Episode 105 Thanksgiving Basics

Many of us will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. For some, it will be their first time cooking Thanksgiving and for most, the gatherings will be smaller than in the past. Today’s episode goes into the basics of planning and executing Thanksgiving dinner.


2-3 Weeks before Thanksgiving talk with your family. Ask them what foods are most important.  Focus on what’s most important to your family and let go of the rest. If you family doesn’t care about mashed potatoes or green bean casserole, then don’t feel like you have to make those dishes.


In the Feed Your Family Tonight Holiday Planning Guide there is a “Thanksgiving 101” guide. If this is your first time cooking Thanksgiving, this guide will help you avoid rookie mistakes like not allowing enough time for the turkey to thaw or not planning out what times each dish will go in the oven on Thanksgiving Day.


2 Weeks before Thanksgiving finalize the time for the gathering, decide what plates, cups, silverware and serving dishes you will use for the meal. Finalize the menu and make two grocery lists. The first list is all the items you can buy the week before Thanksgiving. The second list is the few fresh items you will need to buy early Thanksgiving week.  If you are using a grocery pickup or delivery service, book your time now. Most pickup and delivery services will let you adjust your order up to 24 hours before your scheduled time. The best times will fill up quickly so start your order now.

1 Week before Thanksgiving do your first grocery shopping trip. Start thawing your turkey in the refrigerator according to this schedule.

  • 20-24 pounds: Friday
  • 16-20 pounds: Saturday
  • 12-16 pounds: Sunday
  • 10-12 pound or large turkey breast: Monday
  • 5-7 pound turkey breast: Tuesday


A word about turkeys- Most grocery store turkeys (like Butterball) have a salt solution added. It will say on the label broth solution added. You do not want to brine this type of turkey. It will end up too salty and the meat may get an odd texture. Conversely, if you get a “natural” turkey, it is very important to brine it so the meat will retain moisture. You can do a “dry brine” by rubbing salt directly on the meat underneath the skin, or a “wet brine” in a saltwater solution. “Fresh” turkeys are often “super chilled” which means they will take a day or two in the refrigerator before they are ready to roast. There may even be a few ice crystals in the turkey.

Thanksgiving week-

Monday or Tuesday you want to do your final grocery trip. Start prepping any dishes you can. I always have Cheeseburger Baked Potatoes one day for dinner and roast a pan of sweet potatoes for the sweet potato casserole. If you have a separate formal dining room, set the table.

Wednesday- Bake your desserts and get the turkey prepped. You can put it in the roasting pan uncovered in the refrigerator. This will dry out the surface of the skin making it extra crispy when you roast it the next day. If you stuff your turkey, wait until just before roasting to add the stuffing. It is not safe to have the stuffing in the cavity overnight. Make a list of all the tasks you have to do on Thanksgiving Day. Make note of the times each dish needs to go into the oven and the temperature for those dishes. Calculate how long to roast your turkey and add 30 minutes for it to rest before carving.

Thanksgiving Day-

Follow the plan you made for oven usage. Make note of tasks you can give to guests who offer help. Some of my favorite tasks for guests include filling water glasses and lighting candles.


Most of all, enjoy your time with your family. Creating a memorable Thanksgiving is possible even if everything isn’t perfect. Use the Feed Your Family Tonight Holiday Planning Guide to help you get organized.

Marie Fiebach is a married mother of four active kids. She helps busy families plan and execute weeknight dinner so they can recapture a little calm in the crazy. You can see her every week on KAKE TV’s Good Morning Kakeland or listen to the Feed Your Family Tonight Podcast.