The Dish

A Stress Free Turkey Dinner

Jan Nunes in the kitchen circa 1984
Making Thanksgiving Dinner for family in 1984.  My grandmother is on the right.

Are you ready to have a stress free turkey dinner?  One of the most challenging things cooks face is getting every dish hot and ready at the same time.  If you are hosting and cooking the traditional dinner, the best thing you can do is make a timetable to help you.

Because all of the dishes have different timings, even the most seasoned cook can find time management in the kitchen challenging.  Perhaps you’ve seen it on television on Hell’s Kitchen? Professional cooks sending undercooked and overcooked food to “the pass”.  Even these pros have trouble getting everything timed to be hot and ready at the same time!

Having a Timeline is the KEY

As a seasoned home cook, I help myself by making a timeline.  After many, many years of cooking, I still find it helps me feel stress free to have a written plan when cooking many dishes for many guests.  You “know” how long it takes to cook a variety of dishes, but it really helps to write it out to be crystal clear of what gets done and when.

Another key way to be sure you have a stress free day is to do as much as you can before the day you host.  This means make the dessert the night before and prepare the bread cubes 2 nights before your event day.

So, for this Thanksgiving I am sharing my detailed stress free timetable for the dinner I am cooking, Elegant One Pan Turkey Dinner.   There is a basic timeline in the recipe for serving at 2:30 PM.  But, this version is more detailed and is very specific to ensure every dish is hot and on time for guests to enjoy at 12:30 PM. 

I wrote this timeline specifically because some people want to eat early before all of the televised football games.  Although the total time is 5 hours for this “day of” timeline, you only are actively working for only 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Lastly, even if you are not making my specific recipe, you still can use this timeline as a guide.  Calculate the time needed to roast your turkey breast or whole turkey by using a guide of 25 minutes of roasting time per pound of turkey.

Turkey Dinner Timeline

Detailed Timetable for Elegant One Pan Turkey Dinner for Fresh or Thawed  Turkey Breast

  1. 2 Days Before

    •  Prepare bread cubes for dressing. Cut bread and dry bread cubes in oven.

  2. 1 Day Before

    •  Make pie or dessert of choice and set dining table.

  3. Day of Dinner  7:30 AM Start Time for Serving Dinner at 12:30 PM

    •  Remove turkey breast from refrigerator to allow it to come to room temperature before roasting it.
    •  Take French style green beans from freezer to thaw.
    •  Chop celery and onion.
    •  Remove leaves of fresh thyme from stems.

  4. 8:00 AM

    •  Make dressing.

  5. 8:25 AM

    Preheat oven to 325°F/163°C.

  6. 8:30 AM

    •  Make aluminum roasting rack from heavy duty aluminum foil.
    •  Wash and thoroughly dry turkey breast.
    •  Center turkey breast on coiled aluminum roasting rack.
    •  Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of meat, but not touching bone.
    •  Tent turkey breast in roasting pan with heavy duty aluminum foil.

  7. 8:45 AM

    •  Put turkey breast in oven.

  8. 8:50 AM

    •  Wash, dry, and put away skillet, cutting board, and knives.

  9. 9:05 AM

    •  Combine thawed green beans with dried cranberries in a large bowl.

  10. 9:10 AM

    •  Make basting sauce. Melt butter in small saucepan and add paprika and fresh thyme leaves. Cook 1 minute and remove from heat. Set aside.

  11. 9:15 AM to 10:45 AM

    •  1 Hour and 30 Minutes of Free Time! 
    (while Turkey Breast continues to roast in the oven)
    This is a great time to take a shower or set the table if you didn’t set it the night before.

  12. 10:45 AM

    •  Take turkey breast out of oven.
    •  Remove aluminum tent and add dressing, green beans with dried cranberries, and apples and pears to pan.
    •  Baste turkey breast with basting sauce.
    •  Fold tent foil in half and use it to cover the dressing and green beans.

  13. 10:55 AM

    •  Return dinner to oven. Bake for 75 minutes, or until thermometer reads 165°F/74°C.

  14. 10:55 AM

    •  Meanwhile, wash, dry, and put away both mixing bowls and any other prep items and utensils.

  15. 11:10 AM

    •  1 hour of free time.
    Have a nice glass of wine or cup of good cheer!

  16. 12:10 AM

    •  Take Turkey Dinner out of the oven.
    •  Allow turkey to rest for 15 minutes before carving for maximum juiciness.
    •  Transfer side dishes to decorative bowls and platters.
    •  This dinner is so beautiful you can also leave the side dishes in the roasting pan for serving buffet style.
    •  Once the turkey is carved it can be plated and placed on top of the coiled aluminum roasting rack.

  17. 12:30 PM

    •  Dinner is Served!

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