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Thanksgiving Dinner Countdown: Day by Day Plan (Shortcuts, Tips, and Tricks)

To pull off the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, you need a proper plan. To pull it off stress-free, you need a detailed day-by-day plan. And this is precisely what you are about to get - a clear Thanksgiving timeline with shortcuts and useful tips. Make Thanksgiving dinner 2021 go as smoothly as possible!
Thanksgiving Dinner Countdown: Day by Day Plan (Shortcuts, Tips, and Tricks)
Thanksgiving Dinner Countdown: Day by Day Plan (Shortcuts, Tips, and Tricks)
Anna at SideChef
Content Specialist. Bitten by curiosity bug. Obsessed with words. Fuelled by coffee. Powered by Google. Love cheese, chocolate, and cherries. Don’t judge your taco by its price.
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Anna at SideChef
Content Specialist. Bitten by curiosity bug. Obsessed with words. Fuelled by coffee. Powered by Google. Love cheese, chocolate, and cherries. Don’t judge your taco by its price.

Thanksgiving is happening on November 25th in 2021, and it so happens that it’s only ten days away. If you want to have a stress-free day full of delicious food and family fun, you should follow our foolproof countdown guide and start your Thanksgiving preparations.

10 Days Until Thanksgiving Day: Finalize Your Menu Plans

We assume you have already created your guest lists and got all your family and/or friends to confirm. So all the plans we are going to finalize now will be food-related.

Plan All About Your Turkey.


Depending on the number of people you will be having over for Thanksgiving, decide what size turkey you need to purchase.

1. How Much Turkey Do I Need Per Person?

This is crucial. If you get too small of a bird, you will end up with grumpy dissatisfied guests, but if you get the one that’s too big, you will be stuck with leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches and croquettes till Christmas (which is not that big of a problem, but still).

Let’s average the perfect amount of turkey to 1.25 lbs. per person (600 grams). That guarantees no one will be left hungry, and you most probably still have enough leftovers for that leftover turkey sandwich and croquettes we mentioned earlier.

To make it easier for you, we got an easy-to-follow Thanksgiving turkey ratio chart you can save and use every holiday season.

Illustration By SideChef

Thanksgiving Turkey Tip:

If you are hosting a major Thanksgiving dinner for 15 people or more, get two medium-sized turkeys. It will be easier to thaw and cook two regular-sized birds instead of struggling with a 25-pound pterodactyl-sized monster.

You can also prepare a few extra turkey breasts or legs instead of making a whole extra bird if you’d like to make it even easier.

2. How Do I Cook Thanksgiving Turkey?

Once you have determined the size of the turkey you need, it’s time to choose the cooking method. There are several ways to cook it, and they require different amounts of time. And we know that time is our most precious asset when it comes to Thanksgiving planning.

Roast the turkey (classic)


The method we all know and love, classic Thanksgiving roast turkey. On average, a 15-pound turkey will take about 4 hours to roast, so make sure to start early in the day.

Deep fry the turkey


Unconventional but extremely delicious. If you got the proper setup to deep fry your turkey, go for it. You will need to deep fry it outside, and also be extremely careful! There are deep-fried turkey-related accidents every year.

The time needed for deep frying a turkey is calculated using this formula: 3.5 minutes/per pound. So, an average-sized 15-pound turkey should be ready in about 52 minutes or when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).

Spatchcock turkey


Spatchcocking - also known as butterflying - means removing the backbone and allowing the bird to be completely open and flattened.
If you spatchcock the turkey before roasting it, you will cut the cooking time almost in half and get perfectly cooked meat throughout the entire bird. It will take about 90 minutes to thoroughly cook your bird using this method.
Spatchcocked turkey also turns out crispier, juicier, and tender. You can also still use the backbone for your gravy.

Plan All About Your Side Dishes

Photo By SideChef

The Thanksgiving table is all about the sides for many of us, so take your time figuring out which side dishes you want to make this year and how many would be your perfect number.

Things to consider when deciding on Thanksgiving side dishes.

1. Cooking Method


Make sure you make your list of sides, keeping cooking methods in mind. If all your side dishes need to be cooked in the oven, you might run into a few issues not having enough time.

So, choose some sides you can make ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate for a couple of days, some sides that don’t require cooking at all (like green salads, for instance), some that can be cooked on the stove, and some that will need the oven. Don’t forget about some fun bite-sized Thanksgiving appetizers, either.

2. Dietary Restrictions


Double confirm if any of your guests have food allergies or special dietary restrictions. While you don’t have to plan an entire menu around one person, making sure there’s at least a couple of dishes everyone can enjoy is a nice thing to do.

Not to mention it’s no fun to make a trip to an emergency room on Thanksgiving day because someone forgot to mention their shellfish allergy.

3. Number of Side Dishes and Servings


Just like choosing the size of your turkey is crucial for successful Thanksgiving, selecting the right number of side dishes to put on the table as well as the number of serving for each of them is just as important.

