Countdown to Turkey Day November 15, 2010

Heather says:

There are two items on today’s Turkey To-Do List.

It’s time to clean out the refrigerator and start making room for the extra produce and the turkey. Get rid of all the science projects, expired food, and condiments that have been open since before Obama took office. Stop feeling guilty, just get rid of them.

Next, it’s time to start looking at your Thanksgiving Day schedule.

When will you purchase or thaw your turkey? If you are getting a fresh turkey, have you placed your order?

Fresh turkeys will need to purchased no earlier than the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Fresh turkeys are highly perishable and should be stored in a home fridge for no longer than 2 days before cooking.

To thaw frozen turkeys safely you need to ensure there is plenty of room on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Frozen turkeys need 24 hours for every five pounds.

Get out your menu.

It’s time to figure out which side dishes can be made ahead of time.

Can any be made this week and frozen? What are the directions for reheating?

What time will Thanksgiving Dinner be served?

A cooked turkey should rest for thirty minutes before carving.

Don’t forget to have some kind of munchies set out to keep the vultures I mean guests from circling the kitchen and adding to the stress in the home stretch. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a plate of raw vegetables with ranch dip will do or maybe some fancy crackers and sliced cheese or check out The Motherload for 7 Make Ahead Appetizers.

Don’t put a lot of thought into it, it’s just to keep people’s blood sugar from dropping and tempers from rising¹. If alcohol is served, it’s never a good idea to mix relatives, alcohol, and empty stomachs. You may as well have a marquee sign highlighting offenses of years’ past.

If dinner is to be served at 4pm, work backwards from 3:30pm to decide when the turkey should go into the oven. The thirty minutes after the turkey comes out of the oven is a good time to finish off side dishes that just need to be heated, but don’t over estimate your oven’s capacity.

Go through your entire menu and figure out what time each dish should be started and completed.

Finally, when figuring out your time table, don’t forget to include some buffer time for extra prep. Minor setbacks always occur, having the extra time built into the schedule keeps a bump in the flow from become a train wreck of epic culinary proportions.

If you are new to Home Ec 101 and need to play catch up check out the rest of the Countdown to Turkey Day Series.

¹I mean, my temper never flares when I’m hungry. Nope, not guilty of that one, not one bit.


  1. Kathie on November 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    i just googled thawing a turkey in a cooler because I just came from the store with my turkey and was carring it in through the garage and actually thought to myself "wonder if I can thaw this in the cooler" I have a 20 lb turkey so how long would that take using either the water method or blue ice pak method?

    • Lee Y on November 21, 2010 at 8:57 am

      I have two 16 lb frozen turkey- can I place them in the cooler with water ? how long will it take to defrost then?

  2. Joyce on November 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I also thaw my turkey in a picnic cooler but rather than putting water in, I put in blue ice paks once it starts to thaw. The outside is always still cold and there are still ice crystals as I pull the giblets out.

    • Mindy on November 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm

      This is brilliant! The bottom shelf of our fridge (where we've always stored and brined the turkey) broke and barely supports a gallon of milk and a six-pack. This will totally save me!

  3. coffeemamma on November 15, 2010 at 8:56 am

    I'm not preparing for Turkey Day (our Canadian Thanksgiving was last month) but I wanted to share a tip from our butcher. Rather than trying to find room in the fridge, we use our insulated camping cooler to thaw our turkey in. Leave the turkey wrapped, put in the cooler breast-side down, and cover with cold water. As the turkey thaws, the water will stay very cold, so there is no worry about things warming up in there. Rather than 5-6 days, it can thaw overnight.

    I know there is a lot of worry around uncooked poultry, but we have been doing this for years with no issues at all.

    • HeatherSolos on November 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

      That is great advice. Before our neighbors moved and gave us their garage refrigerator I did something similar. I actually keep produce and other perishables in the cooler while the turkey thaws. I just prefer to have better control over the temperature of the poultry.

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