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Step By Step Thanksgiving Cooking Plan

Convection ovens are ideally suited for preparing an entire feast because, a turkey cooks much faster in Convection, remains incredibly juicy and all the side dishes can be baked in the oven at one time once the turkey is resting.

In this post, I will outline the cooking plan I have used for over 20 years. Most prep work is done a day or even two in advance so that all the dishes are ready to cook, allowing you to enjoy this special celebration.

Make Sure You Have All the Tools You Need

For best results the turkey should be cooked on a rack in a shallow pan. A rimmed cutting board is important because a lot of juices will flow when you carve the turkey and need I remind you to make sure your knives are sharp. Also, have plenty of kitchen towels on hand, you will use them.

Heritage Turkey on shallow pan and a rack for even roasting
Used a Shallow Pan and a Rack to Roast a Turkey

Advance Preparation, 3 - 4 days Prior to the Feast

If you can break the prep up into stages it will be much less stressful. Items that can be prepared several days in advance include.

  • Turkey stock - preparing stock in advance is easy to do and so practical, just pick up a turkey leg or some wings at the butcher. Stock can be added to the stuffing to keep it moist and also to make the gravy and also added to soup.

  • Croutons - making your own croutons is one of the little steps that makes a huge difference. All you have to do is cut the crust off some crusty bread, slice the bread into thick slices, cut the slices into cubes, toss them with melted butter, some garlic powder and seasoning and bake them at 350F until golden. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container.

  • Cranberry sauce, again so easy to make but good to get it out of the way.

Croutons, Veggies, and Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving
Croutons, Veggies, and Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving

Advance Preparation the Day Before the Feast

  • When preparing the turkey, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to avoid contact with kitchen counters or cutting boards.

  • Remove the turkey from the wrapping, remove the giblets from both cavities, make stock with the neck and the giblets.

  • If the turkey is still icy in places then place it on a rack in a pan and use the Defrost mode in the Convection or Steam oven for approximately 20 minutes to dissolve any ice crystals

The Defrost mode in a Convection or Steam oven does not cook the food it only dissolves the ice crystals which will ensure the turkey cooks evenly.

  • The Defrost mode cannot be used to defrost a completely frozen turkey, only to remove any remaining ice crystals after the turkey has been defrosted in the refrigerator.

  • Pat the inside dry with paper towels, and add aromatics such as onion, lemon, bay leaf etc. if using. Rub the turkey all over with Kosher salt, cover the turkey loosely with wax paper or leave it uncovered and place in the refrigerator.

  • Prep any vegetables you plan on roasting or baking and store them in a ziploc or other container.

  • Prepare the stuffing as per your recipe and place in an oven casserole dish, cover and refrigerate.

  • Bake any side dishes that can be baked the day before then re-heated in the oven while the turkey is resting and being carved. Be sure to cool them completely before refrigerating.

  • The gravy base can also be prepared in advance, it won’t have much color but once the turkey comes out of the oven you can deglaze the roasting pan and add the pan drippings for color and flavor.

Deglazing pan to prepare a flavorful turkey gravy
Deglazing Pan to Prepare the Gravy

Cooking Timeline the Day of the Feast

For detailed cooking instructions follow this recipe for cooking the turkey.

  • Arrange the oven racks to accommodate the turkey before heating the oven.

  • A whole turkey cooked in Convection cooks faster than in the traditional method so be prepared.

  • Allow approximately 2 hours for roasting a 15-20lb turkey and 50 - 60 minutes for resting, carving and gravy making.

  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator a few hours before cooking so it loses the chill. Prepare a landing spot for the turkey when it comes out of the oven Organize the oven racks to accommodate baking the side dishes and allow the oven to come back to temperature before adding them in. Allow approximately 40 - 45 minutes for baking side dishes such as stuffing and baked or roasted root vegetables, potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Where is the Juice?

When you roast a turkey on a rack, the juices stay in the bird, so it basically self-bastes as it cooks. Once the turkey has rested for at least 30 minutes, pick it up with two kitchen towels and drain the juices into the pan. Now you can set the turkey aside ready for carving and deglaze the pan, skim off the fat and add those juices to the gravy.

Turkey Cooked in Convection May Have Redness Around the Bone

Don’t be alarmed if you see some redness around the bone, just make sure the meat is cooked through. More juice stays in the bird when cooking in Convection, so the bones don’t dry out as they do when the turkey is baked in the traditional Roast mode.

I have cooked this feast in many different ovens. The turkey cooks faster in smaller ovens and make take a little longer in a larger oven but overall you should find that this plan works well. Obviously if you have several ovens you have more options, but I have successfully cooked this entire feast in one 24” oven, the key is using Convection.

My next post will have some suggestions for oven side dishes that can be prepared a day in advance and only require reheating on the day. The turkey is the easiest part, narrowing down the side dishes is much harder, there are just too many good options.

Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

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