How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner from Scratch

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner from scratch doesn’t have to be a lot of work, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming either. Here’s how to get everything on the table with minimal fuss.

The Turkey

Carving a roasted turkey
Joe Biafore/E+/Getty Images

Starting with a frozen turkey? Then, be sure to allow adequate time for it to thaw. Figure on a day of thaw time for every four pounds. That means if you bought an 18-20-lb bird, it’ll take approximately four and a half to five days for it to thaw.  If you didn’t take your turkey out of the freezer soon enough, or it just hasn’t thawed as fast as you expected, don’t sweat it. You can still cook your turkey while it's still frozen, it may just take longer.

Roasting a turkey is pretty straight forward stuff. Really, it’s nothing to stress about. Just follow these tips and instructions, and your turkey will come out perfectly. Roasting pans, turkey basters, and fat separators are nice to have on hand, but don’t sweat it if you don’t own these things. Work with what you have, and your meal will still come out great.

Pretty much any turkey recipe you follow will call for poultry seasoning. Save a few bucks and make your own poultry seasoning. It's just a blend of common herbs that you probably already have in your pantry.

Be sure to remove the neck and giblets before you stick your turkey in the oven, and cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Use this turkey cooking chart to estimate how long that will take, so you can determine what time you need to put it in the oven.

The Sides

Cranberry Sauce Recipe. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Oven space is always at a premium when you’re preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Cook some of your sides in slow cookers to free up your oven for the things that have to go in there. Stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole are all good candidates. Borrow a few slow cookers from friends, and you'll have less to worry about.

Cranberry sauce is ridiculously easy to make from scratch. Whip it up a day or two ahead, so it has time to chill and firm up. You don't even have to spend time hunting for the perfect recipe. Just follow the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries.

The Baked Goods

No-Fail Yeast Rolls. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Whip up your dinner rolls and pie crusts ahead of time, so you have less prep work the day of. Both freeze beautifully.

Use a good yeast roll recipe and then proof your yeast before you get started to ensure you get a good rise.

The Desserts

Pumpkin Pie. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Make your desserts ahead, so you have fewer things to make Thanksgiving Day. Pecan pie and pumpkin pie are actually better after a little fridge time. If you’ve planned a dessert that’s supposed to be served warm, just pop it in the oven for a few minutes while you eat dinner.

Many of the ingredients that you'll need to make your Thanksgiving desserts are easy to make, too.

Fixes for Mishaps

How to Fix a Too Salty Recipe. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

If a recipe doesn’t come out the way you want, or you discover you forgot to buy something you need, don’t fret. There’s usually a simple fix that’ll get your meal back on course. For example, a little water, vinegar, or lemon juice can help if you've over-salted a dish.