Getting a Thanksgiving meal on the table in a timely fashion is probably the most challenging thing a home cook has to do. It starts off with lots and lots of planning, then shopping for the food and properly storing the food.
Buying a frozen turkey means planning far enough ahead to defrost the bird in your refrigerator. A 12 to 16 pound bird can take to 4 days in the refrigerator. Here's a handy guide: http://www.fsis.usda.gov
Thankfully, there are a number of things that can be done ahead of time.
Appetizers can be as simple as cheese and crackers, a simple vegetable crudités platter and precooked cocktail shrimp that you defrost and serve with bottled cocktail sauce.
Make your cranberry sauce or cranberry relish ahead of time and keep cold.
Make pies a day or two ahead of time.
Roast sweet potatoes, cool and peel ahead of time.
Cut and dry bread for stuffing ahead of time (or make cornbread ahead of time if you are using that).
Cut vegetables for stuffing ahead of time or assemble stuffing ahead of time and cool quickly in fridge, then heat in pan when ready.
Never stuff a turkey with hot or warm stuffing. It creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. To be safe, always stuff turkey just before baking.
Still, there’s no way around it, there’s a lot of work to do on Thanksgiving Day. Know when you want to eat and time everything accordingly. Obviously, it’s ideal if foods are coming out of the oven just before serving.
Pop up temperature gauges in some turkeys are helpful, but they are not fool proof. Use a thermometer you trust to check the temperature of the bird in different places. It needs to be 165 degrees throughout. (Calibrate you thermometer by placing it in a glass of ice water, give it five minutes or so and it should read 32 degrees if accurate) Unstuffed birds can take around 15 minutes per pound to roast. Stuffed birds can take around 20 minutes per pound to roast.
Carefully place the bird on a serving platter to rest (with a loose sheet of aluminum foil on top) for 20 minutes or so before carving. Use that time to reheat any sides that you might need to and also make the gravy.
Here are some links to help with a great Thanksgiving Day meal: