Turkey Day Cooking Schedule

The groceries are purchased, the prep-work is done, and the big day is here! Now what do you do? We break it down, step-by-step, to get your turkey dinner from the kitchen to the dining table.



The star of the show goes first. You’ve been defrosting it for the past day or so, now’s the time to pull it out and allow it to come to room temperature before cooking (this should take no more than an hour). Pre-heat your grill, smoker, oven or fryer and double check your cooking time, which will depend on how you’re preparing your turkey and how many pounds it is.

Defrost Frozen Items

Did you pre-make your casseroles, desserts or rolls? Pull them out of the freezer now and leave them on the counter to defrost.

Chill Your Beverages

Set up a drink station for any drinks you’re serving, ice down any beverages that should be chilled.


Set a timer to remind you to baste or check the temperature of your turkey.


Prime Cooking Time

While the turkey is cooking, it’s time to prepare the rest of the meal. Keep a note of all your side dishes and prepare accordingly. Do you have casseroles that need to go in the oven with the turkey? Pop them right in! If there are more than two hours to go to meal time you can refrigerate as needed and reheat. A refrigerator with adjustable shelves is great for bulky casserole dishes and leftovers.

Finish Your Remaining Sides On The Cooktop

Finally, it’s time for anything that does not need to go in the oven. Don’t forget the mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies! When they’re done just put a lid on it and keep warm on the cooktop until it’s time to serve.

Get Your Hors D'oeuvres Ready

Prep ingredients for hors d’oeuvres or get pre-made goodies organized on serving trays to pop back in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Just before guests are due to arrive, designate a spot for coats and bags; have hors d’oeuvres and drinks ready to serve.


Complete Last-Minute Tasks

When your turkey is ready, transfer it to a platter and allow it to sit for 30-45 minutes. While the turkey is resting, dress your salad, make your gravy and warm your side dishes.

Reheat Side Dishes

Microwaves work great for reheating dishes brought by your guests. Convection microwaves come in handy because they act like a small oven and frees up oven space for larger dishes. Warming drawers work wonders for side dishes heated earlier and will stay fresh until served later. If you need longer than 45 minutes for finishing touches, just tent the turkey loosely with foil to keep warm.


A turkey has to rest at least half an hour for the juices to redistribute, and depending on size, it’ll stay warm for at least 45 minutes.


Carve The Turkey

Time to carve the turkey and serve the meal. Start by removing the legs and wings and then cut across the grain to make the meat less chewy. Don’t forget about those items that don’t have to be reheated, like the cranberry sauce sitting in your refrigerator!


Buffet style is a great way to go. That way guests can serve themselves to their liking.

After Dinner

Coffee, Tea And Dessert

Everyone’s eaten and the turkey coma has set in. Wake everyone up with some coffee or tea, make whip cream for those pies warming in your oven or warming drawer, and serve up.

Pack Up And Refrigerate Leftovers

Give your guests the gift of leftovers, because how many turkey sandwiches can you eat? Pack everything up and refrigerate within two hours.


Just before you sit down to dinner, place your pies in an oven that’s been turned off but is still releasing some heat. When you finish dinner, your pie will be warm and ready to eat!

Day After Thanksgiving

Delicious Leftovers

Turkey lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator, giving you ample time to create more meals. Just add your leftover turkey to soups, pot pies, pasta dishes, salads and more.


Tired of eating turkey? You can freeze turkey for up to two months. You may be tired of it now, but it will make a delicious contribution to your favorite soup come winter.

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