To make this process easier, we got another helpful chart ready for you.

Illustration By SideChef

9 Days Until the Thanksgiving Day

You have finalized the menu by now, so let’s check if you have everything to execute it without any last-minute surprises.

1. Check if you have all the kitchen appliances and tools for the dishes on your Thanksgiving menu.


Make sure your meat thermometer still works and your food processor is in good shape.
Sharpen the knives and check if your oven is functioning correctly.

2. Match your menu to serving dishes.


It’s a good idea to match each recipe to its serving dish. That way, you won’t have a last-minute panic attack when you run out of bowls to serve mashed potatoes or green bean casserole.

Don’t forget about trays for serving your appetizers or desserts.

8 Days Until the Thanksgiving Day: Shopping Lists

Yes, shopping lists, as in two grocery shopping lists. It’s best to either make two trips to the grocery store or order your groceries online.

Photo By SideChef

Grocery Shopping List #1 - Non-Perishable Items and Drinks


Turkey!

Put all the dry, jarred, and canned goods on this list. Include kitchen supplies on it if needed as well.

You will need aluminum foil, parchment paper, plastic wrap, extra food storage containers, etc.
Stock up on non-alcoholic drinks, mixers, wine, and liquor.

Grocery Shopping List #2 - Perishable Items


The second list should include all fresh produce and perishable items.

After your first round of shopping is done, recheck your second list and add whatever items you might have forgotten to pick up.

7 Days Until the Thanksgiving Day: 1st Round of Shopping

Follow your first shopping list and do your first round of Thanksgiving shopping.

6 Days Until the Thanksgiving Day: Start Thawing Turkey

Most of us will opt for a frozen turkey, so you must give it enough time to thaw.

Don’t underestimate the amount of time needed to thaw the bird properly. Unless your turkey is closer to a big chicken in size, you should start thawing it now.

If you have any questions about how to thaw a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving, this this article will answer all of them.

5 Days Until the Thanksgiving Day: Start Cooking

You can save yourself a lot of trouble and start making some of your Thanksgiving menu items now.

Check everything that can be made ahead of time and frozen, and get to it.

You can easily prepare your dinner rolls, pie crusts, sweet potato casserole (just leave off the topping), stuffing (assemble and freeze, don’t bake before the day), etc.

4 Days Until the Thanksgiving Day: 2nd Round of Shopping

Now it’s time to stock up on all the fresh produce and see if you have forgotten to pick up anything on your first trip.

You’re all set for this week! Thanksgiving 2021 is guaranteed to be a success!

The Week of Thanksgiving:

If you have taken your time to prepare, the actual week of Thanksgiving should be relatively smooth. Just a few more things to double-check and prepare.


  1. Monday or Tuesday of Thanksgiving week are both good to do some last-minute shopping. Check your planned menu, and see if you have absolutely all the necessary ingredients at hand.

  2. Check the expiration dates of your pantry staples. You want to be entirely sure everything is on point for Thanksgiving day.

  3. Monday is your DEADLINE to start defrosting your turkey! If you haven’t started yet, it can’t wait any longer. At this point, you should definitely use the cold water thawing method.

  4. You can prep the bread for your stuffing now, chop up the vegetables, toast nuts, and measure dry ingredients.

  5. Check and prep all the kitchen tools and cookware your Thanksgiving menu calls for. Plan out and pair up the serving dishes with your menu as well. Make sure you have all the bowls, trays, racks, and plates.

  6. Clean the house.

  7. If you have premade pie crust, dinner rolls, or any other items in your freezer, it’s time to move it into the fridge.

The Day Before Thanksgiving:


  1. Make all your pies and casseroles if you have time.

  2. Sauté and blanch all the vegetables you will need tomorrow. This way, it will take you just a few minutes to put together your stuffing or any roasts.

  3. Transfer everything you don’t need to reheat or serve at room temperature into serving plates and wrap in aluminum foil.

  4. If you’re brining your turkey, it’s time to begin.

  5. Set up your dinner table.

Thanksgiving Day:

Having done all the preparation, Thanksgiving day should be planned around the turkey.


  1. Peel and prep your potatoes first thing in the morning. Leave them in cold water to boil or roast later.

  2. Chill all the drinks and make sure you have ice.

  3. Start roasting your turkey 4-5 hours before planned Thanksgiving dinner time. It takes a few hours to cook a big bird thoroughly. You also need to give it time to rest and cool off before you carve it.

  4. Plate the appetizers and dishes served at room temperature about 2 hours before Thanksgiving dinner.

  5. Start reheating and plating the rest of the dishes about an hour before the dinner.

  6. Ideally, your turkey should be done about an hour before the dinner as well, so it’s time to make the gravy if you’re using the drippings.

  7. Clean up what you need, and you should be all set for a fantastic Thanksgiving feast!


Happy Thanksgiving!

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