Thanksgiving Menu – Step by Step

I love having people over for dinner; however, planning and prepping is a lot of work. From the grocery shopping to cleaning the house, to prepping the meal and cooking it, it’s not always easy. Don’t even get me started on the cleanup, before and afterward. Just that list of things to do alone may deter someone from throwing a dinner party.

The most valuable bit of information I learned in Culinary School was the importance of knowing the cook times of the various items on the menu. That way, I know what to cook when. When it’s time for the dinner party to start, everything should be cooked and prepared so I can enjoy the party with my guests.

My mom is a schedule person, and I’m a list person. Every year for Thanksgiving, my mom and my aunt would alternate having Thanksgiving dinner. The year I finished culinary school, my mom and I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. That was the year she took what I learned about scheduling to the next level. She created this extensive schedule that was color-coded and everything. My mother, brother, sister, and I each had our colors on the chart. BJ’s, Costco, and Stop and Shop each had their own individual colors on the chart.

I will never forget the story my mom always tells about the time she went shopping with her Thanksgiving checklist; it must have been about 3-4 pages. She ran into our next-door neighbor, and he asked her what she was holding, and she said it was her Thanksgiving chart. She explained to him how it kept us all organized. She pointed out her shopping list for each store and showed him the jobs she delegated to the family. He was shocked at how detailed it was.

I am going to share with you the Thanksgiving guide from start to finish. Everything from grocery shopping to dinner on the table. This menu includes the classic Thanksgiving favorites, mac and cheese, stuffing (or dressing), collard greens, candied sweet potatoes, cornbread, ham, and of course, turkey and gravy.

Shopping List


1 (12lb) Turkey
1 (9lb) Spiral Ham
1 large ham hock (or 2-3 medium sized ham hocks)


2-1/2 lbs butter
1 cup buttermilk
4 cup whole milk
7 large eggs
25 oz cheddar cheese (divided)


7-1/2 lbs Sweet Potatoes (about 9 medium – large sweet potatoes)
2 – 1/2 quarts Apple Cider
2 (.5oz) packages of sage
3 onions
1 bunch celery
5 carrots
2 medium sized apple
3 lbs collard greens
About 24 lemons (4 cups lemon juice)


2 cups Cornmeal
2 cups Bread Flour
1 – 1/2 cups cake flour
2 cups + 3 tbsp All purpose flour
1 lb box of macaroni
1 12oz bag herbed stuffing mix
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cups honey
2 (8.5 oz) cans of Sweet cream style corn
6 cups sugar
1 cup plus 3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp bourbon
1/4 cup Shortening (cold)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup hot sauce
About 8 large chicken bullion cubes
1 750 ml bottle of white wine
1/4 cup of brandy
1/4 cup Amaretto Liquor


1 tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
4 cinnamon sticks
2 inches ginger sliced
10 cloves
2 nutmeg smashed
1 box of Bells Poultry Seasoning


Sage Apple Turkey
Spiral Ham
Baked Mac & Cheese
Sage & Apple Stuffing
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Collard greens
Sage Apple Lemonade
Pumpkin Spice Sangria
Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Pie

** Side note, in this menu I used many chicken bullion cubes to make liquid for basting the turkey, the stuffing, and the injection liquid. If you have the time feel free to make a large pot of turkey stock ahead of time to use in place of chicken bullion. 


Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving – Do your grocery shopping

Sunday before Thanksgiving

• Slice 1 medium apple
• Make simple syrup for Sage Apple Lemonade & Pumpkin Spice Sangria
• Make Pie Dough
• Grate cheddar cheese, & cut cheddar cheese in cubes


• Boil Ham hock – cut up ham hock and reserve the liquid
• Cut and clean collard greens while ham hock is cooking.
• Set up buffet set up.  Meaning set up where your plates, forks, knives, spoons, napkins, cups and napkins will go.  At this time you should also set up chafing dishes.  Count how many dishes you have.  For this menu there are 6 items, plus cornbread and gravy.  You would need 3 double chafing dishes, sterno racks, or 6 individual dishes for your buffet. 
• As part of your buffet set up, make sure you put the sternos out, as well as lighters to light them. That way on Thanksgiving day everything is all set up, and that is a job you can ask someone to do.


