The Complete Guide to Cooking your Thanksgiving Dinner

There’s nothing worse than panic on Thanksgiving. Rushing through with the heat of the oven is unbearable. The best way to tackle a busy holiday like Thanksgiving is with a plan!

Luckily for you, I’ve done the work for you – just follow this complete guide to cooking your Thanksgiving dinner.

No more frozen turkeys on the big day! Have stress free cooking this Thanksgiving.

Be Prepared

First things first, know what you’re going to be cooking. Once you have an idea of what your spread is going to be, make a grocery list based on how many people will be attending your Thanksgiving dinner.

If you’re interested in what I’ll be cooking for my family of 5 this year, check out My Thanksgiving Dinner Breakdown.

Steal my menu and schedule for the big day!

Have Enough Food

The most important part of hosting Thanksgiving is having enough food for all your guests.

These are some recommended serving amounts per guest:

  • 1.5lbs of Turkey
  • 1 cup of stuffing
  • 1 cup of mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup of macaroni and cheese
  • 1/2 cup of veggies
  • 1 cup of salad
  • 1/3 cup of gravy
  • 1-2 slices of pie
  • 3 servings of a beverage of your choice

Now with that info, multiply each by the amount of people you will be hosting. Then get started on that grocery list and get shopping.

get a free Thanksgiving Planner below!

Thaw Your Turkey

I’ve had it happen to me before; I take out my turkey the night before thinking my turkey was completely thawed out only to find huge chunks of ice inside the turkey!

Never again.

Before placing your turkey to thaw, you should buy a couple of extra foil pans. It’s a good idea to periodically replace the plan and throw out the water it releases to not spread any bacteria onto your other food.

After the turkey is thawed, it can safely stay in your fridge for another day or two without going bad.

Below are the recommended amount of days you should be thawing your turkey out.

  • Turkey 8-12lbs: 2-3 Days (Monday)
  • Turkey 12-16lbs: 3-4 Days (Sunday)
  • Turkey 16-20lbs: 4-5 Days (Saturday)

I always add an extra day because I like to marinate my turkey the night before so I need it to be 100% thawed for this.

When in doubt add a day!

Turkey Cooking Times

For my small family of 5 (baby included), I tend to buy a 12lb turkey and cook it for up to 4 hours in a 350 degree oven. I will cook it with a foil on, baste periodically and remove the foil for the last 30 minutes.

Right before dinner I will let it rest meanwhile other foods are cooking or warming in the oven.

To ensure your turkey is thoroughly cooked, place a digital thermometer into the thigh of the turkey (be careful not to touch the bone), the internal temperature should be 165 degrees for safe eating.

Check out below to see how long you should be cooking your turkey.

  • Turkey 8-12lbs: 2.5-3 hours
  • Turkey 12-16lbs: 3-3.5 hours
  • Turkey 16-20lbs: 3.5-4.5 hours
*Note if you plan to stuff your turkey you will have to cook it for longer. The stuffing should also read the internal temperature. If it does not, remove the stuffing and cook separately until it thoroughly cooks.

Another tip for cooking your turkey is to make sure it is room temperature before placing into the oven. Attempting to cook a cold turkey will result in uneven cooking.

Scheduling Tips

My best advice for you is to multitask.

I know easier said than done.

The easiest way to do this is to start by creating a list of your menu. Sort them in order of how long they’ll take to cook. Obviously the turkey is first and the rest under.

With all this mapped out, see where you can do two things at once. Example: While your boiling pasta for the mac n cheese, you can start peeling potatoes. Then boil the potatoes while you’re working on the actual mac n cheese. Working like these will have two dishes done at the same time.

I always buy foil pans for the mash and mac as well so that once they are done on the stove they can chill in there and then finish off later in the oven. It’s a clean way to take them out of the pans, save space, and start cleaning.

Another tip is to work with a clean space.

There’s nothing worse than juggling 100 things and not have any room. Start with a clean kitchen, empty dish washer and clear counters. It will make cooking easier and will take away some of the headache.

Free Thanksgiving Planner

Final Thoughts

I hope this blog post has helped you figure out how you can tackle the craziest day of the year for moms!

If you need more help with planning your day please read My Complete Thanksgiving Day Breakdown.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Ideas? Talk to me in the comments!

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