers is an easy way to save yourself some time, but you can pull together some super-quick appetizers in a pinch.

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

Prep the Crescents

One of the easiest and most classic side breads to serve on Thanksgiving is a basket of Pillsbury crescent rolls. Straight-up crescents are hard to beat, but our dressed-up versions can be made ahead of time and then popped in the oven while you’re carving the turkey later.

Cheese Crescent Triangles

15 Ways to Dress Up Crescents

Whether you fill, fold or devour them straight from the oven, it’s a fact that everyone loves crescents.

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Make the Mashed Potatoes

Our no-fail recipe is the only one you’ll ever need. Plan to start on these about 45 minutes before dinnertime.

Easy Homemade Mashed Potatoes

How to Make Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Everything you ever wanted to know about taters.

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30 Minutes to Go

Carve the Turkey

Carving the turkey can be intimidating, especially when you have hungry guests hovering in the kitchen. Let the turkey rest for about 15 minutes, then use our easy step-by-step turkey carving guide.

Carved Turkey

Break It Down: Turkey Carving Basics

Exactly how to carve your holiday turkey, in five completely easy steps—plus all the turkey-carving tips you can shake a (drum)stick at.

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Make the Gravy

Why use jarred gravy when making it homemade is so darn easy? It only takes 15 minutes to whip it up from scratch, and it tastes way better than store-bought. Get started on this while your turkey is cooling.

White Gravy

How to Make Gravy (It’s So Easy!)

Just like grandma used to make, only better. This gravy is so good, you’ll want to pour it on everything.

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Finish the Sides in the Oven

Most casseroles take 20 to 30 minutes to cook, so pop the sides in the oven at this time so they’re piping hot when ready to serve.

Classic Creamed Spinach

Classic Sides You Can Count On

Give the people what they want: Set the table with classic dishes everyone knows and loves.

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After Dinner

Brew Coffee and Tea

Brew a big pot of coffee and heat the tea kettles to help postpone the inevitable post-turkey nap.

Make Whipped Cream

Everyone likes a dollop of whipped cream on their pie, and with how easy it is to make, you should skip the store and whip it quick right before slicing into dessert. While everyone is sipping on their coffee and tea, simply combine 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 teaspoons of sugar and beat on high until peaks form.

Slice the Pie

There’s more than one way to slice a pie! Some people go all-in on pumpkin, while others want a bit of everything. Cut a variety of slices so guests can choose.

Want more Turkey Day recipes? Right this way.