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20 Must Haves for Thanksgiving Meal Prep

In charge of the Thanksgiving meal prep this year? Here are the 20 essentials you’ll need, with lots of tips along the way!

Making sure you are ready to prepare a Thanksgiving meal is critical!

Guess what? Many stores may be closed Thanksgiving day when you are cooking, so having everything on hand is so important.

Luckily, I’ve got some hosting under my belt for both Thanksgiving and Christmas! My family makes a big deal out of both of these meals.

We will cover the basic pieces you need to get you through the main dish of turkey, side dishes, and even dessert!

Traditional Thanksgiving Day Meal

Ah the aroma of the savory Thanksgiving dishes is the warmest welcome to the season!

It’s quite the production to put on a meal that you don’t normally cook and whoa that turkey is always a bit of a challenge.

Big giant bird and all those parts…what to do, what to do?

Let’s talk about what is involved with preparing a typical Thanksgiving meal:

  • Turkey – usually cooked in the oven
  • Mashed potatoes white or sweet
  • Green beans or asparagus
  • Casserole that maybe is green bean or sweet potato 
  • Stuffing
  • Cranberry relish or jelly
  • Gravy
  • Pie or something sweet for dessert

Does that sound like your typical meal? Turkey and side dishes make it sound so much easier.

The trouble is usually you are feeding a crowd larger than normal, so it gets more complicated in general. 

Your best offense is to ask people to bring the side dishes and dessert, while you tackle the table, decor, and turkey.

Thanksgiving meal prep tools

Looking for some fall decorating ideas and table setting inspiration? Check out these related posts: 

2018 Fall Home Tour

2019 Fall Home Tour

There are lots of fun ideas to decorate before company arrives for Thanksgiving!

To me decorating is the easy part, but the meal is always one that makes me a little anxious 🙂

Post contains hand selected products, with affiliate marketing links throughout {full disclosure here} 

Thanksgiving Meals Aren’t Always Perfect

Not too long ago, the turkey I’d pre-ordered from the grocery store had been defrosted incorrectly!

My dad was in charge of picking of the turkey, didn’t look or smell the turkey, checked off his to-do, and brought home a ROTTEN turkey. 

It was the day before Thanksgiving! Do you think they had ANY turkeys left? Nope.

What did my mom and I do? Well, we yelled at my dad first – ha, ha! Then ran to the grocery store for a solution. 

We ended up making two chickens instead! So sometimes, you have to make do with what you have.

thanksgiving turkey golden brown

After some arguing about prep with my mom, I made mine chicken the way my former Italian mother-in-law made hers (you see why we argued) and she made hers the way she usually did.

This was our turkey Thanksgiving 2017. Isn’t it beautiful and it was one of the best turkeys we’ve ever made!

Yes, my former MIL Millie passed on a great recipe that makes the best turkey – God rest her soul.

Thanksgiving Meal Prep: Kitchen Tool Guide

I’m going to list for you all of the things I’m going to suggest you need to make sure you have in your kitchen for Thanksgiving meal prep and serving the meal.

Then we will walk through each one in detail, so you understand exactly why you need each piece.

  1. Roasting pan
  2. Baster
  3. Turkey lifter / forks
  4. Carving knife and fork set
  5. Cutting board
  6. Chopper
  7. Chef’s knife
  8. Measuring cups and spoons
  9. Glass measuring cup
  10. Mixing bowls
  11. Potato peeler and
  12. Potato masher
  13. Sauce pot
  14. Sautéing pan
  15. Baking dishes
  16. Fat separator
  17. Gravy boat 
  18. Gravy ladel
  19. Serving utensils
  20. Large platters

It’s all about the turkey friends! That will make or break the whole meal.  How many movies show the dreaded dry turkey!

Let’s talk about the tools you need to make this darn bird because it’s not something you make regularly. 

Thanksgiving Turkey Prep 

First, figure out what size turkey that you need. Here is a great calculator for what size turkey to buy and how long to thaw by weight.

