Every Thanksgiving Tip You Ever Needed
In a perfect world, Thanksgiving would go off without a hitch. Shopping wouldn't be stressful, hosting for the first time wouldn't be overwhelming, and leftovers would get used up way before they became boring. Of course, this world isn't perfect, and hangups happen. That's why we've rounded up every solution to Thanksgiving conundrums we have to offer. Whether you're hosting on a budget, can't get that pie recipe down, or just want a new way to repurpose leftovers, we've got you covered.
Why You Should Buy Your Turkey Right Now
While everyone else is frantically searching through the cavernous cases of frozen turkey two days before Thanksgiving, you can be resting comfortably at home, hot toddy in hand.
Indeed, there’s no need to twist yourself into a turkey conundrum this year. Purchase your Thanksgiving Day main course today, and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle, stress, money, and several frantic dashes around town to find a suitable centerpiece.
Frozen turkeys can be purchased weeks, even months in advance. A savvy shopper might take advantage of post-holiday sales on leftover turkeys. (Note to self for this year.) If stored properly throughout the year, a frozen turkey is suitable for next year’s Thanksgiving or holiday meals.
Right now, many grocery stores may be offering discounted prices to entice customers to buy early. However, you can expect to pay full price starting next week and certainly the week of Thanksgiving.
Check circulars for coupons or discount cards, too. Some stores offer discount cards on turkeys or dollars-off deals for your entire grocery shopping trip (e.g. save $10 on totals over $75).
Most grocery stores have been stockpiling turkeys these last few weeks in anticipation of a great turkey rush. That means, if you buy now, you have the pick of the litter. If you wait, you may be picking between an 8-pound runt or a 20-pound behemoth.
Fretting over turkeys is entirely unnecessary if you plan ahead. After all, frozen turkeys do require a lengthy thawing process. If you wait too long—and, say, are forced to buy the 20-pound bird that requires more than 48 hours of thawing time—you may put yourself into a pickle.
Turkeys are incredibly easy to cook, but they do require time in advance for thawing, brining, or flavoring. If you wait too long, you slash the amount of your prep time you have, which may leave you with a less-than-ideal turkey for your table.
Order Fresh Turkeys Now, Too
If you aren’t a fan of frozen turkey—fresh turkeys do have a bit of an edge in terms of flavor—you need to secure your order for a fresh turkey today, too. Many local butchers and grocery stores begin accepting orders for Thanksgiving turkeys after Labor Day. In other words, you’re late.
Don’t leave your fresh Thanksgiving turkey to chance. Call your store, butcher, or local turkey farmer and get your name on the list today.
Then, pick up your turkey a day or two before you plan to cook it. Unlike frozen turkey, fresh turkey has a short shelf life, so don’t get it any sooner than you need it.
The No-Stress Thanksgiving Prep Plan
Planning ahead is key to conquering and executing a successful Thanksgiving dinner. If you have been a procrastinator all of your life, buddy, now is the time to shape up and make a point to not wait until the last minute. An organized timeline will help you to keep your thoughts, groceries, and sanity in check. Here is a timeline starting T-minus 28 days before the big feast to guide you through the process of planning, shopping and preparing for turkey day.
3 Weeks Before Thanksgiving (28 Days)
Begin your preliminary planning about 3 weeks out from Thanksgiving. Reach out to family and friends that you anticipate attending and get a solid (enough) headcount in order to gauge how much food to purchase and ultimately prepare. Also, ask your guests if they plan on bringing additional people with them. There are always 1 or 2 people that need a Thanksgiving table to crash at, and being that it’s a time of giving, go ahead and anticipate that you will have more mouths than you expect. Start to visualize an idea of the items you want to prepare by finding inspiration from Instagram, Pinterest, magazines, and, of course, your favorite food sites. Even though it’s always fun to try new recipes, if there are a few classics you know how to make without hesitation, consider building your menu with those first. You want to be confident in the kitchen leading up to the day of Thanksgiving.
2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving (14 Days)
Plan—and write out —an outline of the dishes you wish to serve and the items that you would like friends and family to contribute to the meal. The dishes should be a balanced mix between oven, stovetop, or assembled cold or at-room-temperature prepared foods. Most kitchens only have one oven (2 if you are lucky), and you do not want to plan a menu entirely of apps/sides that require baking.The goal is to reduce any possible stress for a smooth few days of well-paced cooking. Good ol’ pen and paper usually does the trick to jot out your ideas and plan. For those who are Excel spreadsheet wizards, Google Doc aficionados, or prefer to rely on techy planning apps on their phones, these are great applications to use to organize. Whatever works best for you and your brain, go for it. Just make sure you have something concrete you can refer back to.
It’s also good idea to confirm your guest list at this point, and delegate tasks you’d like to have covered. This is not the time to be timid or shy away from asking for help. You may realize in planning that you are short on serving dishes, platters, bakeware, or other cooking utensils. Or you may feel better if you have a small crew to help you pull the meal off. So don’t hesitate to go ahead and chat with a few of your reliable friends and family members to see if they’d be game to arrive early on Thanksgiving day and lend a hand with food preparation.
Unless baking is your strength, I’d suggest that the host not worry about desserts. In fact, desserts, appetizers, and certain side dishes can be all assigned out to other guests. One person can bring an assortment of cheeses or a crudité platter for snacking on beforehand. Another can cover what’s destined to go into your bread basket. Ask others to bring vegetable-based sides such as a salad, roasted butternut squash, or a potato dish. And have your best family bakers bring a pie, cheesecake, or other sweet treat of their choosing.
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1 Week Before Thanksgiving (7 Days)
You have a finalized your menu, and now it’s time to write an itemized list of the ingredients you need to make it happen. Most likely, you already have spices and seasonings that you won’t need to purchase. Run down your list of ingredients and check off any items that you already have in stock. For your turkey, decide whether you are opting for frozen or fresh. You might even catch it on sale this week if you go frozen.
Once your grocery list is complete, you can start to shopping for dry goods such as elbow pasta, canned items, sugar, and flour. (Trust me, you would be shocked at how how fast common staple items can sell out closer to Thanksgiving). Figure out what store would be best for certain items—i.e. what specifically do you want in bulk from Costco vs.which items can you grab on your next run to your favorite supermarket vs. what special ingredients do you aim to pick up from your local farmer’s market or butcher’s shop. Organize a couple of shopping outings accordingly for the week to make sure you cross everything, other than fresh produce, off of your list.
5 Days Before Thanksgiving
The days are winding down closer to the feast, and all of your planning is beginning to be put to the test. The best and easiest way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days before preparing, depending on the size of the turkey.
3 Days Before Thanksgiving
Pop back out to the grocery store to pick up your perishable groceries that you’d rather not buy a week in advance. These are mostly going to be fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Go ahead and decide which side dishes can be prepped, at least partially, ahead of time.
2 Days Before Thanksgiving
Get to prepping. Cranberry sauce is perfect to make ahead because the flavors will only get better with time. Peel, cut, and store your potatoes submerged in water in an airtight container to cut down prep time for mashed potatoes. You can boil and mash them the day of. Throw out any old food in your refrigerator that takes up space. You’re gonna need every single square inch of prime refrigerator real estate in the coming days.
Go ahead pull together any kind of casserole or baked dish that can wait in the fridge, assembled, for a couple of days before baking—green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, cornbread casserole, and stuffing are all typically pretty make-ahead friendly options.
Any super, super last-minute shopping should be taken care of ASAP.
1 Day Before Thanksgiving
Your turkey should be fully thawed by now. Clean the bird, remove any parts from the cavity, and pat dry. Skip the salt-water brine and opt for a dry-rub seasoning. With such a large bird and packed fridge, a wet brine is typically more trouble than it’s worth and can often counteract achieving ultra-crispy turkey skin. Season your bird thoroughly and leave it in the refrigerator, uncovered overnight. This will help dry out the skin before it hits the oven for a crispy, crunchy exterior. Disclaimer: Everyone has their own method to preparing a turkey, whatever route you opt for—be it deep frying, roasting, or grilling—just make sure you have a plan and trusted recipe at the ready for cooking. Assemble and store any dishes that are meant to serve cold—pasta salads, potato salads, grain salads, and coleslaw, for example.
Pull out your linens and serving dishes and designate a spot in your home where the food will be served (if not on the table). Use sticky notes to label your serving dishes and platters with the foods you plan to serve in each. You can even go ahead and set the table at this point if you have time.
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Pop that seasoned bird into the oven! A turkey takes up the most space in the oven, so by cooking it first, you can make room for the side dishes and other oven-baked items to follow. Plus, the bird holds its heat fairly well. If need be, you can always place it back into the oven about 30-45 minutes before dinner is served for a reheat. As the turkey comes out, you can put your casserole dishes and other baked dishes that you prepped ahead of time in. While the oven is at work, start all of your dishes that require the stovetop.
As your early guests that volunteered to help come in, have them set up the dinner table or the designated area for the food (if you haven’t already). One trusty person can be in charge of making the signature cocktail for the meal to serve other guests as they arrive, and also have the appetizers ready for nibbling. Another person can be in charge of grabbing and arranging the dishes that others bring in. Closer to dinnertime, you can pull out the chilled side items and start arranging them on the table. Following the chilled sides, bring out the warm baked and stove top sides. Finally, when everyone is seated, bring out your main attraction of the night: the turkey.
All of your hard work and planning has allowed you to smartly execute a thoughtful Thanksgiving menu for friends and family to admire—way to be. Now ditch the apron, fill your plate, and let someone else do the dishes.
The Store-Bought Mashed Potatoes That Will Carry You Through The Holidays
When it comes to the staple dishes of Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are those that don’t allow for shortcuts. Turkeys must be brined and browned properly lest they taste like cardboard. Cornbread dressing really should start from scratch. And cranberry sauce worth its real estate on the table starts with fresh ingredients instead of a can.
But then there are mashed potatoes. While in the past we may have thought the best bowls of them first began by peeling a metric ton of spuds over a kitchen sink until one resembled the exhausted, unenthused figures of Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters,” we now know better.
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Today, by the grace of food science and American ingenuity, we have Ore-Ida developed their Steam n’ Mash frozen potatoes. Around the holidays you will see us pillaging the local Publix and Piggly Wiggly stores for them in the frozen aisle. Why? Because all it takes to have an enticing bowl of mashed taters on the table supersized for a crowd is 10 minutes, ⅔ cup of milk, a few tablespoons of butter, and a dream of a stress-free supper.
Because the potatoes inside are already peeled and par-boiled, using the Steam n’ Mash product eliminates the most time-consuming steps. Just pop one of the bags in the microwave for 10 minutes, let it sit (because the bag will be full of piping hot steam), mash in a serving bowl with whole milk (the best quality you can find since you aren’t cooking or baking it), 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter (a salted one from pasture-raised cows is best), and boom. If you want to get creative and add a compound garlic butter or stir in minced chives, the ways you can personalize your potatoes are endless.
The best part? You can take the hours of your life you would otherwise spend peeling and prepping back. But the real question is, what will you do with them? If it’s eating a few extra holiday cookies in a stairwell in sweet solitude, we won’t tell.
Achieve Apple Pie Perfection with our 5 Best Recipes and Tips
What's more American than apple pie? Not much (except for maybe this Bacon-Apple Pie recipe... see #4 below). Over the next two weeks, we'll be counting down to the 4th with some of our best recipes to help you celebrate America the Beautiful, and there's no better way to begin than with America's favorite pie.
Here is a round-up of our best all-American apple pies, plus a few tips for making and serving the very best.Our Top 5 All-Star Apple Pies:
Really, making apple pie doesn't get much easier than this 5-star skillet pie recipe. Simply toss apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar together, and spoon over a refrigerated pie crust fitted in a cast-iron skillet. Top with the other crust and bake to golden gooey goodness.
The only thing better than one crust is two. A double crust locks in the apples' natural juices as the pie bakes for full-on apple flavor. Tossing the apples with apple juice keeps them from browning as you peel and slice them, and it adds a boost of apple essence.
#3. Apple Hand Pies
These hand pies stuffed full with diced apples and cinnamon-sugar are adorably delicious. While the process is a little more involved, both the charming aesthetic and pie-on-the-go portability are well worth a little extra crimping. And, as if we needed something to make them even better--check out those star cutouts. We're gettin' festive up in here. #murica
#4. Bacon-Apple Pie
This meaty lattice top is certainly an eye-catcher, but hey--it's surprisingly simple to make. With only 12 minutes of prep time and less than 2 handfuls of ingredients (many of which you'll like have in your pantry), this sweet-and-savory apple pie is an amazing way to celebrate bacon the beautiful (and America).
In this 4-ingredient dessert, apple pie filling is poured into hollowed apples and topped with an easy lattice pie crust. It's an easy and playful way to satisfy that apple-pie craving with significantly-less hassle (plus, the kids will love helping you hollow out the apples). These make for super fun personal pies in a party situation.
Not a pie-dough pro yet? Nervous about experimenting with fillings? No worries, keep calm. Just avoid these 5 common mistakes, and you're halfway to pie perfection.
How to Avoid Ruining Your Pie:
#1. Do not use room-temperature ingredients or warm kitchen tools on your dough.
It's vital that both your tools and ingredients are cold. Room temperature butter might be what your favorite chocolate chip recipe calls for, but it's not the ticket to perfect pie dough. Pro tip: Toss your mixing bowl and flour into the freezer a few minutes before you start working.
#2. Do not manhandle your dough.
You need to use a gentle but firm touch when working with pastry dough or a crumb crust. If you manhandle your dough, you'll prompt the gluten in the dough to go to work too early, and you'll end up with a tough crust. To seal the mixture to the pan for crumb crusts, use the pads of your fingertips (pressed together) and push with gentle firmness along the bottom of the pan.
#3. Do not whisk, scrape.
When cooking custard for pie fillings, please, oh please, do not whisk on the stove top. Instead, use a rubber spatula to constantly scrape along the entire parameter of the pot using a figure 8 motion. That way, you don't miss any nooks or crannies and the constant movement will leave less opportunity for clumping to occur.
#4. Do not wait to cook your apple pie apples in the oven.
The secret to keeping your apple slices from turning to mush in your crust is to give them a little pre-baking warm up. In a large, heat-proof bowl, pour boiling hot water over top of the apple slices so it just covers them, and let them sit for 10 minutes before patting them dry.
#5. Do not use an aluminum pie pan.
This one is more of a "try to avoid" tip. If you can, always use a glass pie plate so you can ensure the bottom is browned to perfection and cooked through. You can easily ruin a delicious pie with a pale, undercooked crust.
How long will my turkey take to cook?
A lot of you wrote in asking for times for your specific turkey size. Use the USDA chart below as a guide–we all need to have some idea in order to plan the rest of the meal. This chart assumes you are cooking the turkey at 325°F (which the USDA recommends as the minimum oven temperature to use). But keep in mind–this chart is a guide only, and you need to take the turkey's temperature with a thermometer to check for doneness.
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Timetables for Turkey Roasting (325°F oven temperature)
Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.
For more information, see Top Turkey Questions Answered.
What to Eat the Days Before Thanksgiving
Admit it—a majority of the month of November is spent meticulously planning and organizing your Thanksgiving menu. A whole turkey, a plethora of sides, and a bangin’ dessert spread is not something that happens overnight, and it’s safe to say that we’ve been working diligently to make sure everything goes over as smoothly as possible. However, in the mess of all this pre-programming, you probably forget one tiny thing—what the HECK are you going to eat for dinner tonight?! Not to mention, you’ve probably got some hungry guests in town, too. Oh and one last thing—your fridge is definitely stocked to the brim. AH!
Those pre-prepared pie dough discs and your make-ahead stuffing is not going to help you, so let’s get some other options lined up for this hectic food week. Here, we’ve compiled our favorite tricks and simple meal solutions to hold you over until Thanksgiving.
We preach about it a lot, but we really mean it this week, okay? For a lean protein that you can serve for dinner and effortlessly repurpose for lunches, this hot bar purchase is a no-brainer. Toss it into salads, bake it into casseroles, stuff it into wraps and sandwiches, or eat it straight off the bone like the carnivore who’s getting ready for T-giving that you are. If you’re tight on space in the refrigerator, transfer all of the meat to a gallon size zip-top bag. Use the bones to make stock or keep them in your freezer to make stock on some other day that you’re not running around to every grocery store in town to find one that isn’t sold out of canned cranberry sauce.
Eat Veggies—Buy Bagged Salads
If you don’t have the time to wash, chop, and mise out all your favorite veggies to build your favorite salad this week, well, that’s understandable. But finding a way to still get some greens in is crucial, and that’s exactly where bagged salads come in. Not to mention, they are a great bed for that rotisserie chicken you just picked up at the store. Congratulations, all that pie is going to taste a lot better knowing that you pre-gamed it with a week of fibrous, leafy greens.
Smoothie It UP
If salads aren’t your game, sneak an extra handful of fruits and veggies into your day with a quick, portable smoothie. Since your freezer is already busting at the seams, you might as well put all that frozen fruit living there to good use. Throw in a scoop of protein powder or peanut butter and a handful of greens, and BOOM. You’re heading into Turkey Day absolutely GLOWING.
Watch Now: How to Make Lemony Chicken and Spinach Soup
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Make a Big Batch of Soup
You know what we don’t talk about enough? SOUP. It’s quick and easy to make, low-cost, tastes better as a leftover, and is best consumed wrapped in a blanket in front of the TV. If that is not a superfood, then I don’t know what is. Get a batch of lemony chicken and rice, beef and beer chili or chicken tortilla soup going on the stove, and you’re on your merry way to soup greatness. If you’re working with a smaller crowd, transfer some of it to the freezer to enjoy next month, when the holiday madness returns.
Eggs, Lots of Eggs
When time is of the essence and your options are far from nutritious, there’s one food that you can rely on time and time again to save the day. And that, of course, is eggs. Hard boil a dozen in the beginning of the week for high protein snacking, easy breakfasts on-the-go, or egg salads. If you’re up to it, prep an entire quiche or frittata in the beginning of the week so that you’ve got something hearty and healthy to fall back on when it gets to crunch time. Or if you just need something the morning of Thanksgiving to give you some energy for a day of kitchen work, fry a couple eggs and go to town on some runny yolks and toast. You made it, friend. Today is the day.
10 Valid Questions From a First-Time Thanksgiving Host--Answered
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I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year and slightly freaking out. By the way, I cook dinner at least 5 nights a week, prep and pack my lunches for work every day, and host parties fairly often. If I'm this nervous, I can't even imagine how my other first-time hosts (who don't cook quite that often) are feeling. The struggle is real, friends. Very real. Oh, and to add to that, my nephew who's only 16-months-old has a nut allergy, so absolutely zero nuts in this Thanksgiving meal. I have been scanning and double scanning recipes for any possible trace of nuts thinking, I cannot cause a family trip to the ER on Thanksgiving, I must not cause a family trip to the ER on Thanksgiving.
So, anxiety aside, what's my strategy? Just like everything else in life, I decided to step back, assess this situation, and start planning. Mainly because I have a largely type-A brain, and a having solid plan in place does my soul wonders. No stress (at least, not yet),--just questions answered, a meal plan, and a game day plan (A.K.A. Figuring out how the hell I'm going to have everything ready to serve on time).
And the place to start in building such a master turkey day plan is by first identifying what the big questions and roadblocks of uncertainty are, and seeking out valid answers that will lead you in the right direction. For my fellow first time hosts, I have outlined the top 10 questions I've encountered when really diving in to make my Thanksgiving day menu and schedule, along with the answers I found that will (or already have) help me to move forward. I salute your bravery and wish you all the best--you got this.
The 10 First-Time Thanksgiving Host's Questions--Answered!
1. Where and when should I buy my turkey?
A: We've learned that the best turkeys that aren't frozen are available 5 to 7 days before Thanksgiving, but if you want to go ahead and pre-order yours, Whole Foods started taking orders on November 1 online, in store, and by phone through their Holiday Table.
2. What is the easiest way to cook my turkey, that will also taste the best?
A: According to Kenji López-Alt, Spatchcocking is the ultimate way to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving. After researching all the ways to cook turkey, this technique caught my attention, mainly because it cooks in less than an hour and a half—amazing. But if spatchcocking doesn't sound like the method for you, check out even more turkey tips.
3. Is there a dish that I can make in the slow cooker to save some space in my oven and on the stovetop?
A: Huffington Post says that I can cook my entire Thanksgiving in a Crock Pot. No Thanks. While that sure sounds interesting, I think I'll just stick to one or two to save some space, and keep a couple items more hands off. After reading all of my several options, mashed potatoes seem to make the most sense to me. But really, these Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon sound like the best option for my slow-cooker Thanksgiving contribution.
4. I want to make a salad that doesn't feel like everything else on my menu. How can I bring a fresh pop of flavor to the table?
A: In order to make a salad feel necessary to my menu, I needed it to really pop with vibrancy. This Grapefruit, Endive, and Arugula Salad brings crunch, flavor, and bright acidity to my spread with tangy grapefruit, crisp and pleasantly bitter endive, peppery arugula, and pungent Gorgonzola cheese. And, since I'll need to nix the nuts, I'll replace with crispy chickpeas for crunch.
5. Stuffing or dressing? Is there a difference? Do I need to make both or...?
A: Apparently, this all just depends on where you live. There really is no difference. While some argue that stuffing refers to the literal stuffing you place inside the bird, and dressing is what is made in a casserole dish, they're essentially the same thing. According to my mother, I do need to make it, regardless of what I call it. And not just any stuffing (that's what we call it), but cornbread stuffing, to be exact.
6. What are the three best appetizers that I should make that day? I don't want people getting too full, but I know they need a pre-meal nosh.
A: After thinking about this one for a minute, I know my family and what they like. So, I'm going to serve our favorite snacks—cheese, olives, and wine. I'm not going to stress about this one. I'm going to put out a fabulous cheese board, bake some brie, serve with apples, grapes, and crackers, and put out a couple of bottles of red wine. I'll also stock the bar with gin, vodka, and whiskey, and the fridge with tonic water, light lagers, and hoppy IPAs (my fam likes booze, it counts as an appetizer). For some other ideas, check out our collection of must-try Thanksgiving apps, or some of the snacks I recommended for an hor d’oeuvres-themed Friendsgiving.
7. Should I prepare breakfast for my family that morning? If so, what?
A: According to The Kitchn's rules for Thanksgiving breakfast, I need to keep it light, simple, and flexible. To stick within those parameters, I'm going to set out some coffee, fruit, yogurt, and pumpkin bread and let everyone fend for themselves. Easy peasy.
8. Never have I ever carved a turkey. Where in the world do I even start?
A: Thanks to Real Simple, I have this handy video and step-by-step guide to help me out on the big day. Remove in this order: string, legs, thighs, drumsticks, wishbone (apparently this makes it easier to carve off the breast meat), breast, and wings. After everything has been removed in order, you can then slice the breast and thigh meat like a pro.
9. I know that I'm supposed to include cranberry sauce, but that jiggly stuff in a can really freaks me out. Is there an easy fresh version I can make?
A: Thankfully, Time Inc. Food Studios Test Kitchen Director Katie Barreira has a gorgeous and foolproof Roasted Cranberry Sauce that only takes 10 minutes to make. It also incorporates rosemary, which is a huge win in our family. Boom.
10. I need a nut-free dessert that's not pumpkin pie (my husband hates it), what feels right for Thanksgiving?
A: I went to our resident pie queen and Editor of MyRecipes, Darcy Lenz for this one. Pie is serious business. And everyone remembers dessert. She knows that I'm no baker (like seriously), so homemade pie dough is kind of out the question. She offered to make me a few crusts-worth of pie dough in advance to pop in the freezer, which is amazing. But if you don't happen to have a Darcy in your life, you can use refrigerator pie dough instead. I'm going to use her crust and make this easy Rustic Apple Tart. It's nut-free, an elegant dish I'm sure everyone will enjoy, and looks relatively easy. Another option: this gorgeous Caramel-Apple Cheesecake. It does have nuts, but Darcy pointed out that I could eliminate those and add 1/2 cup more graham cracker crumbs instead. Sold!
To get even more Thanksgiving guidance, be sure to tune in to our Facebook Friendsgiving Day on Tuesday, November 22 at 10 AM (EST), where our sister brands will join us to answer more questions and show you how to master the art of Thanksgiving.
The 3 Essential Kitchen Tools You Can't go Without This Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is one of the most food-centric holidays of the entire year, and it's this same Thursday each November when nearly everyone--from average home cook, to professional chef, to those who consider cooking the worst form of pain--takes part in the food preparation process in one way or another.
And while tools like a fat separator, ricer, baster, pastry brush, rolling pin, and more are extremely helpful in the Thanksgiving cooking and baking process, purchasing numerous hyper-specific items that you won't use very often (if you're not one to cook on much of a regular basis) for one meal doesn't make a ton of sense. And even if you are enthusiastic about cooking, it's important to know what you can do without if necessary. Here are the 3 tools, as selected by our editors, that are absolutlte necessary for tackling Thanksgiving--and every holiday dinner that comes after it, for that matter.
1. Chef's knife
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Let's face it, a good chef's knife is the most versatile tool in the entire kitchen, every day of the year. And you'll use it this Thanksgiving in more ways than one. You'll use it to . . .
- Dice potatoes for sweet potato casserole and creamy mashed potatoes
- Cube bread and chop veggies and aromatics for stuffing
- Trim green beans for green bean casserole
- Cut up veggies like Brussels sprouts, squash, etc. to prepare for roasting
- Carve the turkey
- Slice the pies
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2. Rimmed baking sheet with rack
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I know what you're thinking, "No roasting pan?!" And while I know this may sound like heresy, the honest truth is--you don't really need it. Though it's the 'perfect' size for a turkey and the deep sides allow for lots of liquid to gather in the bottom of the pan, most home cooks dig their roasting pans out of the back corners of their cupboards only once a year--and that is to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. Cooking your bird on a metal rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet is not only a more practical method for those that don't already own a roasting pan, but it's actually a chef-recommended technique to producing evenly-cooked, golden-brown, and perfectly-crispy skin. Because it's rimmed, the baking sheet will still catch the juices from the bird, and you can use the same pan (with some of those good turkey juices still on it, preferably) to roast veggies. And obviously, you're about to get a ton of use out of that baking sheet and the rack with cookie baking season coming right up--it's a worthwile investment if you don't already have these items or feel like you could use a new set.
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Though you're likely only going to use it for one dish this Thanksgiving--and that is the main event: the Thanksgiving turkey--a calibrated meat thermometer is absolutely crucial to ensure a perfectly-cooked, safe-to-eat turkey. Some turkeys these days come with a pop-up thermometer, but I'd highly warn you against trusting the outcome of your most-anticipated Thanksgiving dish to a cheap and highly-inaccurate plastic plug. You can purchase a good meat thermometer for $5 to $8 at most local kitchen retailers, not to mention you'll be checking the temperature of your turkey several times throughout the cooking process, so it's well worth the few extra dollars. Even if you only really need it for one dish on the big day, you are going to get so much use out of this essential kitchen tool for meals to come. Perfection only comes through exact heat for certain dishes (meat, deep fried foods, candy), and a thermometer is the only way to get there. And here's a little secret: as long as you keep it clean, you can totally use your meat thermometer for candy cooking too.
This Thanksgiving, Commit to a Kids' Table
Thanksgiving, in the greater public consciousness, is a time of joyful gathering, delicious foods and—if you’re lucky—the kind of turkey-induced nap that leaves you feeling ready to tackle a plate of leftovers when you wake up. In reality, though, Thanksgiving can be more complicated than that. Aunts bickering with cousins over politics and religion, surly teens glued to their iPhones, and coordinating the schedules and needs of a large group of people can put a strain on anyone, but particularly the Thanksgiving host. And while I can’t tell you how to make peace between testy family factions, I can offer up one way to ease tensions when mealtime rolls around: Designate a table for the kids.
I know, I know. There are some people who believe that making a table specifically for children is an invitation for chaos. There are others who think that a five-year-old needs to sit at the adult table, use their salad fork properly and have a well-formed opinion about the impacts of globalization. I get it—my parents definitely thought the latter. But when it comes to my own home, I’ve found that a kids table not only keeps everyone calmer and happier, but it also helps form stronger relationships between both children and adults.
Creating an ideal table for a children’s Thanksgiving is similar to the adult version—just a little bit more playful. Consider placing the table in an area that’s within eyesight, but perhaps just far enough away for kids to feel a bit of independence. If your house has an open floor plan, for example, have the adult dinner in the living room and the kids set up in the kitchen. (Bonus points for easy clean up.) The age range for the kids table is something that’s often up for debate, but as a general rule of thumb, a 14-year-old should probably be ready to make the transition to the adult table. Don’t worry, though, about breaking kids into “younger” and “older” tables. There’s a great deal to be gained from children of various ages listening to, learning from and playing with one another—a thing that doesn’t happen quite as often as it did in generations past.
Before the meal begins, create a “trail mix station” on the table you’ve designated for the kids. Several small bowls of trail mix classics—from dried fruits, to chocolate chips, to almonds and pretzels—complete with small paper bags for storing their pre-meal treats. This easy set-up will allow them to mix and match their own personalized trail mix, and help keep little hands occupied (and fed!) until the meal gets underway. Using festive, non-breakable plates—like these inexpensive, turkey-adorned Melamine plates—takes the threat of your great-grandmother’s china getting shattered (literally) off the table. And when it comes to beverages, sparkling apple or grape juice is an ideal way for kids to feel as celebratory and adult as their parents at the big(ger) table drinking wine.
Interactive dinnertime activities also help to create a seamless kids’ table experience. Instead of a traditional table runner, use a large piece of craft or butcher paper, complete with a set of crayons, to allow doodling and drawing throughout the course of the meal. (This also makes a great keepsake.) And having each child use a special card to write down a “gratitude list” makes an endearing activity to read aloud, with the whole family together, later in the evening.
And if there ends up being a food fight at the kids’ table and a nephew has sweet potato caked in his hair at the end of the day? Well, that’s OK, too. After all, life isn’t really like that ubiquitous Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving painting—it’s a little bit messy.
How (Exactly!) to Pick Out the Right Thanksgiving Turkey
Anyone who has ever stood, shivering, in the meat department among the chickens, game hens, and hulking turkeys in the days leading up to Thanksgiving is familiar with the stress the process can entail. Maybe this year you’re making your thirtieth turkey, or maybe it’s your first. Either way, here’s what you need to know about picking one out it—from deciphering the wrapper to getting out your wallet—before going ahead and doing an excellent job preparing and roasting it.
Sarah Steffan, executive chef of The Dogwood at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, grew up on a farm with a dad and brothers who “were huge sportsmen,” she says, hunting wild turkey on the regular. (More often than not, young Steffan would spy some sort of feather-studded carcass lurking in the fridge.) She took that meaty knowledge on the road, adding layers of sophistication that included stints in Relais & Chateaux kitchens and a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. These days, Steffan cooks plenty of turkeys and chickens at Blackberry Farm, and she walked me through precisely what to look for in your bird and how to get it ready for its big day.
What’s Out There
“Of course everybody would love to buy free-range, all-organic, home-schooled turkeys,” jokes Steffan, “but [those] are not necessarily always [available], especially in [large] grocery stores.” To detangle the labels on the turkeys you see at the store, a good resource is always the USDA, particularly this page, but here are some terms you might spy.
“Free-range,” “Free Roaming,” and “Cage-Free”
According to the USDA, if your bird is labeled “free-range” or “free-roaming,” its “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” (That’s a big deal for those who care about supporting humane practices.)
“Cage-free” can actually be a little confusing; with eggs, USDA grade-marked eggs marked as such “must be produced by hens housed in a building, room, or enclosed area that allows for unlimited access to food, water, and provides the freedom to roam within the area during the laying cycle.” But with turkeys and chickens, cage-free is less relevant, per some sources. The USDA doesn’t regulate poultry raised for meat in the same way. Stick to “free-range” and “free-roaming” if you can.
If organic turkey matters to you, great: Know what the difference is between “100% organic,” “Organic,” and the rest of the birds out there.
Here’s a misnomer a lot of us have fallen for: “Hormone-free” is irrelevant for pork and poultry. Per the USDA, “Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim ‘no hormones added’ cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says ‘Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.’” So don’t be confused—and don’t pay more—for that one!
What is “Air-Chilled?”
Air-chilled might sound like the opposite of organic, free-range turkey, but it’s actually what you want when you’re hunting for the perfect bird, says Steffan. Because poultry has to be rapidly cooled immediately post-slaughter in order to adhere to stringent USDA standards, the bird is either sunk in a huge vat of water or put through a series of cooling refrigerators. You want the latter, lest your bird becomes too moist. (Think: Weirdly textured meat, lack of crisp skin.) You’re also getting more meat per buck, because you’re not paying for that extra water content. Steffan likes that the skin of air-chilled birds is already dried out, which is what they do manually at the restaurant, letting birds sit in the cooler, brined. Dry skin is what makes for a golden sheen on the finished turkey.
Bank On 3-6 Days Prep for Frozen Birds
Don’t buy a frozen bird the day before Thanksgiving, or even two days before! You want at least three full days of prep time, suggests Steffan, particularly if you’re brining. (Using the metric that you’ll need one full day to defrost per four-pounds of bird, the Butterball site specifies that you’ll need five full days to defrost a 20-lb bird!) You also might want to bank on an extra night for brining the defrosted bird. Note: You can quickly defrost a turkey using cold water, but you have to change out the water frequently; it’s very hands-on, and the results tend to not be as tasty. You are not to leave the bird at room temperature to defrost from being frozen; it’s not safe, and you can get sick.
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What to Avoid
Watch out for “if it’s been brined or injected with salt solution,” says Steffan. “It’s salt but there’s probably also sugar, and who knows what else—other chemicals. Avoid anything that says ‘pre-brined.’” Also, feel free to buy a fresh or frozen turkey, but make sure it’s not in between, warns Steffan, which is unsafe. “At a farmers’ market, they’d probably have to keep it cool and frozen,” she says, but “watch out for frost or freezer burn, and make sure it’s been properly sealed and packaged.”
Use Your Nose
Know what raw poultry is supposed to smell like—not much! “If it doesn’t smell good, don’t even risk it,” Steffan says initially, quickly qualifying with, “Then again, sometimes the way things are packaged, it might be totally fine. It’s just been in the plastic for too long.” Plastic containers can develop “a funk,” she says, which can be remedied by salting the turkey thoroughly and plunking it in ice water for five minutes. Scrub it—“Ya gotta exfoliate your turkey!” she laughs—towel it off, and see if it smells less funky. If not, bite the bullet, and toss it.
Some would guesstimate one-and-a-half pounds per person, depending on the size of the bird and bone-to-meat ratio, but Steffan goes for two pounds per person, plus at least two pounds of meat for leftovers.
That’s it! Now figure out the “to brine or not to brine” question, and you’re ready to get rolling on the most gorgeous, Instagrammable bird anyone has ever seen. (And yes, naturally, we have recipe ideas.)
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Gourmet, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.
How to Set Your First Thanksgiving Table on a Tight Budget
You finally have a place of your own and have decided to host your first Thanksgiving dinner (congrats!), only problem is... your dinnerware collection is somewhat skimpy, or at least not enough to serve a large group. No need to stress. As you get a few more Thanksgivings and other large dinners under your belt, you’ll gradually accrue more dinnerware and serving dishes. But for now, keep it modern and minimalistic.
“Thanksgiving is about the people,” Mindy Shapiro, senior photo stylist for Time Inc. Food Studios, says. She believes that any first-time Thanksgiving hosts shouldn’t worry too much about having the perfect table setting. Mixing and matching your plates can create a really lovely and intentional look. If you’re own collection is limited, don’t hesitate to ask a guest or two to bring some of their own plates over. Despite differing styles, if you decide on a specific color, such as white or beige, for your dinner plates, there will be a color thread that creates a cohesive look. “Napkins should be the thing to match,” Shapiro says. Matching napkins and linens are what really bring the table together in unison.
Another option to consider is disposable dinnerware. After all, dealing with stacks of dirty dishes isn’t exactly a host’s dream after prepping and (hopefully) enjoying a massive meal. Rather than rounding up traditional dinner plates, purchase dinnerware that you can throw away at the end of the night and skip the extra hours over the sink. Shapiro suggests corn-based plates or bamboo plates for chic, environmentally-friendly options.
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For the host who is set on beginning to acquire their own collection of dinnerware, start your bargain hunt for dishes at consignment shops and thrift stores, keeping in mind that mixing and matching is a good thing. Just focus on the color scheme. Keep an eye out for hidden gems like funky candle holders, vintage silverware, and Pyrex dishes. The dollar store and craft stores will also great resources in this journey, as they typically carry inexpensive plastic servingware that you can spray paint gold or silver to instantly transform into plate chargers. You might even luck out and find some cute, sturdy glassware that’s not apt to break (and not a huge loss if it does). You may also want to purchase a package of string lights—they’re a great way to set a cozy mood with a warm glow. Head to the fabric section of your craft store to purchase a yard of fabric you like to cut into napkins and/or use as a table runner for the center of your table. Not only does this route save you money over buying a set of formal cloth napkins and table runner, but it gives you more room to choose the perfect color/pattern to match the rest of your decor.
For the finishing touches on your table, Shapiro suggests going outside to find greenery in your yard. Twigs, wild flowers, and acorns are easy upgrades to an autumn table. Someone in the neighborhood might have a rosemary plant that you can trim a few branches from to display on the table for a natural, earthy aroma. You can also visit your local grocery store’s flower section and pick up a bouquet to deconstruct. Cut the ends for shorter stems and arrange the flowers into smaller bundles to disperse down the table. And if you have a little bit of time to work with, try one of these easy and inexpensive DIY centerpieces.
According to Shapiro, the absolute most-important thing to remember is this: Do not stress. “Don’t worry about it… and do not take on the cost so much yourself,” she emphasizes. After all, if you can find the perfect table accents for free outside or for pennies at the local thrift store, why should you? We all know you want to impress family and friends with your Pinterest-worthy projects and ornate Martha Stewart inspired tablescapes and that’s great, but all of that ambition can easily add up to unnecessary stress. At the end of the night, when your belly is full and your people are sitting around you, your mismatched dishes and custom-made napkins aren’t going to be what matters (as impressive and truly worthy of admiration as they are sure to be). What your family and friends will remember most is the precious time that they spent with you, and whether or not your turkey was dry. So again, don’t stress!
These Are the Worst Possible Ways to Thaw a Turkey
The turkey isn’t really the star of the Thanksgiving Day show. Sure, it’s the centerpiece of the meal, the thing around which every other dish is decided. But most people, if they’re being honest, are there for the sides—green bean casserole, it’s our time—or probably the pies.
But the turkey is most certainly the prima donna, the diva, the grand pooh-bah of the Thanksgiving dinner. It requires days’ worth of attention, from buying and thawing, to brining and roasting.
Watch: How to Make Turkey and Waffles
The thawing, however, may be the most important focus of your turkey attention. If the thawing step errs, you and your guests could be in for a not-so-delightful time after the meal is over (i.e. food poisoning).
It’s important you thaw your turkey correctly so that the turkey cooks its best when it’s roasted and so that you don’t make all your dinner guests ill. Here, the five worst ways you could thaw a turkey and the two that are actually safe.
Can I thaw my turkey on the counter?
Absolutely not. You may have skirted death by thawing a pack of pork chops or some chicken cutlets on the counter one time, but you just can’t risk it with this large bird. At room temperature, the turkey will thaw on the outside and rise well above the “danger zone” of 40°F, FoodSafety.gov explains. Bacteria in the turkey can multiply quickly when it’s at room temperature for more than two hours. You may serve up salmonella poisoning along with your famous candied yams. Not so yum!
What’s worse, while the outside of the turkey is a cesspool of potentially dangerous bacteria, the inside is probably still frozen solid. That means you’ve got a complete turkey nightmare on your hands.
Can I thaw my turkey in hot water?
Don’t you dare. Just like with thawing at room temperature, a hot water bath will thaw the outside of the turkey above the “danger zone” while leaving the inside frozen. Here again, you’re setting yourself up for a serious bacterial problem that could make a foodborne illness your unexpected parting gift to your friends and family members.
Can I thaw my turkey in the microwave?
Oh, please don’t. Can you? Maybe. Should you? No. A microwave thaw is a great option for that frozen pack of chicken breasts that’s still a bit too hard right at dinnertime. It is not—and we repeat, not—a good option for the Thanksgiving turkey.
First, each microwave varies in its strength, wattage, power levels, and other key variables. You could end up cooking large portions of the turkey before the inside of the bird ever thaws. What will be left is a spongy turkey in parts with ice-cold bits elsewhere.
Second, can you even get your turkey in a microwave? Most microwave openings are less than 10 inches, which means fitting a turkey, even a small one, might be difficult. If your turkey does fit—say, it’s a petite seven-pounder—you’ll get a better result from thawing in cold water, and you won’t have to worry about ruining your bird.
Can I thaw my turkey with a hair dryer?
This is a head-scratcher. Yes, you probably could. No, you absolutely should not. Like a hot water bath or room-temperature thaw, the outside of the turkey will probably get well above the danger zone long before the inside is thawed. You cannot guarantee the blast of continuous heat will be strong enough to thaw the turkey before bacteria growth begins. Save the dryer for your hair.
Can I thaw my turkey on the porch?
If you are fortunate enough to live in a climate that’s basically a large outdoor refrigerator this time of year, you may think that if the temps outside don’t climb above 40°F, you could thaw your bird outside and spare some room in the fridge—but you’d be wrong.
You cannot guarantee the temperature of the turkey when it’s outside. A little bit of sun exposure can make the turkey’s temps climb quickly, leading to bacterial growth. In the shade, you may be surprised to learn the turkey is actually cooler than your fridge, and it stays frozen.
If you need room in your fridge, put the drinks on ice in a cooler, and put them outside. Don’t risk food poisoning by placing your turkey outside.
The best ways to thaw a turkey
The refrigerator method
The most recommended (and safest) way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. It isn’t speedy, but you don’t have to worry about making everyone ill. The turkey stays well above the danger zone, which reduces bacteria growth, and it thaws evenly.
You’ll need some time, however. Give yourself one day for every four to five pounds of bird.
These guidelines might help:
4- to 12-pound turkey: 1 to 3 days
12- to 16-pound turkey: 3 to 4 days
16- to 20-pound turkey: 4 to 5 days
20- to 24-pound turkey: 5 to 6 days
When you are ready to move the turkey from the deep freeze to your fridge, be sure to put the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet or platter. This will catch any juices or fluids that might leak out of the turkey during the thawing process. Also, place the turkey at the lowest point in your fridge so juices that might leak won’t land on any ready-to-eat foods.
The cold-water method
Sometimes, even the best-laid plans for thawing a turkey don’t work out. You forgot, or you found out at the last minute that you’re now hosting. That’s OK. There’s another safe method for turkey thawing.
Like a fridge thaw, the cold-water method is also time-consuming. However, it will shave off days’ worth of thawing time and is still safe—if you do it correctly.
Place your frozen turkey in a large sink or container (a five-gallon bucket is good). Pour ice-cold water over the turkey. You may need to place something on the turkey to keep it fully submerged. The water needs to be at 40°F or below; an instant-read thermometer will help you get an accurate, quick read. If it’s too warm, add ice.
Leave the turkey in the water for 30 minutes, then replace the water with more cold water (and ice if necessary). Repeat the water-replacement cycle every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Plan to thaw the turkey in the water for an hour for every two pounds.
These guidelines will help:
4- to 12-pound turkey: 2 to 6 hours
12- to 16-pound turkey: 6 to 8 hours
16- to 20-pound turkey: 8 to 10 hours
20- to 24-pound turkey: 10 to 12 hours
The water should always be at or below 40°F in order to slow bacterial growth. When it goes above this threshold, you need more cold water. Thirty minutes is the recommended time frame. After that, the water is unlikely to stay chilled.
How the cold-water thawing method can be bad
The cold-water thawing method is handy when you’re in a pinch, but you have to be committed to it. If you’re not, you may skip a water replacement cycle, which could allow the temperature of the water and turkey to start climbing. That invites bacterial growth, which can lead to a foodborne illness.
If you cannot stand guard over your thawing turkey for half a day or more, you need to stick with thawing in the fridge or recruit a turkey-thawing friend. This method is effective and handy, but it’s not without its risks.
You can also roast a frozen turkey without the thawing method. It will double your cook time, but it is possible, and the bird will be delicious.
Why You Should Make a Sheet Cake Instead of Pie This Thanksgiving
Here’s the unspoken secret about pie during the holidays: Not everyone is a fan, they can be finicky to make, and it can be a pain to make beautifully constructed pies for a large crowd. Not only do sheet cakes remedy all of these issues, but they can be made in creative, seasonal flavors, and provide just as stunning of a presentation as pies and tarts—with less time and effort. Convinced? Here are a few of the best to choose from.
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This decadent, chocolatey, and nutty cake means no one will miss that sweet potato pie that ends up half-eaten at the end of the day. Browned butter icing with a bourbon kick is the real crowd-pleaser here, and an effortless candied walnut topping is way more forgiving than laboring over pie crust.
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You can’t go wrong with fudgy cake topped with toasted nuts, and cinnamon adds a warm flavor throughout. Buttermilk keeps this cake moist, and the whole thing can be assembled in less than 20 minutes before sticking it in the oven.
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This sheet cake doesn’t skimp on any of the traditional flavors of carrot cake—we keep the essentials, like carrot, pineapple and walnuts. But this cake comes together in a snap because of our shortcut: packaged spice cake mix that makes dessert ready to serve in a fraction of the time.
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This classic Southern sheet cake is ready in a pinch and has all of the indulgent flavors that will satisfy both the adults’ and the kids’ sweet tooth. Marshmallows, pecans, and a rich chocolate frosting will make this a new family favorite.
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Red velvet cake is another dessert classic that no one will turn down—and serving it in sheet-form means that you don't have to go through the hassle of layering and icing each cake round. Our version of cream cheese frosting has a little Greek yogurt stirred in to help with a more spreadable texture and provide a little extra tang.
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If you’re looking to keep it simple for Thanksgiving dessert, a classic marble cake (yellow and chocolate cake batter swirled together) is the perfect addition to your spread. It still feels festive, but it’s a bit lighter than having to commit to a dense slice of pumpkin pie.
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This citrusy, light, and indulgent cake can be assembled in less than half an hour and looks stunning if you serve it with slices of ruby red grapefruit. And there’s absolutely zero crust-crimping required.
Everything You Need to Know About Breaking a Turkey Wishbone
On its surface, teaming up with a loved one to rip apart an animal’s bone seems like a pretty weird holiday tradition. But there’s actually a reason for the practice—and a way to always win the larger half.
Where Is the Wishbone on a Turkey?
A turkey’s wishbone looks like this:
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It doesn’t exactly look like any human bone we learned about in biology class—so what the heck is it and what part of the turkey does it come from?!
A wishbone is simply the forked chest bone of a bird. It’s formed from the fusion of two collarbones and is found at the base of a turkey’s sternum, or between its neck and chest.
The bone supports a bird’s chest when it’s in flight.
People don’t have wishbones, simply, because people don’t fly.
Related: Our Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes
Turkey Wishbone Tradition
The tradition of breaking a bird’s wishbone dates back to ancient Italy, where people would pull apart chicken clavicles for good luck.
You see, these Romans believed that birds possessed divine powers. They also believed that keeping this particular bone would give them access to those powers.
This idea became so popular that there weren’t enough wishbones to go around—so people started breaking them in half.
But it gets more complicated than that: The person who ended up with the bigger half of the bone would get their wish granted, while the unlucky other person would not.
This practice was widespread in England, where the bone was called a “merrythought,” by the 16th-century. The English brought this tradition to the New World.
As you likely know, the pilgrims settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts and celebrated the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621.
Turkeys were abundant in Plymouth—and, well, you can probably guess what happened next.
How to Find and Remove a Turkey Wishbone
WATCH: How To Carve a Turkey
Even if you’re not superstitious, removing the wishbone makes carving your Thanksgiving turkey much easier. Without it in the way, cutting the breast becomes a much simpler process.
- Locate the bird’s chest.
- Lift the skin from the chest and cut into the meat.
- Poke around the area, searching for the V-shaped bone.
- Once you’ve found it, use a paring knife to carefully cut around the wishbone.
- Pull the bone from the bird, taking care not to damage the meat or the bone.
How to Win the Wishbone
Scientists from the University of Michigan figured out the best way to win the larger half of the wishbone in 2014.
First off, try to pick the thicker side of the bone. With dry hands (for a firm grip), hold your side of the bone with your dominant hand between your thumb and forefinger.
Try to get as close to the base—or center of the V-shape—as you can without being suspicious.
Now, for the most important part: This seems counterintuitive, but let the other person pull harder. The person who pulls with greater force is more likely to break their own side.
Find more science-backed tips for winning the wishbone here.
How to Make a Gorgeous Thanksgiving Turkey, According to a Food Stylist
Thanksgiving turkeys are intimidating. You can fret over the pecan pie and cranberry sauce all you want, but, let’s be honest for a second, they’re all just supporting actors. We all know the bird is the real star of the show—and it ain’t easy being beautiful.
WATCH: How to Make Rice Krispie Turkey
We reached out to one of our extremely talented food stylists, Rishon Hanners, for tips on how to cook a turkey that looks as good as it tastes.
Go for a glaze.
Glazing creates the super shiny, golden brown color that is typically associated with a classic Thanksgiving turkey.
“It’s actually something you can recreate at home very easily,” Hanners says.
Check out this recipe for Rosemary-Orange Roast Turkey with a savory-sweet marmalade glaze.
Use aluminum foil for even browning.
Check the turkey often for dark spots. When you spot one, slap some aluminum foil on it.
“While it’s cooking, if the turkey starts to pick up brown spots, you want to cover them with aluminum foil,” Hanners explains. “The rest of the turkey will continue to brown, while those dark spots don’t get any darker.”
Don’t sacrifice good flavor for good looks.
“Every food stylist has a different technique they like to use,” Hanners says. “Don’t deviate too far from the way you like your turkey to be cooked.”
Sure, we all want an Insta-worthy turkey. But don’t freak out if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you imagined. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
These Are the Best Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner
There’s a lot to love about Thanksgiving dinner. For instance, there’s the food, the family, and the conversation.
There’s also a lot to stress about on Turkey Day—like the food, the family, and the conversation.
That’s why we put together a list of the best wines to sip during every course, from dinner to dessert.
Best Wine to Go With Turkey
Pinot Noir or Chardonnay
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According to our friends at Food & Wine, Chardonnay’s “crisp acidity, mineral undertones, and fruit-forward nature bring out the best that turkey has to offer.”
Meanwhile, pinot noir’s high acidity and versatility make it perfect for pairing with turkey and a wide array of delicious holiday sides.
Try: Buena Vista North Coast Pinot Noir ($18) or Foxglove Central Coast Chardonnay ($17)
Get the recipe: Perfect Roast Turkey
Best Wine to Go With Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc
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When you’re looking for a wine to pair with rich and creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, look for a bottle that’s full-bodied enough to stand up to the side’s fatty ingredients.
Try: Hess Select North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) or Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
Best Wine to Go With Green Bean Casserole
Pinot Grigio or Riesling
A light, bright veggie like the green bean needs an equally light and bright wine pairing—think light-bodied pinot grigios or Rieslings.
Try: Peter Zemmer Alto Adige Pinot Grigio ($16) or Giesen Riesling ($19.99)
Get the recipe: Italian-Style Green Bean Casserole
Best Wine to Go With Stuffing
Zinfandel or Chardonnay
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Yes, stuffing is mainly comprised of bread. But when you take a bite, it’s not the grains you notice—it’s the herbs. A light white or a light-medium red will bring out all those delicious parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme flavors.
Try: Bogle Old Vine California Zinfandel ($12) or Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve California Chardonnay ($14)
Get the recipe: Smoky Chorizo Stuffing
Best Wine to Go With Pumpkin Pie
Fortified Dessert Wine
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It may seem counterintuitive, but a sweet dessert calls for an equally sweet wine. Try a glass of Sherry, Port, or Madeira to finish off your dinner.
Try: Tio Pepe Fino Muy Seco ($18)
Get the recipe: Classic Pumpkin Pie
How to Plan Thanksgiving Dinner for a Smaller Group
Thanksgiving is different for everyone. Some people have long tables that have to get set up down hallways or in the garage to accommodate all of their guests. There are houses that have not just a kids table, but also a teenage table and a twenty-somethings’ table. I know one family who has to put up a heated tent in their backyard and cooks something like eight or ten turkeys for the holiday.
But not everyone has a cast of thousands to address on the day. Some people are making Thanksgiving for only their immediate family, which might just be themselves and their partner or spouse, or maybe up to six people total. Most recipes for Thanksgiving are designed to serve eight to twelve people, if not more. And no butcher will be able to find you a turkey smaller than ten pounds; twelve is usually the minimum at the grocery store.
So how do you effectively and festively get this meal on the table when your table will require no extra leaves? Simply and elegantly.
For starters, congrats! Not having to serve the entire 144th air battalion means that your meal can be both more manageable and a bit more upscale. Those fancy fussy recipes like stuffed mini pumpkins, or souffles, or complicated decoration of pie crusts that always seem so cool? Totally do-able if you don’t have to make three dozen of them. You can splurge out on the organic produce if you want. Black truffles and Piedmontese chestnuts in your stuffing? Sure, when you are only making one small pan’s worth! Get the better-quality wine or the craft beer, add a bottle of Madeira or sherry or port to serve with dessert, treat yourselves to the good stuff.
Here are some tips and tricks to help make things easier.
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Set Your Menu
When menu planning for a small Thanksgiving crowd, think extravagant dinner party. A simple appetizer, main course of protein with three to four sides plus condiments, some sort of bread on the table, and a dessert or two. If your guests are game, pick a theme—whether it is super retro-traditional or globally influenced, a themed dinner is always a fun play.
