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When to shop, prep and cook for Thanksgiving dinner – NBC Chicago

Thanksgiving is about food, friends and family. It’s also a matter of timing. Every home chef – and even executive chefs – has a horror story about their turkey not being ready on time. And that’s assuming you can find one. Keep your shopping to the last minute, and you might have duck for Thanksgiving dinner (honestly, that doesn’t sound too bad, though…).

To help you plan Thanksgiving dinner this year, TODAY Food spoke to a few expert chefs with decades of experience, both personal and professional, preparing America’s favorite feast. Whether you’re hosting or bringing a dish or two, grab a pen (or your iPad) because it all starts now.

2 to 4 weeks: Take stock, stock up and order (or buy) your turkey

Start focusing on the recipes you want to try. “I like to have all of my recipes curated or have an idea of ​​what I’m serving by November 1st,” says Matt Abdoo, TODAY’s frequent guest and executive chef and partner of Pig Beach BBQ. You should too take inventory of what you have in your pantry, and make a list of what you need. It’s also time to start shopping. “The sooner you can get your groceries, the better,” Abdoo said. “Anything frozen or shelf stable, I make sure to buy at least two weeks before Thanksgiving.”

Erin Smith, executive chef at Houston’s Feges BBQ (which has one of the best Thanksgiving takeout menus in town) also recommends have your Stock for the sauce and stuffing made That much. You can freeze it until Thanksgiving. “Having it ready makes all the difference,” noted Smith, who also prepares her compound butters weeks, if not months, in advance.

If you buy it fresh, Max Tucci, author of “The Delmonico Way”, also recommends order your turkey now. As long as you have room in your freezer, you can buy a frozen turkey at this point too. Then Tucci, who once cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for over 100 people to bring them together after 9/11, says you should make your menu. If you assign dishes to others, you want to give them at least two weeks to prepare.

• 37 Thanksgiving menu ideas for the most festive holiday

4-5 days: Buy your fresh ingredients, start defrosting your turkey and prepare desserts

The weekend before Thanksgiving is when play time begins. Start buying your fresh ingredients, especially what you will need to prepare the side dishes that you start to prepare two to three days. This is also when a lot of people start shopping, so be prepared. To beat the crowds, shop early in the morning or late at night. “I like to shop usually an hour before a supermarket closes,” said Tucci, who recommends you “stay away from midday” if you want a less stressful experience.

Begin thaw your frozen turkey now too. “The best and safest way to thaw your turkey is in your refrigerator,” Abdoo said. “It usually takes about a day for five pounds.” For a 15 pound turkey, it would take three days. However, Abdoo likes to be on the safe side and take it out of the freezer a day or two early and store it in the fridge.

• How Much Turkey to Make Per Person for Thanksgiving: A Poultry-Proof Guide

According to Smith, this is also the best time to start doing the sweet stuff on your menu. “Desserts should be made first,” says Smith, who insists you don’t have to worry about them going stale. “Sugar and fat help keep desserts flavorful and fresh.”

Remember: desserts don’t have to be homemade to be a success. “For pies and cakes, I say, ‘Why cook for yourself when someone else can? ‘” Tucci said. If you follow this path, order desserts at your local bakery now.

DIY expert Orly Shani shows “California Live” how to save space and money with reusable DIY projects for the holidays. See how this fall wreath, cushion, and door banner starts with a Halloween theme and ends with Thanksgiving decor.

2-3 days outdoors: Start at your side and gather your remaining ingredients

Unless you thrive under pressure, start your sides Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. “Start with sides that reheat well,” Smith recommended. “Examples include mashed potatoes, braised greens, and green bean casserole.”

• 51 Thanksgiving side dishes that will be the stars of the show

This is also when Abdoo makes his cranberry sauce (although he says canned cranberry sauce is delicious). If you don’t want to start your games so early, or if you don’t have time, at least make sure you have all your ingredients at hand.

The day before: peel and cut your potatoes, clean and decorate your home, and start brining your turkey

The day before Thanksgiving will be a busy day. If you haven’t started yet, peel and cut your potatoes. Mashed potatoes should be stored in the refrigerator, covered with water, until you are ready to cook them. Sweet potatoes should be stored, covered, in their baking dish in the refrigerator. Basically, anything you want to cook or reheat on Thanksgiving Day can be made today and stored in the refrigerator, covered, in their baking or serving dish.

You should also take advantage of this day to clean and decorate, including setting your table. Smith still has her table set at this point, despite the presence of a 3-year-old child in the house, as she knows she will be spending most of the next day in the kitchen.

Thanksgiving Eve is Anytime start brining your turkey, whether you use a wet brine or a dry brine. It must brine overnight.

Thanksgiving Day: Bring your turkey to room temperature, cook it, prepare the rest of the meal, and enjoy!

Because it takes the longest to cook, start with your turkey. (TODAY Food’s Turkey Cooking Guide is a great resource for everything you need to know about turkey today.) So how long does it take to cook a turkey?

“It takes about 15 minutes per pound,” said Abdoo, who has won national poultry preparation championships. So if you have a 20 pound turkey, cook it for at least five hours. If you have a 15 pound turkey, you will need almost four hours.

• Turkey cooking time: how long to cook poultry, when to defrost, etc.

Abdoo recommends you take your turkey out of the fridge three hours before you plan to put it in the oven. “Remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry with paper towel and brush it with room temperature butter,” Abdoo said. “Then you can season it with salt, pepper and chopped thyme.” This is also when he stuffs the cavity with garlic cloves and herbs before letting the turkey rest like this at room temperature until it goes into the oven.

If you don’t have three hours, that’s okay too. An hour should be enough. “This allows the turkey to come to room temperature,” Smith said. “This gives the skin time to dry out more, which will make it crispy in the oven.”

While your turkey cooks, focus on finishing your sides. Start with the sides that take the most time like candied yams, stuffing and green bean casserole. So, do it mashed potatoes and one salad, if you have one. After checking its temperature — the turkey breast is cooked at 170 F and the thighs at 180 F — you can carve your turkey and prepare it sauce.

“I like to make the sauce last minute for several reasons,” Smith said. “First of all, I like to use turkey drippings. Second, I usually drink wine on Thanksgiving, so I’ll already have an open bottle for deglazing, and finally, a freshly made sauce avoids clumping and thickening.

Last, put your desserts which must be hot in the oven over low heat. Smith likes to add a fresh garnish before serving.

Enjoy your lunch!

This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from today:

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