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By Paul Carrier, instructor, culinary arts, MATC School of Pre-College Education

Thanksgiving is upon us once again! Planning for the perfect successful meal should begin several weeks early to avoid pitfalls and problems on Thanksgiving. Being prepared is key to success for an almost stress-free family meal event.

Here are some general cooking tips for planning/preparing multiple dishes at once:

Planning For Your Meal:

  • Plan your menu.
  • Find and print the recipes that you will use.
  • Prepare your shopping list.
  • Make a list of foods to prepare.
  • Shop and gather your food products/ingredients.

Preparing For Your Meal:

  • Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator at least four days before cooking.
  • Line up your cooking utensils/pots/pans with your food products.
  • Clean your vegetables/peel potatoes for side dishes the day before the meal.
  • Season/prepare your turkey for roasting one day in advance.
  • Prepare and bake pie crusts one day in advance.

Cooking Your Meal:

  • Prepare your work area. Remove all items not needed for your meal.
  • Set up your cleaning area. Collect plenty of towels and dish soap. Prepare hot wash water.
  • Cook your turkey early. Allow time for cooling and carving.
  • Have your serving platters and plates placed and ready.
  • Clean as you go. Assign a family member the task of washing dishes. Take turns.

Serving Your Meal:

  • Pre-heat your serving dishes and meal service plates. This will ensure hot food.
  • Have two serving dishes/platters per food item to ensure faster service to everyone.
  • Collect extra serving dishes/platters for refills that might be needed on food items.
  • Remove dirty dishes/platters from meal table as soon as it finished.
  • Allow time to prepare/clean/organize meal table area for dessert/coffee service.

Serving Dessert:

  • Have a side service table set up for desserts. Include all dessert condiments and hot beverages.
  • Keep desserts chilled/covered till service time to ensure proper serving temperature.

Cleaning Up After Meal:

  • Everybody should pitch in for clean-up and doing dishes. Assign a role to everyone who is able.
  • Assist and help the meal hosts place the kitchen/dining room area back in order.
  • Put all clean dishes/pans/platters/utensils away. Return any borrowed items to guests.
  • Plan your preparation/service of the meal, including the cleanup, so it won’t interfere with the Packers/Bears game at 7:30 p.m. so everyone can watch, have quality family time and not miss any of the big game!!!!


Effective planning and preparation are key to a successful and less stressful Thanksgiving meal. Start meal planning as early as possible and involve all family members. This ensures collective ownership in what dishes will be prepared and which recipes will be used. Grocery lists can be developed as adjustments can be made along the way. The concept of the family Thanksgiving meal is to bring the family members together— not to drive them apart. Planning early, researching recipes, and obtaining/securing food products early can make this Thanksgiving a fun one to remember for all.

Here are some additional Thanksgiving meal preparation resources:


Turkey Talk-Line:      1-800 BUTTERBALL       (1-800-288-8372)