No matter the size of the gathering, cooking a Thanksgiving meal can be quite a marathon. Between the appetizers, desserts, side dishes, and, of course, the turkey, most home cooks will need to have a tight plan of what to cook when, in order to get everything out piping hot at the right time. (This is your essential Thanksgiving shopping list.)
Although many desserts and side dishes can be made in advance, there are some things that need to be cooked hot and fresh on the big day. To determine Thanksgiving dishes you should never make ahead of time, 24/7 Tempo referred to cooking sites including Food and Wine.
Vegetable dishes and casseroles often take well to reheating, but starches including mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and breads can dry out if they’re made ahead of time and reheated. Proteins including the turkey, as well as hot appetizers, will also shine brightest if they are cooked directly before serving. (Here are 50 basic cooking tips everyone should know about.)
Here is a list of dishes you should not make ahead of time.
This rich appetizer must be served hot, lest the cheese congeal into an unappetizing mass. Luckily, it doesn’t take up much space and can be squeezed into the oven next to a casserole.
Although the dry ingredients can be pre-mixed in advance, the rest of the biscuit prep and baking needs to happen pretty close to serving time. Reheated biscuits are never as appetizing as fresh ones.
Some households serve cornbread on Thanksgiving, and luckily this skillet-friendly quickbread doesn’t take much time to whip up while the turkey is in the oven.
If you opt to make fresh yeasted rolls, be sure to take their rise time into account when you plan out your cooking for the day.
Macaroni and cheese
Mac and cheese tends to dry out when baked a second time. The noodles will also absorb much of the sauce if they sit in it overnight, so this is one dish that is best made fresh.
Potatoes can be boiled in advance, but avoid whipping up the mash until dinner time. Making this dish ahead of time and reheating can overwork the starches and turn fluffy potatoes into a sticky mess.
Green salads are best assembled just a few hours in advance and dressed directly before serving. Keep the salad in the fridge until dinner time, as the heat in the kitchen will likely wilt the greens.
Stuffed pork loin roll
Pork loins are easy to overcook. A festive loin roll with cranberries can be assembled in advance, but should be cooked once and served hot.
The star of the show can be prepped a day in advance with a dry rub or a wet brine, but should be baked on the big day. The timing of the whole meal will revolve around this centerpiece. Be sure to give the bird at least 30 minutes to rest after removing it from the oven.