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Let’s Talk Turkey
First off, do you have to have turkey? Will anyone at your table be completely dejected if there is no turkey? If you have a flexible group, and at this size it is easy to poll them, think outside the box. A small prime rib is really festive, as is a stuffed pork loin or crown roast of lamb. If it doesn’t have to be turkey but does need to be a bird, duck or goose are lovely options. I’m a huge fan of a capon for these meals, which is essentially a giant chicken that looks like a small turkey, so you get all the look of a substantial bird, without having fourteen pounds of it leftover. And all of these pair well with the rest of the traditional meal.
If you absolutely must have turkey, do you need both white and dark meat? A turkey breast is manageable if no one needs a drumstick. Or buy the 14-16 pound turkey and ask your butcher to halve it for you right down the middle of the breastbone, giving you two 7-8 pound turkey halves. If you don’t have a food saver vacuum sealer, wrap one half well in plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil, and then place it in a large zip-top bag so that you can freeze it for another occasion. Then roast the other half according to whatever recipe you like. It will cook more evenly than a whole turkey and give you some of everything.
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Decide on the Sides
For potatoes, plan on one large or two small potatoes worth of mash per person, or one medium sweet potato. Most stuffing recipes can be halved with no loss of quality. If you find recipes that mathematically cannot be shifted (the chemistry inherent to baking is complicated for this), you can often freeze half of the batch of rolls and other breadstuffs. And sometimes, you can even freeze the raw dough for fresh baking another time. This certainly holds true for pie crust. For vegetable sides, such as roasted Brussels sprouts or spiced carrots, assume about a quarter pound per person.
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A Small But Sweet Finish
Desserts, even for a small group, are a really lovely part of Thanksgiving, so don’t skimp, but if you want to offer more than one item, think smaller. Many pie recipes can be halved and baked in 6-inch pie plates or tins instead of 9- or 10-inch. A two-layer, 9-inch cake recipe will make three 6-inch cakes, and you can make a one-layer cake for the meal, and freeze the other two layers for a future dinner party. Or make one really special dessert that can be served with some bonus options, like an apple pie that can be served with your choice of cheddar cheese, butter pecan ice cream, cinnamon whipped cream, caramel sauce, praline almonds…everyone can customize their slice, or try a little of everything.
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Pre-packing leftovers is a great trick, especially if you have chosen dishes that serve double your number of guests and cannot be reduced down. As things are finished cooking, either pack half of it up immediately into large containers for yourself, or if your guests are not living with you, separate into deli container portions so that your guests all get a lovingly packed bag of leftovers to take home. And by the time they leave, the leftovers will have already been safely chilled down in the fridge for transport.
The best part of a small Thanksgiving? You can have real, meaningful connection with everyone present, and one conversation at the table instead of a dozen. You’ll have plenty of elbow room, no one has to be on the wonky folding chair or piano stool, and you can eat off of the good china. All anyone needs for a wonderful day is good food and drink, good company, good conversation, and plenty of gratitude.
Here's Your Answer to the Butterball Turkey Hotline’s Most Popular Question
Nowadays, we turn to the Internet for almost all of life’s problems, especially those that happen in the kitchen. When you’re looking for a substitute for cream of tartar (answer: fresh lemon juice), or need to know how many ounces are in a pound (answer: 16), a quick Google search is the fastest way to get the information you need.
But sometimes you need more than just the facts. Sometimes you need a little hand-holding and encouragement. When Thanksgiving Day is in full swing and you have a house full of company and something has gone seriously wrong with the turkey, you need someone knowledgeable who can also talk you off of the ledge. Which is why the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line continues to endure, more than 30 years after it was created.
Butterball’s experts have fielded just about every turkey-related question you can imagine over the years—some of them more odd than others. But there is one question in particular that is asked again and again: “How do I know my turkey is done?”
An overcooked—or even worse, undercooked—turkey is every Thanksgiving host’s nightmare. The only way to know when a turkey is done is to grab your meat thermometer. (Don’t rely on the little plastic timer inserted into the bird—it’s not as accurate and often leads to dry, overcooked meat.) Talk-Line staffers recommend that you start checking the turkey a half-hour before it is scheduled to be done. What temperature is a turkey done? A meat thermometer should register 180˚F in the thigh or 165˚F in the center of the dressing, if you choose to stuff your turkey. If the turkey breast is starting to overbrown, tent it with aluminum foil while it continues to cook.
This article originally appeared on SouthernLiving.com.
Bobby Flay Has a Genius Solution for Keeping Thanksgiving Dinner Warm
One of the most challenging aspects of pulling off Thanksgiving dinner is timing. When do you prepare each dish, and how do you allocate limited oven space? Which dishes should be finished right before serving, and which can you make ahead and heat up right before dinner?
Bobby Flay, who hosts a massive Thanksgiving gathering every year in his New York apartment, has figured out one trick that prevents pre-made dishes from drying out when warmed in the oven before serving. At the Savor Borgata Food and Wine Festival on Nov. 11, the chef revealed his secret.
“The most important thing to my Thanksgiving is having warm chicken stock on the stove to reheat things, like the stuffing and turkey,” he says, because obviously, you’ve cooked most of your food before guests arrive to eat. “I break down the breast, then I take all the meat off the legs and thighs so it’s a pulled, dark turkey meat, like carnitas. The breast is sliced and put on a tray. I have hot chicken stock on the stove, and then I just hit the meat with it, and it brings it back to life.”
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He uses the hot broth on stuffing, too, rather than putting the stuffing in the oven to heat it up (and risk drying it out.)
“I make indentations in the trays of stuffing with a spoon,” he says, “I put the hot chicken stock in it, and it keeps it warm.”
Flay says he cooks three thirty-pound turkeys ever year, so he clings to any and all shortcuts that make the process easier, the hot broth trick being his favorite.
“I don’t know how not-professional cooks do this,” Flay says. “Somebody’s mom who doesn’t really cook that much – how the f**k do they get Thanksgiving out? I literally want to jump out the window.”
Of course, the stress of Thanksgiving is always worth it, Flay concedes, once you’re sitting around a table with the people you love most. And then there’s his signature dish, the biggest reward of all—mashed potatoes with green chile queso sauce. To make it, the chef prepares classic mashed potatoes with butter and cream, then clears a well in the middle of the bowl in which he pours green chile poblano queso sauce.
“Katie Lee literally put her face in it,” Flay says. If that’s not an endorsement, we don’t know what is.
This article originally appeared on Food&Wine.com.
The 9 Things You Need for Your First ‘Adult’ Thanksgiving
I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for years, but the hardest job has always fallen on my mother: Every year, our family treks to my parents’ house in Upstate New York. Although I baste the turkey and crimp the pie crust, my mother plans and handles all of the sticky logistics such as when to buy the turkey, how many serving platters are needed, how to set the table, and where we’re going to store all those leftovers… These are all considerations that have never even entered my mind. Until this year.
This year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving. Everyone is coming to my house, which means that not only am I going to cook the meal, I’m responsible for figuring out where everyone’s going to sit, what they’re going to eat off of (because my four mismatched plates won’t do), and how to entertain everyone while the feast roasts, simmers, and bakes away.
Planning the menu was easy. Organizing everything else was a bit of a challenge. Hosting Thanksgiving simply isn’t as casual as a Friday night dinner party with friends — nor should it be. But because of that, there are so many odds and ends to consider that might not otherwise cross your mind. And so I present: The 9 totally-random-but-important things you’ll need when hosting your first real “adult” Thanksgiving.
My boyfriend and I eat all of our meals off of the cheapest Ikea table we could afford. Although we treated it with an attractive stain to improve the color, it still gives off major “I was cheap and belong in a college dorm” vibes. The best fix, short of buying a brand-new table? A simple, sophisticated linen tablecloth. Linen is the ideal fabric, because it can handle a few wrinkles without coming across as messy or disheveled. Measure your table, then add 12 inches at minimum to the diameter to account for the “drop;” add more if you want a formal look. Do your math!
I use cloth napkins for everyday meals, but this concept was foreign to my partner, who was happy tearing off a length of paper towel to catch any dinnertime spills. Although you certainly don’t need to invest in the reusable variety, you will want to have something actually labeled as a napkin on the table for guests. Extra-thick Bounty and your guests’ sleeves won’t cut it for Thanksgiving.
Serving dishes and platters are extraneous for everyday meals — why transfer the instant rice to a separate dish just to spoon it onto your plate? — but they’re a must for formal dining. Remember that in most Thanksgiving scenarios, your guests will be serving themselves from the table, not the stovetop. Anything that comes from a sauce pot, skillet, or roasting tray should be transferred to a heatproof platter or serving bowl. Most casserole dishes can be brought right to the table, but don’t forget a trivet to rest it on, so the heat from the dish doesn’t damage the table or your guests’ hands. And of course, you’ll need a large, wide platter for presenting your gorgeous carved turkey.
Plan on having a set of utensils for every platter. That way, you’ll avoid passing utensils back and forth across the table, or worse, forcing your guests to scoop up a second-helping of stuffing with their already-used spoon.
More glasses than you think you need
I drink everything, from tea to wine, out of a small ceramic cup I bought years ago. But a formal dinner calls for multiple glasses. Plan on everyone having both a water and wine glass with the meal, as well as extras for before and after. It’s not the biggest deal in the world to have to wash glasses midway through the day, but it is cumbersome. If you don’t want to break the budget on fancy stemware, scour thrift stores for old wine and water glasses. A quirky, mismatched set can be even more charming than costly goblets.
Ample “comfy” seating
You’ve no doubt accounted for everyone’s place at the table. But what about the time before dinner? While you’re bustling about in the kitchen, you’ll want to offer your guests a cozy place to relax. A welcoming living room space goes a long way in saying, “I’m happy you’re here and want you to stay” (even if you’re not, and don’t). Of course, some guests will congregate around you in the kitchen no matter what — but it’s nice to offer a cushy couch and plush armchair for quiet in-between-eating moments.
Games, a television, and magazines
For many, Thanksgiving just isn’t complete without the game or parade on TV, even if it’s in the background. If your family isn’t the television type, offer other means of entertainment while they wait for and relax after dinner. A deck of cards or a Scrabble board are both tried-and-true ice breakers!
Watch: How to Make a Thanksgiving Leftover Breakfast Casserole
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Containers for leftovers
A gracious host offers leftovers to his or her guests, so you’ll want to have enough takeaway containers to account for the food you plan on keeping and the food you’ll be giving. This is not the place for expensive glass containers — pick up a couple multi-size packs of inexpensive plastic containers, and you won’t be upset when, months later, your sister still hasn’t returned the one she borrowed.
A first-aid kit and medicine
Nobody plans on accidents, upset stomachs, or headaches. But they happen — and if they do, you’ll be ready with bandages, antacids, and aspirin.
