Blogs, Modeling

Find the time to cook for Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow will be a wonderful day full of great food and amazing family interaction.  Well that at least what he hope for and want to focus on.  The day will also be filled with cooking, preparing, cleaning and everything that goes along with making a large meal.  And if the food is ready on time…  Well the point is, that I hope that things go exactly to plan for you and you have the least stressful holiday possible.

In order to help you accomplish this, we will be looking at scheduling our cooking plans today.  Getting a head start and knowing what needs to be done and when, can help to make things go much smoother during the hectic times we are sure to have tomorrow.  Therefore, lets dive in and see what needs to be done.

Cooking list

I know that everyone has different dishes they wish to cook and different recipes they use when cooking.  There is no way I can address everyone’s plans for cooking, so I will instead plan out an example meal.  Since it is an example, I will be approximating time required to do each task.  That is, I’ll basically be making it up, but if you substitute the time you plan on it taking you, the process of planning will look the same.  With that said, I plan to make the following for my meal:

  • Turkey
    • Cleaning 15 minutes, seasoning 10 minutes, stuffing 5 minutes, cooking 180 minutes, and letting cool 20 minutes.
  • Potatoes
    • Peeling 15 minutes, boiling 15 minutes, mashing 5 minutes
  • Rolls
    • Mix ingredients 10 minutes, rolling 5 minutes, baking 15 minutes
  • Stuffing
    • Chopping Veggies 5 minutes, browning meat 5 minutes, toasting bread 5 minutes, mixing 3 minutes
  • Pumpkin Pie
    • Mix ingredients 10 minutes, making pie crust 10 minutes, placing pie in crust 2 minutes, baking 35 minutes
  • Gravy
    • Mix meat, water, flour 2 minutes, simmer 5 minutes

Now, if we were working alone and could only perform one task at a time, the total time it would take to cook the meal is determined by adding up all the previous times.  Therefore, the meal would take 377 or 6 hours and 17 minutes in order to cook the entire meal.  However, even alone, we can perform more than one task at a time since we can have things cooking while we do other things.  If we additionally get some help, this should also help to decrease the time.  However, we cannot get the meal done instantly, no matter how much we have.  Before scheduling, we would like to know the minimum time it would take.


In order to help determine how long it will take to finish the meal, we will look at the entire lists of tasks that need to be completed, and determine which ones need to be completed before others can be started.  For example, if we stuff the turkey after cooking it, our meal probably won’t turn out well.  In order to do this, we will make a chart.

What we can see from the chart is the listing of prerequisites.  By following the different paths, we note that the longest path through the chart corresponds to cooking the preparing the turkey.  Therefore, no matter how much help we have, it will take at least 230 minutes, or 3 hours and 50 minutes, in order to finish the meal.



Now, how can you plan out your tasks in order to complete the meal as quickly as possible?  What we need to do is determine when we will perform each task.  For our purposes, I will assume that I can have two items in the oven at a time, 2 items on the stove and that I have one other person actively helping me prepare the me.  We then need to assign tasks to these objects or people in order to finish as quickly as possible.  When we are doing this, I will work with the following algorithm:

  • Assign importance to each task based the following
    • Find the longest path through the chart, the first task on this path has highest importance.
    • Delete this task and repeat step 1 on the new chart.
  • Assign the most important task to the first open object that can perform that task.
    • An object will only sit idle if there is nothing for it to do.

In this way, we can assign the tasks and display the assignments in the following chart.  Note that dashes indicate continued task, where as empty slots indicate nothing is being done.  For easier viewing, we have also included an excel sheet for this table.

Time 0 min 5 min 10 min 15 minutes 18 minutes
Person 1 Clean Turkey ——– ——– Season Turkey ——–
Person 2 Chop Veggies Brown Meat Toast Bread Mix Stuffing Mix Pie Ingrediants
Stove 1
Stove 2
Oven 1
Oven 2
25 Minutes 28 Minutes 30 minutes 38 Minutes 40 Minutes 45 Minutes
Stuff Turkey ——– Peel Potatoes ——– ——–
——– Make Crust ——– Put Pie in Crust Mix Roll Ingerdients ——–
Boil Potatoes
Cook Turkey ——– ——– ——–
Bake Pie ——–
50 Minutes 55 Minutes 75 Minutes 90 Minutes 210 Minutes 212 Minutes 230 Minutes
Roll out rolls Cool Turkey ——– Done
Mix Gravy Done
Simmer Gravy Done
——– ——– ——– Done
——– ——– Bake Rolls Done


Here, we have scheduled the cooking of the meal in 230 minutes, which is the shortest possible time we would have been able to complete the task in.  I would like to point out that we only had two people working on the meal, so if you were to have any other helping, they would not decrease the time required to cook the meal.  While our goal here was to finish as quickly as possible, we could change our goal to try to finish all of the food at the same time.  Using a similar scheduling technique would also work for that.

Whether you have lots of help, are cooking alone, want to have everything done together, or just finish as quickly as possible, I hope this has helped you plan ahead for tomorrow so that the day will be a little less hectic.  Enjoy yourselves and your Thanksgiving!

Over Thanksgiving, while you are planning out your Black Friday trips, be sure to check out our 2018 STEM and leaf Holiday Gift Guide.  We have listed Black Friday deals for our affiliates in addition to some recommended gifts, so we hope this will help you make the most of the discounts of the weekend.

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