Why Tuesday is the Most Crucial Day for a Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

Woman standing by the wooden table in the kitchen and cutting butter into apple pie

Y’all, if you are cooking or hosting Thanksgiving this year, the best piece of advice that I can give you is that today, yes, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, is the critical day that will determine how relaxed (and clean!) Thursday will turn out to be.

I asked on Instagram (do you follow me @modestbread?) what cooking questions you all had for the big day — and the most popular question: How do I cook the turkey and all the sides with one oven? Tuesday. The answer is Tuesday.

To start, look at your menu and decide which items can taste great (and sometimes even better) made in advance and which prep items can be completed so that on the big day all you have to do is heat to finish.



1) Turkey prep: Did you read about how to cook a turkey last week? If so, you know today is the day to prep your turkey or pick up your turkey.

2) Make cranberry sauce. Yes, make it and yes today. It tastes even better after it sits a day or two!

3) Get started on stuffing, green bean casserole and/or sweet potatoes. Toast your cubed bread and store on the counter. Bake sweet potatoes. Blanch green beans.

4) Peel potatoes for mashed potatoes and hold them in cold water to keep them from taking on color.

5) Do all your vegetable cleaning, chopping, and peeling – celery, onions, garlic, herbs.



6) You don’t have to bake them today (although I would recommend you do) but at a minimum, collect and measure out your ingredients for any baked goods or pies you are making. Whipped cream should definitely be made today.

7) Pull your butter for the table. Nothing is worse than trying to spread cold butter on rolls. Set it out on the counter and leave it until the big day so it is perfectly tempered.

8) If you are making a salad, make your vinaigrettes today – they will taste better.

9) Finally do an inventory and make sure you don’t have to do a last-minute store run and do it now or assign it to a guest.

10) Pre-batch a cocktail, make sure wines are chilled. You can do a low alcohol option, like a cider. Combine the following:

  • 1 cup aged rum
  • 1 cup sweet vermouth
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup simple syrup
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • ½ red apple, very thinly sliced, plus more for serving (add Thursday)
  • 3 3×1-inch strips orange zest, very thinly sliced (add Thursday)
  • 1 12-ounce bottle dry hard apple cider
  • Serve with ice



11)  If you do go to the store, scoop up a rotisserie chicken and make nachos for dinner. They are so easy, delicious, and don’t taste like anything else you are eating for the rest of the week.

12) On Wednesday, complete your Tuesday list. I also like to set the table on this day and pull any appetizer plates I might be using. Place silverware and cups. Go to 7-11 and grab ice. Run errands, do life, clean your bathrooms.

On Thursday, turn on your oven while you drink your coffee (pro tip, turn off your heat now), start your turkey first and be sure to pull all of your preassembled items out of the fridge. Nothing will go bad and tempered food cooks more quickly and tastes better. Just let them hang out for the day.

While the turkey is roasting — assemble all of your sides and complete any stove top preparations. Start drinking wine about 30 minutes before you think it is appropriate. It will relax you!

While the turkey rests (I like an hour minimum) cook your sides. While your sides are cooking, make the gravy. While you are placing dinner and carving the turkey, bake your breads. While you eat dinner, turn off the oven and place desserts in the oven to warm.

Biggest pro tip; assign dishes to everyone else.


  • The latest from Nicole
Head Janitor, Chef, and Proprietor | Stomping Ground
Nicole’s cooking style is rooted in, but not limited to, her love of southern biscuits and her diverse culinary upbringing. A military brat, she spent her childhood in the Chicago suburbs enjoying her great-grandmother Mae’s Lithuanian cooking. As a tween, she moved to Paulding County, Ga. where she begrudgingly fell in love with the charmingly perplex small towns of the Deep South. She fondly remembers grubbing on Martin’s biscuits, late-night Waffle House debauchery and cooking with her family. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Nicole started a marketing career at an art nonprofit in Atlanta. At 25 years old, she became the youngest executive at the local Atlanta NPR affiliate. Chasing her dreams, she moved to Alexandria, Va. where she took a short post in the Whole Foods marketing department. Realizing that cooking had been her true love all along, she began night courses at L’Academie de Cuisine. She completed her apprenticeship at Blue Duck Tavern where she was promoted to a line cook after graduation. From there, Nicole worked as a private chef for busy Washington D.C. executives and their families. As grown-ups tend to do, Nicole realized something about her childhood — the best parts were enjoying small town communities, cooking with her great-grandmother and sharing meals with family and friends. She opened Stomping Ground to build a safe and welcoming community around yummy, handmade food from local sources. As her first foray running her own kitchen, she has shamelessly hired better, smarter cooks to fill her kitchen and your bellies. Her great-grandmother’s recipes often appear on the Stomping Ground menu without advertisement and, no, she won’t tell you the secret ingredients. Nicole lives in Del Ray and won’t shut up about how much she loves living there.

If you wander down Del Ray’s, “The Avenue,” you won’t miss the farm-red building with a rustic fence bordering the patio. Stomping Ground opened two years ago and quickly became popular for its made-from-scratch biscuits and its neighborhood vibe. On weekends, excited guests line up before Stomping Ground opens hoping to be the first to get a just-out-of-the-oven biscuit or a fresh salad. Stomping Ground is mostly known for its fast casual breakfast and lunch but on Thursdays and Fridays they provide a full dinner service after 5:00pm. All meals are built from local, seasonal food that is organic whenever possible.


2309 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


1 Comment

  1. Madelyn Smith Orfitelli Madelyn Smith Orfitelli says:

    Bookmarking for when I host next year!

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