Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, but many hostesses and hosts could do without the suspense over whether the turkey will be done on time. Here are some ideas to make big holiday dinners come together with nary a hitch.
Make your invitations several weeks in advance. Settle on a menu early and put together a grocery list. Getting groceries early will save time when it is needed most.
Make as many of the side dishes as possible ahead of time. If you want to serve home-made rolls or bread, consider baking them early and freezing. Even veggies for relish trays can be prepared a couple of days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
6 Days Before the Holiday –
If you are serving custom-order hams or fresh poultry, order now. If you expect a big crowd, make arrangements for renting any catering equipment you will need.
5 Days Before the Holiday –
If you are serving a frozen bird, pick it up today. Frozen poultry needs 5 hours per pound to thaw in the refrigerator, so 20-25 pound birds can go right in the refrigerator today.
Buying a disposable roasting pan for the holiday feast can free the cook to spend more time with guests.
Check table linens and make sure they are ready to use. Review your serving dishes and buy or borrow anything you need.
Look at all the foods on the menu and see that no ingredients are missing. Figure cooking times for all foods that will not be prepared ahead of time. Write the estimated cooking times on the recipes.
4 Days Before the Holiday –
Put the extra leaves in the dining table and decide where everyone will sit.
3 Days Before the Holiday –
Buy fresh produce for the dinner. Make any dishes that can be refrigerated or frozen. 15 pound frozen birds need to go in the refrigerator no later than this morning.
2 Days Before the Holiday –
Finish any last minute grocery shopping. Clean house.  Bake pies that you plan to serve.

1 Day Before the Holiday –
Pick up fresh poultry. Set the table; a centerpiece with fresh flowers can be put out today and will still look good on the holiday. If you wish to thaw a frozen turkey in cold water, keep the turkey sealed in its wrapper and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes in the water bath for each pound of turkey. A turkey that has been thawed in cold water should go directly into the oven after the thawing period is over.
On the Big Day –
Stuff the turkey and put it in the oven. Start early enough that the turkey can cool somewhat before it is carved. Make sure your family members know what they can do to help – and how to do it.
Double check to see that all the side dishes you made ahead of time are taken out and warmed up. Finish the last minute gravy-making, etc.
Be thankful for life and health, and good food!

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