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12 Easy Thanksgiving Do-Ahead Tips

Avoid the stress of last-minute holiday preparation with these time-saving steps

Molly Watson
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Start with a plan

Always check the specific recipe, but Thanksgiving recipes in general have plenty of make-ahead possibilities. Little steps taken ahead can really speed up putting a dish together for the big feast.

Start with a plan. Sketch a countdown chart, noting how long each dish takes, what can be made ahead, and what has to be accomplished simultaneously.

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Dessert

Desserts or components thereof (such as sauce, crust, pie filling, or topping) can often be made at least a day ahead, if not more.

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Bread

Bread for stuffing can be cut up the day ahead and stored in a paper bag (remember: dried-out bread is good for dressings!).

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Aromatics

Aromatics for most dressings (onions, celery, mushrooms, etc.) can be cooked the day before and then tossed with the bread and baked on the big day.

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Turkey prep

Have turkey as prepped as possible (salted, even spiced and rubbed with butter, in its pan) and ready to go in the oven.

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Cranberry sauce

Most cranberry sauces can be made several days in advance.

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Salad dressing

Salad dressings can often be made at least a day ahead.

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Lettuce

Wash, dry, and wrap lettuce in paper towels, and store in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge until ready to toss.

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Chop, grate, season

Vegetables can be chopped, cheese grated, and spices or seasonings measured out the day before.

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Making gravy

The roux (fat and flour mixture) for gravy can be done several hours ahead using butter instead of rendered fat ― just reheat and add stock and pan drippings.

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Appetizers

Many Thanksgiving appetizers--or parts of them--can be made ahead. Check recipe specifics.

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Soup

Most soups benefit from being made a day before they're eaten.

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