• Make Sangria
• Make Sage Apple Lemonade
• Peel and slice sweet potatoes. Reserve 2 sweet potatoes to dice and boil for Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Pie.
• Prepare Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Pie
• Bake Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Pie
While pie is in the oven
• Large dice 2 onions, 5 carrots, 5 stalks of celery (Mirepoix) – place vegetables in ziploc bag
• Mince 1 onion, 3 stalks celery, 1 medium size apple – place vegetables in ziploc bag

Day before Thanksgiving

• Clean and Brine Turkey
• Cook Turkey necks, liver and giblets (this will be your liquid for injecting the turkey and basting the turkey and stuffing)
• Make 2 recipes corn bread (reserve one recipe to serve with dinner)
• Cook collard greens
• Prepare and bake Mac & Cheese
• Set table
• Put water in chafing dishes

Thursday – Day of Schedule: For a 5:30 Dinner

• 8:30 am – Take turkey out of refrigerator.
Allow turkey to reach room temperature. 

• 9:30 am –  Heat the injection liquid
Inject Turkey
Season Turkey

• 10:00 – Turkey goes in the oven – Turkey should be ready between 1:00 & 1:30
• Straighten up kitchen, do dishes.
• When Turkey comes out of the oven put ham in. 
• A 9 lb ham needs to be in the oven about 2 hours and 15 mins. 
• 1:00 Put ham in the oven when turkey comes out. 
• Ham should come out of the oven between 3:15 & 3:45 depending on what time you take the turkey out. 
• 3:00 – Make Candied Sweet Potatoes, and warm up the collard greens.
• When ham comes out of the oven, put Mac and cheese, and stuffing in the oven. 
• Allow to cook for 30 minutes. 
• While the Mac & Cheese and stuffing are in the oven make gravy, slice ham and carve turkey. 
• At this time if anything else needs to be cleaned up in your kitchen do it now. If you have dishes in the dishwasher put them away. When dinner is over, your dishwasher will be ready for dirty dishes. 
• Take a break, and clean yourself up before your guests arrive at 5:30.
• Around 5:00 begin lighting the sternos in your chaffing dishes. Start setting up the buffet with hot food. 

Apple Sage Lemonade

Cinnamon Sage Apple Simple Syrup
(1) .5 oz package of sage
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 apple sliced (gala)
2 cinnamon sticks
Follow the directions for How to Make Simple Syrup for the Cinnamon Sage Apple Simple Syrup

Follow the recipe for Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
Add 2-1/2 cups of Apple Cider
Substitute 2 cups of simple syrup for 2-1/2 cups of Cinnamon Sage Apple Simple Syrup

For the Pumpkin Spice Sangria click here

Sweet Potato Bourbon Pecan Pie


1 stick butter (melted)
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp bourbon
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs beaten
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup of chopped Candied Pecans

1.If making your own pie dough, follow the recipe for How to make Pie Dough
2. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
3. Combine butter, brown sugar, mashed sweet potatoes in a bowl.  Whisk until combined. 
4. Add eggs, whisk well. 
5. Add evaporated milk, bourbon, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
6. Pour sweet potato mixture into a prepared pan. 
7. Bake for 35 minutes. 
8. Remove pie from the oven, and top with candied pecans. Continue to bake about another 10 – 15 minutes. 
Allow the pie to cool. 

Candied Pecans

1 cups pecans 
1/4 cup brown sugar 
2 tbsp melted butter 
1 tbsp bourbon

1. Place your pecans in a food processor and pulse until your pecans are coarsely chopped. 
2. Place chopped pecans, brown sugar, butter, and bourbon on a sheet pan.
3. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. 

Collard Greens

3 lbs collard greens washed, and cut (Its ok to use the collard greens that are precut in the bag) However the stems aren’t removed.
1 large ham hock (or 2-3 medium sized ham hocks)
1/4 cup Hot Sauce
8 cups water
2 tbsp granulated onion
1 tbsp  granulated garlic
1 tbsp salt
3 large chicken bullion cubes

1. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, and add ham hocks. 
2. Allow ham hocks to cook for about 2 – 2-1/2 hours until fork tender.
3. Add bullion cubes, hot sauce, season the water with, granulated onion, granulated garlic and salt
4. Add collard greens to the pot.  If needed add additional seasoning to taste. 5. Lower heat to a simmer.  Allow collard greens to simmer about 40 minutes or until tender.
6. Remove ham hock, and remove meat from bones, and add the meat back to the pot. 

Candied Sweet Potatoes

6 large sweet potatoes
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt to taste

1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into slices.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and add the sliced sweet potatoes.
3. Combine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. 
4. Pour sugar mixture over the sweet potatoes and stir.  Cover pot, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about an hour or until potatoes are tender. 

