These real-Life testers tried our Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner menu -- and saved a bunch of time without sacrificing taste!

By Rachael Ray Every Day
November 01, 2005

Skip the Stress

Our real-life tester, Carrie Wegman of Effingham, Illinois tried out our Make-Ahead Thanksgiving menu, which takes the stress and mess out of the T-Day feast by preparing everything several days in advance!

Real-Life Make-Ahead

Tasty T-Day

The Wegman family was a big fan of our Make-Ahead menu.

Food Spread

Gang's All Here!

When you're cooking for a large crowd like this on Thanksgiving, make-ahead dishes can be your savior!


Keep Your Cool as the Cook

Carrie said this menu definitely fulfilled the promise of super-do-aheadable! Follow the Make-Ahead Timeline and you could start Thanksgiving up to a week before Turkey Day!

Oven Pose

First Make-Ahead Step

One week ahead: Mix and back the Cornmeal Stuffing Muffins and freeze in a resealable plastic bag. These were a major favorite. "These made our whole house smell like Thanksgiving and screamed 'Eat me with turkey!'" Carrie says. "They reminded me of my mom's stuffing that she's made on Thanksgiving Day for years."

Rack Muffins

T-Day Leftovers

Our testers said these would be a good leftover to have with breakfast the next day (maybe a grab-and-go Black Friday breaky?) --we totally agree!

Muffins in Dish

Make-Ahead Step

Three days before Turkey Day, poach the pears for the Pear & Caramel Trifle, and then chill.


Eat Your Heart Out

The whole dessert can be assembled two whole days before Thanksgiving! Bake the spice cake and prepare the syrup and cream for the trifle. Assemble the trifle and cover with plastic wrap -- it's ready when you are!

Spice Cake Pieces

Make-Ahead Step

The Sweet Potato & Apple Gratin can be made two days before the big day.

Finished Gratin

Dynamic Duo

The layers of sweet potato and apple slices make for a delightful combination -- our testers loved this yummy side dish!

Uncooked Gratin

Make-Ahead Step

One day before Thanksgiving, you can brine and roast the Brined Dijon Turkey with Pan Gravy and assemble it in a baking dish.

Turkey in Brine


The turkey parts are removed from the brine, and covered evenly with a butter and whole grain dijon mustard mixture.

Uncooked Turkey

Beautiful Bird

That is one tasty-looking turkey! On Thanksgiving Day, take the turkey out of the fridge two hours before serving time and reheat it for 45 minutes. Dig in!

Turkey in oven

Puppy Chow

Someone's hungry! Their pup, Sasha Wegman, patiently waits for a morsel to drop.


Make-Ahead Step

The Walnut & Cranberry Broccoli Salad can also be partially prepared the day before Thanksgiving! This dish covers two bases: you got your veggies, and your Thanksgiving classic -- cranberries!

Broccoli Salad

Less Mess and Stress

"Having several things done ahead allowed me to have a cleaner kitchen when serving the holiday meal, which is so important to me," says Carrie. "I was also able to plan up to a week in advance and make everything instead of cramming all of the cooking into the two days before. I was able to work on a few steps each evening after the kids were asleep."


Helping the Host

"The last 30 minutes before meal time were a little easier than usual because, for the most part, things were just reheating," Carrie says. You can use this extra time to enjoy a drink with your guests and enjoy company!

Setting Up

Tester Tips

Carrie's advice? To save extra time, you can prep all the dinnerware and even set the table days in advance. You can also chop all the celery, onions, etc. in advance as well.

Setting Table

Final Verdict

The Wegmans loved the dishes! Carrie found the recipes to be straightforward and, although most required several steps, they were very easy to follow.

Real-Life Make-Ahead