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Thanksgiving Dinner Checklist

Created September 20, 2023
Wow Guide November 2017: Thanksgiving Made At Home
Stress less on the big day with this easy Thanksgiving checklist. From 1 week out to 30 minutes before mealtime, we’ll tell you exactly which Thanksgiving foods and sides you need to make 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 pull off a delicious dinner that’ll impress all your guests. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry about that either. We’ve mapped out a week-long timeline of what you should do and when, so everything goes off without a hitch.

Think of us as your helpful Thanksgiving planner! And if you are looking for more Thanksgiving sides and meal ideas, we’ve got that too! Check out Pillsbury’s Best Thanksgiving Recipes.

1 Week To Go

Defrost and Brine the Turkey

It can take up to five days to defrost a turkey, so it’s best to plan ahead. You can brine the turkey for up to 24 hours ahead of time, so start no later than Wednesday afternoon. Brining ensures a tender, flavorful main every time. Though it may sound daunting, we’ve got you covered with this helpful article. You got this!

Assign Recipes

When guests ask what they can bring, it can be so tempting to say “nothing” or “whatever you want.” Instead, make it easy on yourself and your helpful friends and give them an easy three-ingredient appetizer or ask them to contribute a Thanksgiving side dish.

1 Day To Go

Prep the Turkey

Our trick for 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 prepping and cooking the bird? Look no further than our guide: How to Cook a Turkey: Our Easy, No-Fail Method.

Roasted Turkey

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-making expert? Learn everything you need to know about how to make pie with our easy guide. And if you’re daring to be different this year, make one of these brilliant desserts: Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie.

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 big fans 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. If you need some extra guidance, check out How to Make Stuffing.

Classic Herb Stuffing

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. If you’re looking for an aromatic Thanksgiving dinner, check out our recipe for the Best Roast Turkey, seasoned with an array of herbs and spices.

Turn on the Slow Cooker

Did you know that you can make mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and even sweet potato casserole in the slow cooker? Turn to your trusty slow cooker when the oven is busy and save yourself a full serving of valuable time and needless stress! Use this helpful article as your guide: Slow-Cooker Sides That Free Up the Oven.

A Few Hours To Go

Set Out the Small Bites

Assigning your guests appetizers is an easy way to save yourself some time, but you can pull together some super-quick crowd-pleasers in a pinch. Or you can check out these Easy Thanksgiving Apps to Spoil Your Dinner to help you and your family save room for the main course…or indulge and don’t!

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: 15 Ways to Dress Up Crescents.

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. Or if you have the time and energy to discover everything you ever wanted to know about taters, take a look at this: How to Make Homemade Mashed Potatoes.

30 Minutes to Go

Carve the Turkey

Carving the turkey can be intimidating, especially when you have hungry guests hovering in the kitchen. Let us help you! Allow the turkey to rest for about 15 minutes, then use our easy step-by-step turkey carving guide and learn how to carve your holiday turkey in five completely easy steps: Break it Down: Turkey Carving Basics.

Carved Turkey

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. While your turkey is cooling, get started on this super simple gravy recipe that’s just like Grandma used to make only better!

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. Give the people what they want and the table with classic dishes everyone knows and loves: Classic Sides You Can Count On.

Prep Coffee and Tea

To help postpone the inevitable post-turkey nap, prepare a big pot of coffee and fill the tea kettles. Turn them on just as your guests are going in for round two of the meal. That way, it will be ready as they are taking their last bites and you are preparing to serve the desserts.

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 can skip the store and whip it quickly right before diving 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 slice sizes so guests can choose — refer to this quick and simple how-to video.

Want more Turkey Day recipes? Right this way.