Forget Wine—Drink Hard Cider this Thanksgiving
You have your Thanksgiving menu set, but what are you drinking? While wine is considered the ultimate match for hearty staples such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, there’s another crisp libation out there that’s just as worthy of a spot on your table—hard cider. Made from the fermented juice of apples, cider (which is sometimes called cider beer) is amazingly versatile and complex. But wait a second, isn’t cider super sweet? Not necessarily. Yes, there are sweet ciders, but there are also semi-sweet, off-dry, and dry ciders, all of which pair as beautifully with food as wine does.
Perhaps the biggest mental block we experience with cider is how we think about it. Cider is often bottled like beer and grouped with beer in grocery stores, plus it has similar alcohol content. However, it’s not really beer. Unlike beer brewing, cider making is controlled by terroir, or the soil condition, climate, and production techniques used from start to finish. If you think this sounds a bit like winemaking, well, you’re right. Grapes are to wine as apples are to cider—both are made through the fermentation of their fruits and both have acidity and tannins. If we can change the way we perceive cider, and start to think about it more like wine, we can better understand this crisp, tart, and totally delicious drink.
Related: The All-American Drink: Hard Cider
So, when planning your Thanksgiving menu this year, consider cider. Its lower alcohol content and crisp fruitiness make it the perfect drink to enjoy throughout the entire meal. Whether served as an aperitif with snacks beforehand, sipped with heavier dishes during the main course, or savored with sweets to finish, cider is an all-purpose, crowd pleasing libation that can appeal to wine-drinkers and beer-drinkers alike. Below are five reasons why you ought to consider putting cider on the table at your Thanksgiving feast this year.
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1. Cider is the perfect compromise between wine and beer.
With a tartness that’s familiar to wine lovers and crisp, fruity notes that will win over beer drinkers, cider appeals to aficionados from both worlds. Cider flavors and styles vary, so finding the right one for your flavor preferences is key. Those who flock to funky farmhouse ales, lemony saisons, or spiced Belgian brews will be right at home with a semi-dry or semi-sweet cider. If you crave dry riesling, brut Champagne, or Sauvignon Blanc, a dry cider should harmonize with your taste buds.
2. Fall is apple season, after all.
While Thanksgiving is about the gathering of family and friends, its origins lie in a celebration of the successful fall harvest. With the apple harvest typically taking place from September to late November, a glass of cider alongside your favorite Thanksgiving dishes is spot-on seasonal. Whether it’s apple picking, baking apple pies, or sipping hot apple cider (the non-boozy kind), apples really are truly emblematic of autumn.
3. Cider is tied to American history.
While you may not believe it today, cider was once the boozy beverage of choice in our country. Ben Watson, in his book, Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own, quotes cider as “America’s national drink” in the 1700s. Because apple trees were easy to grow, cider mills became a common sight on many New England farms. For early settlers who couldn’t rely on safe drinking water, they often turned to alcoholic beverages like cider.
4. Cider is typically lower in ABV than wine.
From football watching to turkey feasting to lingering dinner table discussions, Thanksgiving tends to encourage all-day sipping. That’s fine, but make your libation something that’s less likely to give you a headache the next morning, such as a drier, lightly-sweet cider. Wine typically runs between 10% and 15% alcohol by volume (ABV), while cider tends to be between 4% and 8% ABV. Another tip—pour your cider into a wine glass, not a pint glass. A wine glass helps you savor your cider slowly while also coaxing out its flavors and aromas.
5. There’s a perfect cider for every course.
Cider is incredibly complex and can range from sparkling and sweet to dry and still. From snacks and appetizers to turkey and sides, there’s an ideal cider that can enhance every part of your meal. The residual sugar, or amount of sugar leftover after fermentation, can determine a cider’s sweetness. Knowing this will help you pair your cider with the right food. Here’s a basic breakdown:
- Semi-Sweet or Semi-Dry Cider: This cider tends to have a pleasant balance of tart and sweet, packing more residual sugar than off-dry and dry. Expect an upfront, crisp apple flavor.
- Off-Dry or Dry Cider: These ciders contain the least amount of residual sugar, making them the driest varieties you’ll drink. A more subtle apple flavor and stronger acidity make many of these ciders reminiscent of dry white wine.
- Ice Cider: Typically served with dessert, this cider has more residual sugar than other varieties. You’ll find an ultra-concentrated apple flavor and a higher ABV than other cider varieties.
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Best Thanksgiving Ciders
Now that we have you on board, the next—and often most difficult—step is choosing the perfect cider. While most grocery stores stock ciders, your local craft beer store, wine shop, or alcohol retailer such as Total Wine & More are more likely to stock artisanal varieties. Laws vary by state, but some cideries will also ship straight to you. If possible, stick to ciders made with fresh apples instead of apple juice or concentrate. Ciders made with fresh apples will pack the most flavor, whether it’s funk, tartness, or sweetness. Below are five ciders that we truly love—any would be a delicious addition to your gathering this year.
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- Producer: Shacksbury (Vergennes, VT)
- Tasting notes from producer: “Robust and fruity,” an excellent choice if you’re looking for a nicely balanced cider that’s not bone-dry or overly sweet.
- Food pairings: Appetizers and snacks such as spiced mixed nuts, bacon-wrapped dates, baked brie with cranberries, charcuterie and cheeses, and more.
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- Producer: Wölffer Estate Vineyard (Sagaponack, NY)
- Tasting notes from producer: “Fantastic fresh floral notes,” “nice balance of sweet fruit, elegant acidity, and fine tannins”
- Food pairings: Appetizers with cheese or fruit, and nearly any Thanksgiving sweet—pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, chocolate mousse, and ice cream.
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- Producer: Foggy Ridge Cider (Dugspur, VA)
- Tasting notes from producer: “Tart apple aroma,” “crisp apple and pear flavors,” “lively acidity”
- Food pairings: Hearty main course dishes—cheesy scalloped potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon, turkey and gravy, or ham.
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- Producer: Famille Dupont Calvados & Ciders (Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, France)
- Tasting notes from producer: “Full of fruit and freshness,” “aromas of apples and citrus”
- Food pairings: Cheese and charcuterie appetizers, oysters (think oyster dressing!), turkey, and virtually any side dish.
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- Producer: Angry Orchard (Walden, NY)
- Tasting notes from producer: “Rich, complex, and unique,” clean apple notes and a lingered toffee finish,” inspired by ice ciders of Quebec.
- Food parings: Cheesecake, ice cream, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie.
6 Smart Tips for How to Tackle Breakfast on Thanksgiving Day
If you're hosting Thanksgiving this year, whether for the first or 50th time, you've likely been focusing almost, if not entirely, on the big feast. It's pretty obvious that the Thanksgiving meal gets all the attention--and for good reason. The Thanksgiving spread is one of, if not the most sacred and traditional of all American holiday meals, and it follows a pretty strict rigmarole. The whole ordeal demands many hours of planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking. To be honest, it can all be quite stressful if you're not adequately prepared, so we've been offering up our best tips, suggestions, and time-saving strategies over the past couple of weeks to make sure you're completely confident to conquer the day without any (or too many) hiccups.
Watch: How to Make Thanksgiving Leftovers Lasagna
With all the focus on the big spread, the breakfast menu is often (and understandably) overlooked, but let's face it: If you have guests in town, you have mouths to feed for all of the meals that day. And while you probably shouldn't just set out a box of Cap'n Crunch and call it done, you definitely don't want to prepare an over-the-top, elegant morning feast either. Don't overthink it: Breakfast on Thanksgiving should be light, easy, simple, and a little-bit special. Since the main meal is usually served mid-afternoon, heavy casseroles and/or sugar-loaded breakfast pastries are a big no-no. You want to make sure it's light enough that guests save room for the main event, but stays with them long enough so no one is starving and adding extra pressure for you to get the appetizers rolling out earlier than you're prepared to. Time-intensive foods--like personalized omelets, stacks of pancakes, or really anything cooked to order--are also too much, because prepping this sort of breakfast will inevitably take you out of your Thanksgiving cooking rhythm for at least an hour or two, which is valuable time no home cook can afford on turkey day. So what kind breakfast fare is right for the morning of the big feast? Here are the best tips for serving a fuss-free, simple, and special breakfast on November 24:
Tip #1: Start with coffee.
If you have a coffee maker with a timer, set it the night before for about 30 minutes before you plan to serve breakfast. If you set it too early, guests may wake up to the aroma of fresh coffee and venture into the kitchen ready to eat before you have everything set up. It's perfectly fine to let them lazily sip on a cup of java for a few minutes while you finish preparing breakfast, but no one wants the whole family crowded around the kitchen island like carnivores waiting to devour their prey at 7 a.m.
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Tip #2: Fresh fruit is a must.
Stock your kitchen with apples, berries, pears, pineapple, bananas, pomegranate seeds, and more for a fresh, sweet, and light breakfast option on Thanksgiving morning. Before you go to sleep the night before, get night-owl guests to help you dice up fresh fruit for a fruit salad. Adding a little bit of lemon or lime juice to the bowl will keep it fresh when it's tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in the fridge overnight. If you want to wing it, go for it, but here are some of our favorite holiday fruit salad recipes.
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Tip #3: No one will turn down muffins.
For an entirely prep-ahead breakfast menu, whip up a batch of muffins the day before Thanksgiving, and serve with fresh fruit as mentioned above. If you do have a little time the morning of Thanksgiving and want to serve piping-hot, fresh muffins (definitely my preference), you can make the batter the day before and wait to bake them until the next morning. Pro tip: Don't forget the mix-ins. It's fun to play with customizing this simple treat--so adding nuts, chocolate chips, or adding a simple cinnamon-streusel topping is an easy way to amp up any of your favorite standard muffins. Here are 26 breakfast muffin recipes for you to try--my current favorites are these Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins.
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Tip #4: Set out a customizable parfait bar.
For another make-ahead option that's simple but still feels special, you can make a batch of homemade granola up to a week in advance, and set it out with purchased yogurt and fresh fruit for a completely customizable, hands-off breakfast option. Keep in mind: Not everyone likes plain Greek yogurt, so you may want to purchase a regular vanilla yogurt for children or pickier adults. Don't forget to set out fun and fancy parfait glasses!
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Tip #5: Everyone loves a breakfast casserole.
If breakfast isn't breakfast in your mind without eggs, I get it. I certainly understand the appeal of prep-ahead breakfast casseroles for serving (and satisfying) a hungry crowd quickly, but just be careful that it's not too heavy and can be paired with a lighter option like fresh juice and fruit. This 5-star Sausage-Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole is the most popular breakfast casserole on our site, and I know your guests will love it--in fact, it's what I served for Thanksgiving breakfast last year. Of course, my entire family had just finished running a half marathon, so we definitely wanted, and deserved, a heartier morning meal.
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Tip #6: A bagel or toast bar ain't nothing to complain about.
