One Week and Counting: Head Start on the Big Day

“Relax…it’s only a dinner.” That’s what my husband says as he walks out of the house to leave me with all of the preparations for Thanksgiving. It’s ONLY a DINNER? My family, his family, friends will all be descending on MY CASA in expectation of the meal that they’ve been looking forward to all year (both of our families consider Thanksgiving to be their favorite day of the year).

Who me, panic?


By scheduling everything out, it takes all of the pressure off of the big day. What USED to be a crazy week before Thanksgiving has become routine in our house. 

My secret is to keep Butterball’s Turkey 101 in mind and then take care of the house. If you’re not familiar with Turkey 101 here are the basics…

    * Decide whether you’ll be making a fresh or frozen turkey. Remember that fresh turkeys need no thawing and are ready to cook. Frozen turkeys can be purchased weeks in advance, but require several days of thawing before roasting. If you haven’t tried Butterball Fresh Turkeys, you’ll be pleased to know that they are all natural and contain no added ingredients. Butterball turkeys are pre-basted to be extra tender and juicy.

    * Decide what size turkey to buy? Allow 1 1/2 pounds per person. Remember, your guests (and family will want leftovers and this will make for some great meals the next day or two.

    * Home food safety tips are important when handling turkey and to avoid possible foodborne illnesses:

       Wash your hands often

       Separate raw turkey and ready-to-eat foods

       Cook your turkey to the proper temperature

Once your turkey is cooked, it should be refrigerated within 2 hours of carving to reduce the temperature to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit

    * Butterball always recommends refrigerator thawing. For each four pounds of turkey, you should allow at least one day of thawing in the refrigerator. Check out this how-to video on on how to correctly thaw a turkey.

    * Did you forget to thaw or buy your turkey at the last minute? No problem. Try thawing more quickly by submerging the turkey in cold water. Leave the turkey in the wrapper, place it in a tub or sink of cold tap water breast down and change water every  30 minutes per pound of turkey.

    * I use Butterball’s recommended cooking method – Open Pan Roasting. As a result I always get a consistently tender, juicy and golden-brown turkey. You’ll want to use a pan that’s only 2 – 2 ½ inches deep (otherwise you won’t get that nice golden brown color).

    * Prepare your stuffing just before placing in the turkey, using only cooked ingredients.  Remember to loosely stuff the neck and body cavities of a completely thawed turkey and don’t pack it too tightly, you want it to COOK.

    * I keep my laptop on the counter with up on the screen in case I need help. You’ll find live chats, videos (carving and roasting), roasting time charts, calculators, and more. Also, a quick call to 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372) for help from the LIVE Butterball Turkey Talk-Line will get you through almost ANY problem that you may encounter.

    * Before roasting, turn the turkey’s wings back to hold the neck skin in place. This levels the turkey in the roasting pan to encourage even cooking . It also makes carving a whole lot easier.

    * Use Butterball’s roasting schedule as a guide for cook time for an open pan in a 325-degree conventional oven.  I always check 1/2-hour before the recommended end times for a picture-perfect turkey:

*10 to 18 lb turkey for 3 ¾  to 4 1/2 hours

*18 to 22 lb. turkey for 4 ½  to 5 hours

*22 to 24 lb. turkey for  5 to 5 ½ hours

*24 to 30 lb. turkey  for 5 1/2 to 6 ½ hours

Some of the other things that I make sure are done 7 days in advance are:

*Create my seating arrangement

*Pull out my Thanksgiving decorations, candles, etc. and get the table and house looking festive

*Make placecards for the table

*Clean – my least favorite part

*Call your guests who have agreed to bring food and find out if they need oven time

*Double check that you have enough Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil, plastic wrap and plastic containers to store and send home leftovers with

*Clean out the refrigerator to make room

By sticking with a schedule, your actual Thanksgiving Day will run smoothly and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy with your guests



  1. sonya
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    thanks so much for the helpful advice on cooking our turkey! Couldnt have had it turn out any better!! thanks again!

  2. Posted December 27, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Glad you had a great day. It’s easy isn’t it?

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