Shopping at the supermarket in the few days before Thanksgiving can be as trying (and dangerous) as hitting the outlets on Black Friday. Here's a tip: minimize your time spent fighting rabid shoppers over the last carrots by doing the bulk of your shopping a week in advance. You'll find that almost all of the items you'll need to prepare your meal will store very nicely. Here are some of the things I like to keep on hand.
- Unsalted butter for making pies, cooking the roux for your gravy, greasing casseroles, and stirring copiously into your mashed potatoes. This is one of the ingredients that you should always have more of than you think you'll possibly need.
- Eggs for your pumpkin pie and stuffing (not to mention your day-after hash!).
- Heavy cream for your homemade green bean casserole, and of course, for those mashed potatoes again.
- Bourbon, because it's always nice to slip it in somewhere it doesn't belong.
Keep dry goods in a dark, cool cabinet for maximum storage. Dry goods high in oil like whole wheat flour or nuts should be kept in the freezer if you plan on keeping them for more than a few weeks. And please, for the love of all that is holy, do not store your oils above or near your stove. Heat will cause them to turn rancid very quickly. Keep them far form a heat source in a cool, dark space.
- All-purpose flour for all of Easy Pie Dough (of course, you can always go store-bought. Check out our taste test here.)
- Baking powder and baking soda.
- Granulated sugar.
- Brown sugar.
- Corn syrup. You can't make a great pecan pie without corn syrup.
- Pecans. Know what else you can't make a great pecan pie without?
- Confectioner's sugar to make icing sugar for your pumpkin swirl buns, and to help make everything look nice and pretty.
- Graham crackers for an easy pie crust alternative!
- Canned pumpkin to make that perfect pumpkin pie. (And check out our taste test to see why you should really make your pie filling from scratch!)
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper—and we're talking real black pepper here. Please grind it fresh. That powdered stuff is good for one purpose only: giving your food little black specks without altering its flavor at all.
- Olive oil for all of your salad dressings.
- Marmite, soy sauce, and fish sauce, for enhancing the flavor of my gravy
- A neutral oil like canola, vegetable, or rapeseed, for high heat sautéeing.
- Nuts can be stored in the freezer for months. Use them in salads, to garnish soup, or to make snacks.
Long-lasting Fresh Goods
Some vegetables and even some meats will last over a week in the refrigerator. Stock up on them early to save time and headaches with last minute shopping.
- The turkey! A frozen bird will last for months (just remember to give it a few days to defrost in the fridge), and even a fresh bird, if packaged in a sealed airtight bag, will last for several weeks. Check the expiration date on the bag when purchasing, and take a look at our Guide to Buying Turkey.
- Sage sausage for your Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing
- Bread for that same stuffing. Check out our taste test of the best bread for stuffing here!
- Hearty herbs like thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.
- Onions and alliums of all kinds. Keep yellow onions and garlic around for cooking with, smaller cippolini or pearl onions for cooking and serving whole, and shallots for flavoring dishes, like in this roasted brussels sprouts recipe.
- Potatoes will last for several weeks in a cool, dark place. Check some of our favorite Here are some things to do with'em!
- Carrots, stored in the fridge.
- Celery, kept in its plastic bag in the fridge.
- Brussels sprouts, stored in a loose plastic bag in the fridge.
- Fresh cranberries will last for several weeks in the fridge. We have several cranberry sauce recipes for you to choose from here, or if you'd like to go store-bought, check out our taste test.
- Gin, see bourbon, above
- Beets, if you are the kind of person who likes beets. If you think you are not, then you should really try this salad and get back to us. We'll wait.
- Chicken stock is a thanksgiving staple essential for gravy, stuffing, and other dishes. You can make it yourself, or if you'd prefer, buy the low-sodium stuff from the store. Check out our taste test here.
- Frozen puff pastry is a great shortcut to easy appetizers and hors d'oeuvres, like these caramelized onion and goat cheese tartlets.
What else do you guys keep in your pantry to save time on the big day?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.