Thawing is really the important part of the equation. One year I had to move my meal out one day (divorces make things complicated).

Well, the turkey was dry that year because all of the juices drained out sitting in the refrigerator an extra day.


When cooking a turkey, my number one tip is to take the plastic bag with giblets and the neck out of the turkey!

You don’t want to cook it with those items inside 🙂 Here is a link to Butterball’s fresh turkey cooking directions (I’ll be using it too!). 

First things first, you need a roasting pan!

This was something I didn’t have handy my first Thanksgiving and had to run out and grab one. 

To keep the turkey moist, you will baste it in it’s own juices.

My recipe calls for squirting the juices UNDER the skin and it makes a huge difference in the moisture!

Next, picking up the bird for carving can be a difficult prospect if it’s a large turkey.

You may want to invest in turkey lifters!

Finally, do you have a large cutting board and carving fork and knife set?

Trust me you need these and will use them many times over for meals other than Thanksgiving.

Now let’s move on to the side dishes – yum!

Mashed potatoes and my mom’s dressing are truly my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.


Oh and maybe the apple pie I make too 🙂

Turkey Stuffing/Dressing or General Chopping

First and foremost, you’ll need a cutting board or TWO!

In my home, I have two so I can work on two items without having to wash and dry in between. 

I’m a HUGE fan of having one of these choppers, but also a chef’s knife will do.

There is a LOT of cutting and chopping that happens when you make stuffing. 

Or if you are making a cranberry relish or slicing the kind in the can. 

Side Dish Prep Bowls and Measuring

Most of the side dishes will require measuring utensils and mixing bowls. 

Think not only about dry ingredients, but measuring wet ingredients too.

I use this glass measuring cup almost ever day! Great for heating water in the microwave.

Potato Prep and Mashing

Have you ever tried to peel a potato without a peeler or mash potatoes without a masher? Don’t skip these! 

I always end up googling “how to make mashed potatoes” every Thanksgiving morning!

EASY Mashed Potatoes now linked so we can always find it 😉

Boiling and Sautéing

You will use these for making things like mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.


Plus cooking down onions and garlic.

Anything that needs to be boiled or sautéed!

Baking and Serving

You’ll never have too many glass baking dishes or you can use pretty stoneware too.

I like glass so I can see through to make sure everything is cooking properly. 

Plus after I make the mashed potatoes, in a sauce pan, I’ll put them in the covered dish for serving. 

I’ll put the potatoes into the refrigerator and then into the oven to heat up right before the meal.

Then there are the pies that go along with the season. 

Look at this cute option that at the bottom says “baked with love”, so true!

Gravy Making

Here is where my mom and I cheat. We use a gravy starter and mix it with the juices of the turkey.

It comes out perfectly!

That other tool separates the fat from the turkey drippings, so you don’t have to…

Gravy Serving

Again, not something you usually have laying around so invest in a gravy boat and ladle. 

This gravy boat is amazing because it keeps all sauces warm using a simple tea light.

I need this in my life!

Pretty Serving Dishes

Think about all of the things you are serving.

My hope is you got some of these items as gifts along the way, if not buy them as you see them.

ESPECIALLY a serving platter for the turkey!

Last, but not least serving utensils. You will need these ANY time you entertain.

Seriously, these are critical and you don’t want to get caught without large serving utensils.

Look for serving sets on sale or at Home Goods, so you never get caught without having them on hand for those side dishes everyone brought 🙂

Pin It for Later!

Thanksgiving Meal All of the Kitchen Tools and Serving Pieces You Will Need Ahead of Time

Happy Thanksgiving!

You’ve got this! Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and it has instilled the confidence to tackle hosting Thanksgiving this year.

It’s now time to be the hostess with the mostess over at my house 🙂

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Want to see my home you can find me on Instagram where I post just about every day!

Until next time…

Porch Daydreamer


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