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Thanksgiving

Take Thanksgiving Off: Make the Entire Meal Ahead

Wouldn’t it be nice to actually take the holiday off? With these six showstoppers, the whole meal can be prepared in advance.  
By Published Nov. 2, 2022

“Holiday” is a relative term for home cooks, who often spend food-centric occasions such as Thanksgiving working feverishly in the kitchen to prepare one of the year’s most elaborate meals. It might be a labor of love for many of us, but it’s labor nonetheless. 

Thankfully (see what I did there?), we’ve got make-ahead recipes to take the pressure off. And not just a dish or two.

With the following menu, the whole shebang can be prepared in advance.

In fact, the make-ahead timing built into some of these recipes is a natural—and essential—part of the dish’s flavor and textural development. 

Here’s to the cook having a happier, more restful holiday!

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Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Menu

Salmon Rillettes

Make-Ahead Timing: 2 to 24 hours ahead

Day-Of Work: Nothing

How It Works: This savory spread is a seafood riff on the classic French preservation method of slow-cooking meat, traditionally pork, in fat until it reaches a meltingly tender, spreadable consistency. With salmon—a natural stand-in for pork thanks to its high fat content—it comes together quickly from a handful of ingredients and is served directly from the fridge.

Turkey Thigh Confit with Citrus Mustard Sauce

Make-Ahead Timing: Up to 12 days ahead

Day-Of Work: Brown and carve turkey; strain juices and make sauce 

How It Works: There’s loads of flexibility built into our confit. The curing stage, during which the thighs sit coated with an aromatic salt paste, can last anywhere from 4 to 6 days. The next step, poaching the meat in duck fat, is done in the oven and is almost entirely hands-off. From there, the turkey can either be refrigerated for up to 6 days or immediately browned and served.

Kale Salad with Kohlrabi, Orange, and Candied Pecans

Make-Ahead Timing: Up to 2 days ahead

Day-Of Work: Nothing

How It Works: The magic here is simple: Every element of this salad is naturally sturdy, so the ensemble can sit—dressed!—for days without going soggy. 

Duchess Potato Casserole

Make-Ahead Timing: Up to 24 hours ahead

Day-Of Work: Top, score, and bake casserole

How It Works: Turning pommes duchesse into a casserole takes the fuss out of these fluffy, crisp, egg-enriched mashed potatoes. The mash gets spread in a baking dish, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated for up to a day. The royal treatment—topping them with beaten egg whites and melted butter, scoring the surface, and baking until crisp and golden—can be done just before serving. 

Cranberry Chutney with Apple and Crystallized Ginger

Make-Ahead Timing: Up to 3 days ahead

Day-Of Work: Nothing

How It Works: This chutney comes together quickly, but with plenty of acid and sugar in the mix, it sits well for a few days. 

French Apple Tart

Make Ahead Timing: Up to 24 hours ahead

Day-Of Work: Assemble, bake, and broil tart

How It Works: This impressive tart is much easier than it looks, especially if you make and bake the pastry shell, and prepare the apple puree and slices, ahead of time. On serving day, fill the shell with the puree, arrange the apple slices, bake the tart for 30 minutes, gloss the fruit with some warmed apricot preserves, and brûlée the surface.  

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.