Friday, November 21, 2014

Holiday Food Prep Schedule

Hosting a holiday meal can make for a stressful day for the host. I'm sort of a stickler about getting the meal on the table at the pre-announced time, so I make a schedule to keep me on track. With an eye on the clock, I can usually have the food on the table within 5-10 minutes of my goal.

To get the entire meal on the table at the same time, I enlist both my ovens and a turkey roaster. I've adapted the schedule below to include a microwave and crock pot, in case you have just one oven. A note about a roaster: you might think it's an unnecessary kitchen tool that you'll use only once a year. In addition to roasting a holiday turkey, ham or beef roast, this workhorse can also be used to roast multiple chickens simultaneously and feed hungry crowds sausage & peppers, pulled pork, chicken & noodles and more. 

This 70+ year old roaster belonged to my grandmother. The top can be separated from the base
for countertop use. The masking tape on the upper right was placed there by Grandma Egner
so no one would (accidentally) take her roaster from covered dish dinners and farm meals. 

A note about roasting turkey: The roasting time below is for a 14 lb. unstuffed turkey with a 1pm finish time. To learn how long to roast your turkey, check the Butterball roasting chart. If you're stuffing your turkey, be sure to place stuffing in cavity just before placing in the oven. Stuffing the bird the night before can encourage bacteria growth. Also, pop-up timers can be faulty. Determine doneness with a meat thermometer: 165 degrees at the meatiest part of the thigh and breast, making sure not to touch the thermometer to the bone.

Sample Holiday Meal Schedule

Two days before the meal
  • Prepare bread for stuffing: cut into cubes and dry in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes stirring once. Cool and store in a sealed bag until ready to use
  • Make and refrigerate cranberry sauce.
  • Make and refrigerate brine.

Day before the meal
  • Saute vegetables for stuffing
  • Place turkey in brine in the afternoon
  • Blanch  and refrigerate fresh vegetables in prep for final cooking: green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
  • Assemble and refrigerate salads and other cold sides
  • Make pies or other desserts
  • Make and refrigerate mashed potatoes
  • Chill beverages

Day of the meal
8:30am Preheat oven/roaster
Prep turkey for roasting
9:00 Place turkey in oven/roaster
Crockpot: Heat premade mashed potatoes on low 
stirring occasionally
Prep veggies for roasting, sauteing or boiling
11:30 Assemble stuffing
12:30 Remove turkey from oven/roaster to rest for 30 minutes
Oven: Bake casseroles requiring dry heat (stuffing, 
mac & cheese, etc.)
Oven: Roast veggie sides
Stove: saute/boil veggie sides
Strain pan drippings into saucepan and make slurry for gravy
12:45 Microwave: Heat casseroles that can withstand 
moist heat (squash, green beans)
12:50 Stove: Make gravy
1:00 Let’s eat!!

How do you manage your holiday feast?


  1. I love this schedule ... I'm going to use this only bump it up an hour : I like to get a little extra sleep because I know the in-laws will stay super late at my house after dinner! HA Thank you Janet!

    1. Extra sleep is always welcome around the holidays! Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving - thankful for friends like you!