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48 Hours of Thanksgiving: A Cheat Sheet

Updated November 21, 2017
We believe it's perfectly possible to pull off Thanksgiving without any stress. The trick? Spreading out the work over the course of 48 hours.

48 Hours Until Thanksgiving Dinner

This cheat sheet will walk you through the whole process of making Thanksgiving dinner following a menu made up the essential holiday dishes, as chosen by you.

Before you go shopping, do a quick pantry check!


With your menu at the ready, it's easy to make a master grocery list, or borrow Betty's grocery list for the Essential Thanksgiving Menu, as Picked by You. Before you leave the house, go through your own pantry, so you can check off the ingredients you already have on hand, saving you time and money at the grocery store.

Pull Out Your Equipment


Another benefit of starting with a menu is that you know all the dishes and tools you'll need to cook everything. We've found that it's helpful to pull out your equipment ahead of time. Hunt down the turkey roaster and wash everything, so it's ready when you start cooking. Taking this step also gives you the time to borrow or pick up any dishes you might be missing.

Make Simple Cranberry Sauce

1. Rinse (1 pound) cranberries with cool water and remove any stems or blemished berries.


2. Heat water and sugar to boiling in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.


3. Stir in cranberries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally.


4. Continue boiling about 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to pop.


Pour sauce into serving bowl, as berries will set in the container. Refrigerate until Thanksgiving dinner.

36 Hours Until Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Bake your Pumpkin Pie. Hold off on making Whipped Cream until later, because it can become watery left in the fridge. Once your pie has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Prep ingredients for the Brined Whole Turkey, including chopping onion and celery, and combining them with thyme and storing in plastic container or zip-top plastic bag in fridge. Measure out butter, cover and store next to prepped veggies.
  • Prep ingredients for the Bread Stuffing, including chopping and measuring ingredients. Refrigerate celery and onion together but do not combine with bread, as it will become soggy if stored with the vegetables.
  • If you're feeling ambitious, peel and chop the potatoes for the Do-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole. Keep potatoes from going brown by storing them in water, inside a covered container in the refrigerator. Prepped this way, they'll be ready tomorrow, when you can make the casserole.

Put Everything in its Place to Streamline Cooking


Mise en place, which literally translates to "putting in place," refers to preparing all your ingredients before cooking—for example, cleaning and chopping vegetables and putting them in containers. "Mise out" your ingredients for quicker cooking on Thanksgiving day. For more tips like this one, from a Betty Crocker Test Kitchens professional chef, read "Thanksgiving Simplified: Pro Tips from the Betty Crocker Kitchens."

The Easiest Way to Peel Potatoes


24 Hours Until Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Prep vegetables and bacon for the Slow-Cooker Chive-and-Onion Creamed Corn and don't forget to transfer frozen corn to the refrigerator to thaw.
  • Make Do-Ahead Mashed Potatoes. Place reserved butter mixture in microwaveable bowl or measuring cup, so it's easy to microwave when it's time to bake the potatoes.
  • Set your table, so you can enjoy the process, whether that means pulling out Grandma's china, arranging an elegant centerpiece or making your own placecards.

Perfect Potatoes in Four Steps

1. Add 4 pounds potatoes, cut and peeled, to boiling water. Cook 20-25 minutes, until tender. Drain.


2. Mash potatoes in a mixing bowl.


3. Add milk (up to 1 cup) in small amounts, beating after each addition.


4. Add 4 ounces cream cheese, 1 stick butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash until light and fluffy.

18 Hours Before Thanksgiving Dinner

It's time to tackle the turkey! The Brined Whole Turkey is the recipe appearing in our Essential Menu, but it's certainly not the only option for turkey.

Two Types of Brines

Wet Brine

Turkey being lowered into wet brine

  1. In a large stockpot, mix 2 gallons cold water and 2 cups coarse kosher salt.
  2. Add turkey; brine should cover the bird. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.
  3. Remove turkey from brine; rinse under cool water, rubbing inside and out to release salt.
  4. Pat dry with paper towels.

Dry Brine

Turkey being salted for dry brine

  1. Pat turkey dry with paper towels.
  2. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt inside the cavity.
  3. Generously salt the outside of the turkey (up to 1 cup).
  4. Transfer to baking sheet and loosely cover with foil. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, removing foil for last 2 hours. For super-crispy skin, leave uncovered in the fridge for 2 hours to help dry it out before roasting.

How to Cook a Turkey

Thanksgiving Day

6 Hours Until Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Cut the bread for the Bread Stuffing and store in a plastic bag at room temperature.
  • Prep the Brined Whole Turkey by rinsing and then drying the turkey, adding vegetables to the cavity, brushing with butter and refrigerating in the roasting plan. (You'll want to clear a space in your refrigerator ahead of time.)

Rearrange Your Oven Now


Rearrange your oven now, so you can don't have to fuss with hot shelves. Try sliding the casserole dishes and your turkey roaster in the oven empty, so you can see how to make everything fit.

5 Hours Until Thanksgiving Dinner

It's time to put the turkey in the oven!


3 Hours Before Thanksgiving Dinner

1 Hour & 15 Minutes Until Thanksgiving Dinner

Reheat Do-Ahead Mashed Potatoes. Microwave the reserved butter mixture until melted; pour over potatoes in casserole. (Using alternative method 325F oven version). Cover with foil to keep warm.

1 Hour Until Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Bake the Bread Stuffing all the way through, cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Make Green Bean Casserole all the way through using alternate method (325F oven version). Cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Finish Slow-Cooker Chive-and-Onion Creamed Corn. Stir in cream cheese and cook 10 minutes longer; sprinkle with bacon; hold on "Low" or "Warm" heat setting until ready to serve.
  • Make Classic Candied Sweet Potatoes all the way through. After cooking, either leave potatoes in pan and cover with foil to keep warm, or transfer potatoes to a serving dish, cover with foil and keep warm in oven.

Green Bean Casserole

Classic Candied Sweet Potatoes

30 Minutes Until Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Reduce oven temperature to 200F and hold finished dishes in the oven, covered with foil.
  • Make Foolproof Turkey Gravy and transfer turkey to cutting board (or platter if carving at the table). Tent with foil. In turkey roasting plan, make the gravy by following the steps below.

Foolproof Turkey Gravy

1. Pour out turkey drippings, reserving 1/4 cup and the brown bits in the pan.


2. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup flour and cook on medium heat.


3. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbling.


4. Pour in 2 cups broth and heat to simmering, stirring constantly. Let bubble for 1 minute.


5. Stir in browning sauce, if desired, and flavor with salt and pepper.


Finally, transfer the gravy to a boat and cover with foil to keep warm.

Want More Detail? (Including How to Fix a Gravy in Trouble?)

Right Before Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Quickly reheat your sweet potatoes on low, if you've left them covered with foil on the stove. Once reheated, transfer them to a serving dish.
  • Remove the foil from all the other finished dishes, put out the cranberry sauce and move the slow cooker to the serving area.
You're almost there! It's time to carve the turkey. Get all the details on carving in our "How to Cook a Turkey" article, plus get a professional chef's take – hint there's no need for an unwieldly carving knife – in this article.

Betty’s got every Thanksgiving recipe you could ever need – and then some!