Thanksgiving Countdown: Schedule & Calendar

Count down to Thanksgiving with a checklist that will help you get your shopping and preparation in order.
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Top dessert tip: Make and freeze homemade pie dough in advance.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Top dessert tip: Make and freeze homemade pie dough in advance.

If you're anything like us, you've been dreaming of Thanksgiving all year. Why not stretch the holiday (and eliminate stress) by planning early? Become a holiday wiz this season by getting all your ducks — er, turkeys — in a row and mapping out your schedule ahead of time. Use our Thanksgiving countdown checklist as your guide for staying focused and getting it all done.

2 Weeks Ahead:
It's menu planning time! Get exact numbers for your guest list and take it from there. Order your turkey now (assume 2 pounds per adult, 1 pound per child — leftovers guaranteed), and start compiling the recipes you've been waiting all year to try out.

1 Week Ahead:
Finalize your menu and write out an exact shopping list, deciding what you'll be cooking and what you'll need to buy. Grab all of your store-bought premade items now (pie crusts, cranberry sauces and stuffing mixes) before they're sold out and pick up your wine ahead of time.

5 Days Ahead:
Make and freeze your homemade pie dough so you'll be ready to roll (literally) when it's time to make dessert. If you bought a frozen turkey, you might need to start defrosting it in your refrigerator; allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat (5 days maximum).

2 Days Ahead:
Today's the day to hit the grocery store for absolutely everything else you'll need for the big day (remember to make some room in your refrigerator beforehand). Knock off your homemade cranberry sauce, and then get creative by setting a festive table to create a beautiful backdrop for all of your hard work in the kitchen.

Day Before:
This is your best opportunity to cut down on time and get chopping: Prep all of your veggies a day ahead. Soups and pies can be even better when they've had a chance to cool and the flavors have melded overnight (ever wonder why leftovers taste so good?), so feel free to finish your appetizer and dessert courses. Speaking of soaking up flavor overnight, submerge your turkey in a brine to lock in moisture for roasting tomorrow. 

Day Of:
First things first: Get the turkey into the oven! Nothing quite sets the holiday mood like the smell of roasting turkey wafting through the kitchen. But don't eat it right away — let your turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving to lock in the juices. Make your mashed potatoes (we prefer them day-of fresh) and vegetable sides, and then dig in! You've earned it.
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Aarón Sanchez

The co-star of the hit series Heat Seekers and Food Network AND rsquo;s Chopped Aar AND oacute;n Sanchez is the executive chef and co-owner of Centrico Restaurant and Mestizo By Aar AND oacute;n S AND aacute;nchez. He is also the culinary visionary behind Tacombi Tacqueria and Crossroads at House of Blues.

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