Sage Apple Turkey


1 stick softened butter
Brining Liquid
Injection Liquid
Granulated garlic
Granulated Onion
Poultry Seasoning
If you are following the Thanksgiving dinner menu I’ve prepared you should have two onions that you large diced, 5 large diced carrots, and 5 stalks of celery that were large diced in a ziploc bag

The first step to making the turkey is cleaning it. It is important to clean your sink before putting your turkey in it. If you purchased a turkey from the grocery store remove turkey from the bag.  Remove the bag from the center cavity of the turkey.  Lift up the skin on the opposite side od the turkey by the breast there will be another bag to remove from inside of the turkey. 

The bags inside of the turkey contain the neck and the giblets. Place turkey giblets and turkey neck in a small pot.  Add 1 cup apple cider, 2 sprigs of sage, 2 cups water and 1 large chicken bullion cube.  Bring to a boil.  Allow turkey necks to cook for about 2 hours.  After the turkey necks have cooked allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate over night. 

Prepare Brining liquid while the turkey necks are cooking. 

For the Brine


2 cups apple cider
2 cups brown sugar 
1 cup coarse kosher salt 
3 tablespoons peppercorns 
5 whole bay leaves 
1 onion
4 sprigs sage
3 sliced apples


Bring apple cider to a simmer, add brown sugar and salt.
Stir until dissolved. Once dissolved remove from heat. 
Add ice to the brining liquid to allow it to cool to room temperature. 
Pour over your turkey. 
Pour enough water in the container to submerge your turkey. 

Refrigerate over night. 

The next Day
When you remove the turkey from the brine, and rinse the turkey off, allow the turkey to come to room temperature. 

Allow butter to reach room temperature

Heat the injection liquid, season with granulated onion, granulated garlic, pepper and poultry seasoning.  The injection liquid reduced while I was cooking it yesterday.  As I heated the injection liquid I added 1 cup of apple cider, 1 cup of water, and 1 large chicken bullion cube. 

Taste the injection liquid.  Make sure you are happy with how it taste. The liquid will not only be used to inject into the turkey, it will also be used to baste your turkey and your stuffing.

Place the diced vegetables (onion, carrots, and celery) in the bottom of a roasting pan.  If you have a roasting pan with a rack put the turkey on the rack above the vegetables. If you don’t have a rack it is perfectly fine to put the turkey right on top of the vegetables. 

Inject turkey with injection liquid.  Inject turkey in the breasts, and the legs.

Rub softened butter on the skin of the turkey, and under the turkey breast skin.  Season turkey with poultry seasoning, granulated garlic, granulated onion, salt and pepper.

Roast Turkey on 400 degrees until brown about 30 – 40 minutes.  Cover turkey with aluminum foil, and reduce heat to 325 and continue to roast until the turkey is done. 

Baste turkey several times with the injection liquid while the turkey is roasting. 

Allow Turkey to rest about an hour or two before slicing it. 

To make gravy
Once the turkey has cooled down, pour the turkey drippings into a measuring cup.
For every cup of liquid make a roux with the corresponding amount of butter and flour. (For example if there are 3 cups of liquid use 3 tbsp butter and 3 tbsp of flour to make a roux)
Cook roux in a pot, once combined slowly pour turkey dripping in the pot. Bring to a boil. The gravy will thicken as it boils. Remove from heat once the gravy reaches a boil.

Sage Apple Stuffing (Dressing)


If you are following the Thanksgiving dinner menu I’ve prepared you should have 1 minced onion, 3 stalks of celery minced, 1 apple diced small in a ziploc bag. 
1 9×9 prepared pan of cornbread
1 12oz bag herbed stuffing mix
poultry seasoning
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Spray a 9 x 12 inch baking pan with cooking pray. 
3. Melt 4 tbsp butter in a skillet.  Sautee minced onion, celery and diced apple until soft.   
4. Break cornbread up in a bowl. 
5. Add the vegetables to the bowl.  Mix the cornbread and vegetables all together. 
6. Add about 1/2 cup of the injection liquid to the bowl.  Stir in about 1/2 bag of the herbed stuffing mix.  Season to taste with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  If needed moisten the cornbread mixture more with some of the injection liquid until desired. 
7. Transfer the cornbread mixture to the baking pan, and bake about 30 minutes.

I prepared the ham according to the directions on the package.  I purchased Smithfield ham that came with a ready made glaze. 

Click here for mac and cheese recipe.

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Menu – Step by Step”

  1. Krysten Does such a great job of putting together easy to make yet DELICIOUS recipes. Her Mac and cheese is next level, and the turkey came out amazing! These recipes were easy to follow and fun to make. I can wait to see her next holiday menu! Thanks Krysten for allowing me to fool my family into getting them to think I’m a great cook!

  2. Terence, Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad you loved the recipes. I’ll keep dishing them out, and I hope you continue to enjoy them.

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