Here's Exactly When To Cook Every Dish For Thanksgiving Dinner

Time out turkey day down to the minute.

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Erika LaPresto

From battling crowds at the grocery store to wrangling all your relatives into the same room, there's plenty of stress that comes with . Avoid a mid-day meltdown by planning ahead and prepping dishes long before it's time to eat. Read our detailed timeline that breaks down the most efficient schedule for preparing everything from starters to desserts to ensure that you'll be trotting that turkey out right on time. Don't forget to bookmark the easy-to-read chart at the bottom to keep on-hand while you're prepping!

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Soup

make great starters for Turkey Day dinner, and luckily they can be made a week or so ahead. Whip up a big batch of your favorite and freeze it, then take it out of the freezer the morning of Thanksgiving so it's ready to be reheated on the stove just before serving.

Gravy

There are tons of that don't require you to actually use parts of the turkey, you can buy giblets, turkey necks and wings at most butcher shops—that means it can be made and frozen 1 to 2 weeks before your guests arrive. If you want to use parts from the actual bird to boost flavor, whip up the gravy two days ahead (once your turkey is thawed enough to remove the giblets) and refrigerate it, then reheat in a saucepan until hot so it's ready for pouring over the sliced turkey.

Turkey

The should be the crown jewel of your holiday table, so you'll definitely want to time it right, and that means thinking way ahead. A 20-pound turkey can take up to five days to thaw in the fridge—budget —and if you're using a brine, make sure the bird has 12 hours to marinate.

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Roasting an unstuffed bird can take 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size. Check that an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F for the breast meat and 170 to 175 degrees F for the thick part of the thigh before removing it from the oven. Then tent it with foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing—this ensure that no one will be complaining about a dry bird.

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Stuffing

Store-bought comes together in no time, but homemade take a bit of forethought. Cube the bread and set it out to stale two days ahead of Thanksgiving, or bake the cornbread and leave it on the counter for . If you'll be serving stuffing on the side, assemble it one day ahead and refrigerate until you're ready to bake (at the same time as the turkey, or once the turkey is resting). In-turkey stuffing must be prepped first thing on Thanksgiving morning, then stuffed into the turkey cavity and cooked along with the bird.

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Casseroles

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Whether your family demands or alongside their turkey, these dishes can be prepped and assembled two whole days before the big event. Make sure to cover and refrigerate them, then stick the dish in the hot oven once you've taken the turkey out to rest. They'll be golden and bubbly just in time to eat.

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Salads & Cold Sides

No-bake dishes are they key to a spacious oven. Wash and prep lettuce and vegetables for two days ahead for easy assembly on Thanksgiving morning—wait to dress it until serving. While you're at it, chop up all the herbs you'll need for garnishes and other recipes. The most clever hosts could even recruit relatives to handle the cold sides and salads to complement your mains, guaranteeing that no one screws up your oven rotation.

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Cranberry Sauce

Throw together a quick or relish two days ahead and refrigerate it 'til dinnertime—you'll never look back at the jellied stuff from a can again.

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Kristen Strecker

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Mashed Potatoes

If you're really on top of your game, regular and can be peeled the day before and stored, covered in cold water, in the fridge. Then all you'll need to do it boil and mash them on the stovetop while the turkey is resting—don't forget plenty of butter, and try adding mix-ins for the best your guests have ever tasted.

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Desserts

Baking is way too time-consuming to bother with when your extended family is around. Make things easier on yourself by making pie dough a week before, then portion it into disks and freeze. Two days before, move the dough to the fridge to defrost so you can bake up a storm on Thanksgiving Eve. Custard and can be refrigerated overnight, while pecan and do best when kept at room temperature. Anything that needs reheating can get popped in the oven while the turkey is resting, or while the dinner table is being cleared for dessert.

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Drinks

Don't forget about one of the most important parts of the meal—the wine! Stick bottles that need to be chilled in the fridge the night before or, if you live somewhere cold, put them in the garage or back porch to save on space. If you're serving put someone who's not stuck in the kitchen on bartender duty, or convince your fun uncle to make a batch of to get the festivities going.

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