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The No-Fail Thanksgiving Timeline

No pressure, but Thanksgiving dinner is kind of a big deal. After all, it’s only the most historic meal celebrated across America, and you’ve taken on the task to feed your family’s hunger and high expectations this year. The fridge is stocked, the turkey is thawed and the aroma of spiced pumpkin is in the air. Enjoy the calm before the storm, and review this super helpful hour-by-hour Thanksgiving schedule. Ready, set, go!

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Thanksgiving Eve

2:00 pm
Bake your beloved pumpkin pie. Then your pecan pie. Wait, pecan pie is really hard, so ask a relative to bring one. While you’re at it, ask your aunt to bring her famously incomparable chocolate pudding pie. Then call your mother and tell her Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without her homemade apple pie. You’re now done prepping dessert.

3:00 pm
Set the table—if you didn’t already do this three days ago. You’re not going to have the time to care about napkin rings and table décor tomorrow, so arrange every detail according to your Pinterest board, and then forget about it. Things are about to get down and dirty.

4:00 pm
Make the sweet potatoes. Undercook them a bit and leave off the marshmallows. On Thanksgiving Day, pop them back in the oven and sprinkle the marshmallows on top for toasty perfection.

5:00 pm
Bake the corn bread in mini muffin trays and then arrange them in an oven-safe bowl. After the turkey comes out of the oven for the ceremonial carving tomorrow, place the bowl of corn bread mini-muffins in the oven for a little warming. Warm cornbread on Thanksgiving. How does she do it?

6:00 pm
If you’re Italian, do your thing and make that lasagna.

7:00 pm
Stuffing is always better the next day. Make it now and let the flavors beautifully marinate overnight. Then reheat it tomorrow, and no one will even know.


Thanksgiving Day

9:00 am
Turn on the NYC Thanksgiving Day parade, get all cheery and prep the turkey. There are no shortcuts for this one. Cook your bird however you like; just try not to drop it on the floor or wear it on your head. Get that big 20+ pounder in the oven by 10:00 am, in time for 3 pm dinner—or face hungry, judgmental guests.

10:15 am
Start peeling and boiling potatoes. Just kidding, you peeled them already, right? No one likes cold mashed potatoes, but timing them perfectly with getting the turkey on the table is an unnecessary stress. Don’t halt dinner for hot potatoes; just put those suckers in a slow cooker and they’ll be ready when you are.

10:45 am
Salad? Don’t bother, no one eats salad on Thanksgiving.

11:00 am
Get dressed, do your hair, put on some makeup if you want; just try not to look like you’ve been cooking all day. Pour yourself a drink. It’s too early to start the side dishes you didn’t already prep, but it’s always a good time for a morning Mimosa.

12:00 pm
Anyone who says they don’t like cranberry sauce out of a can is a liar. Just do yourself a favor and de-can the cranberry sauce into a bowl before your guests arrive, and mash the awkward can-shaped mold into a less obvious, saucier version of itself. If you want to go DIY, buy two bags of cranberries in the produce section; there’s always an easy recipe for the homemade version printed on the side.

12:30 pm
Whatever your vegetable choice out of the traditional favorites—Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, baked carrots–make them fresh. Got kids? A husband? Get them involved in this one. You only have two hands, and they’re probably just watching TV.

2:00 pm
That turkey is going to be done soon. Pull out all those dishes that need to be reheated, and get your gravy bowl ready. It’s time to start pulling juices from the turkey pan for a delish gravy.

2:30 pm
Pour another drink, and make it a strong one.

3:00 pm
Take out that turkey! Warm the cornbread, sweet potatoes, lasagna and stuffing while the carving and admiration ensues.

3:30 pm
Take a Norman Rockwell worthy photo of your masterpiece dinner and then pour yourself another drink. Eat, mingle, smile, and sneak off to your bedroom to lie down for a good fifteen minutes. There’s plenty of time to listen to Uncle Al complain about this year’s election.


Photo Credit: Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock

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