While plain 'ole bread isn't anything special, bagels and toast have definitely returned to popularity thanks to the innumerable, mouthwateringly delicious options out there to top them. Seriously--don't overlook it. Again, you don't want to go overboard on this idea, because picking out a ton of topping options can turn into a much larger project than you originally thought. Keep it simple with 4 to 5 options for guests to enjoy the dish sweet or savory, and let them build breakfast however they prefer--which will keep you from getting bogged down in hands-on work so you can focus on the Thanksgiving spread. For sweet options, I'd suggest providing 1 or 2 jams, some fresh fruit, and a chocolate-hazelnut spread. For savory: various types of cheeses, avocado, onion slices, spinach, tomatoes, and simple eggs (fried or boiled) should cover the basics. I definitely recommend going with fresh bread and bagels from a local bakery to make it an extra-special occasion, but don't feel any shame in picking some up from the grocery store if you'd rather put that money and time completely toward the Thanksgiving feast. For more ideas, here are 50 genius ways to top toast and 8 delicious ways to top bagels that go beyond cream cheese.
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How to Cook a Frozen Turkey
You did your best: You bought the turkey two weeks ahead of Thanksgiving Day (just like we asked you). You put it in your fridge to thaw four days before you needed to brine it. But, whether it was the will of a stubborn bird or the frosty temps inside your fridge, the centerpiece of your meal (which is probably less than a day away if you just asked Google how to cook a frozen turkey) is still a solid block of ice.
What’s a Thanksgiving host supposed to do?
You’re going to roast that frozen turkey.
Yes, you read that correctly.
You’re going to put that block of ice that should be a slippery, pliable hunk of poultry right into the oven, and out will come a beautiful, presentation-worthy turkey.
Watch: How to Thicken Gravy
Cooking a frozen turkey is pretty straightforward. There are no bells and whistles or fancy tricks. You’re just going to roast the bird. You’re going to roast it for a lot longer than you typically would—and that’s the part that’s tricky.
How to Cook a Frozen Turkey
First things first, you need to tell your guests of the dilemma if this delay is going to set back your dining time. Frozen turkeys require more time than thawed ones, so don’t leave your guests hanging out in the living room, wondering what’s taking so long. Honesty is the best policy. You can simply push dinner back so your turkey will be done on time with no one waiting.
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Many turkey-roasting recipes have you start the roasting process at a higher heat so you get a deliciously golden skin, but the extended cook time a frozen turkey will require mandates a low, slow roast.
2. Put the turkey on a roasting pan.
Remove any plastic wrappings or bags. Place the still-frozen turkey on a non-stick roasting rack in a roasting pan. Put the turkey directly into the pre-heated oven.
3. Calculate your roasting time.
Thawed turkeys require about 15 minutes of cook time for every pound of meat. With a frozen turkey, you need at least 50 percent longer, or about 22 ½ minutes per pound.
A 12-pound turkey, which would cook in about three hours if it’s fully thawed, now requires 4 ½ hours.
4. Remove the giblets.
Most packages of giblets are frozen inside the turkey. That means you’ll be unlikely to pry it from the side of the bird before it goes into the oven. Instead, go ahead and put the turkey in the oven. In about two hours, you should be able to pull the bag away. Use tongs or a fork instead of your hand to reach into the neck cavity and pull out the bag.
Important: Make sure you set a reminder to do this. Most giblet bags are plastic, not cheesecloth or paper. That can present a health hazard if the bag stays in for too long and melts. (And by health hazard, we mean you’ll probably just have to throw the whole bird away.)
5. Use a probe thermometer.
The turkey cooks from the outside in, which means the wings and drumsticks will be the first sections done. The thick breast, which takes the longest to thaw, will likely be the last to reach temperature. The only way to know, however, is to use a thermometer.
A digital probe thermometer is best. It offers quick, accurate reads so you don’t have to stand in the door of the open oven and wait for an analog thermometer to slowly rise.
Cook the turkey until the thickest parts of the turkey reach 165°F. Test the temperature several times to make certain all areas of the bird are cooked through.
6. Let the turkey rest.
Pull the turkey out of the oven—once you’ve verified the thickest parts are 165°F— and cover it in aluminum foil. Let it rest 30 to 45 minutes before you carve the bird.
How Long to Cook a Frozen Turkey
8- to 12-pound turkey: 3 to 4.5 hours
12- to 14-pound turkey: 4.5 to 5 ¼ hours
14- to 18-pound turkey: 5 ¼ hours to 6 ¾ hours
18- to 20-pound turkey: 6 ¾ hours to 7 ½ hours
20- to 24-pound turkey: 7 ½ to 9 hours
Can You Cook a Partially Thawed Turkey?
Yes, if you started the thawing process but the inside portions of the turkey remains icy and solid, you can still roast the turkey. You’ll just need to reduce the total cook time from frozen, depending on how thawed the turkey is when it goes into the oven.
Here, a digital thermometer is going to be your right-hand gadget. Since you don’t have a real idea of how quickly a partially-thawed turkey will cook, you should start to check it about the time it would be ready if it were fully thawed. This will give you an idea of how “close” it is to fully cooked, and you can pull the turkey from the oven before it overcooks and dries out.
Is It Safe to Cook a Turkey That’s Still Frozen?
Yes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says so, but you have to do it correctly to avoid an undercooked turkey that’s a cesspool of potentially harmful bacteria.
Do not attempt to thaw the turkey on your kitchen cabinet first. Take the frosty turkey right from the fridge to the oven so that temperatures rise evenly and steadily above the “danger zone” that allows bacteria to grow.
How Does a From-Frozen Roasted Turkey Taste?
Roasted turkeys that are cooked from frozen don’t get any special flavor awards. You can’t use a brine or rub, injection or marinade. It’s going into the oven plain and simple, and that’s how it will be on your plate, too.
You also cannot deep-fry or grill a turkey if it’s still frozen. A deep fryer will likely boil over—or worse—when ice is present. A grill won’t be able to cook the turkey to temperature before the outside portions turn chewy and stringy.
Still, a from-frozen roasted turkey is pretty good, considering it was a block of ice just a few hours before. It’s not the best turkey you’ll ever eat—don’t expect anyone to request this method for next year—but it will show up, and you’ll save the day.
As a bonus, a from-frozen roasted turkey may actually have juicier breast meat. In thawed turkeys, the breast is one of the first areas to dry out, while the legs get to temperature. But breasts are slow to thaw, even in the oven. That means the breast meat may remain juicy and moist longer.
Joanna Gaines' Secret Ingredient for Pecan Pie is Kinda Genius
Joanna Gaines really out Gaines-ed herself with her gorgeous cookbook, Magnolia Table.
Not only is it chock-full of approachable, family-friendly recipes, the book is also packed with priceless nuggets of kitchen wisdom from Queen Gaines herself.
One such gem is her surprising twist on classic pecan pie.
WATCH: How to Make Pie Dough
The recipe itself is pretty basic, spare one unexpected ingredient: ancho chile powder.
“It’s funny how a small tweak to a classic recipe can make it seem completely new and exciting,” Gaines writes. “I’m not saying traditional pecan pie needs improving, but adding a bit of ground ancho chile creates a sweet-and-heat pairing that sends this pie into another stratosphere.”
Pecan pie purists might be offended by the addition, but we think the hint of heat is pretty genius.
Though ancho chile is commonly paired with chocolate, this brown sugar/cinnamon/chile mashup seems pretty innovative and perfect for fall.
The secret ingredient (well, as secret as something published in a #1 New York Times bestseller can be) seems to be a new-ish discovery, as it wasn’t included in Gaines’ pecan pie recipe from a 2016 Magnolia Journal.
Perfection does take time, after all.
Joanna Gaines’ Spiced Pecan Pie:
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cooling Time: 2 hours
Makes 8 servings
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
- 2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
- 2 cups pecan halves chopped pecans
- One 9-inch deep-dish pie shell
- Homemade Whipped Cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs. Whisk in the cinnamon and ancho chile. Stir in the pecans.
- Pour into the pie shell.
- Bake until the filling puffs around the edges and is nearly set in the center, about 1 hour. A knife inserted 2 inches from the center should come out clean. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
- Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled with a dollop of whipped cream dusted with cinnamon.
- Cover leftover pie with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Our Best Party-Hosting Tips for a Seamless Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving: It’s all about the food. Piping-hot casseroles, vibrant salads, decadent pies and cakes, and one jaw-dropping holiday turkey are the centerpieces of most traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. But no matter what you're dishing up to celebrate all that your grateful for, the way you showcase and serve your feast are details (almost) as important as the recipes. While most of your time and attention in the coming week will likely be focused on shopping for and cooking the big feast on November 24th, try to carve out a little time and attention for those pro-touches and thoughtful details that distinguish a successful holiday dinner from a stressful holiday dinner.
Before you find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed and up to your elbows in gravy, marinate on how you might address these simple, yet arguably crucial, holiday party-planning details. Nail 'em--and you’re sure to pull off a Thanksgiving celebration that’s tasteful, memorable, and won’t break the bank.
Here are our top Thanksgiving hosting tips and pointers:
1. Think through your spacing.
You should probably plan for 2-3 tables to be a part of your turkey day: the dining table/s, the buffet table, and/or the dessert table.
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In advance of the big day, think through the number of guests attending and the space you have to work with. Is you're dining room already set up to accommodate, will you need to do a little reorganization to pull another table into the room, or are you going to set up a kid's table or serving station in the kitchen? It's helpful to go ahead and construct a plan to address these questions at least a few days before Thanksgiving. Coming from a fairly massive family, I’ve never experienced a Thanksgiving dinner where the food actually fit on the main dinner table, so having a separate table for the food has always been a given. That said, regardless of space, I’m all about making this occasion feel especially-special--which, to me, means leaving space for a few festive table settings and elbow room instead of cluttering every square inch with casserole dishes.
If you’re serving an exceptionally large crowd this Thanksgiving, set up card tables and chairs in various rooms throughout the house. Everyone doesn’t have to be seated together at one long table—in fact, if it works better for flow and gives your guests room to breathe, they’ll likely be grateful for the separation.
2. Bring out the good stuff.
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There are times for plastic utensils and dollar store tablecloths; Thanksgiving is not one of those times. For my fam, Thanksgiving is probably the most "well-dressed" meal we eat together all year. It's one of the few occasions we eat on the fine China, use fancy napkins, and lay out sparkly-white tablecloths. And while you shouldn’t take any of this as pressure—your family will be grateful to simply be together—just know that if you’re afraid of overdoing it, it’s not really possible.
3. Play up the heights.
When it comes to setting up a Thanksgiving buffet line, adding some height variations makes for a super elegant presentation, creates dimension that’s pleasing to the eye, and saves space so you make the best use of the space you have to work with. Before any formal event in our home, my mom (who's a pro at this sort of thing) gathers stacks of books, shoeboxes, wooden crates, and any other items she can find around the house. She spaces the items in various-heights and alternating patters along the buffet line on top of the white linen tablecloth, and then drapes colored cloths and linens to cover the stacks. She’ll either place platters of food on top or use the stacks to display flowers, candles, and other décor items.
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4. Don’t be afraid to have fun.
While Thanksgiving is a time when it’s appropriate to break out your nicest dishes, it can be a little stressful for the average home cook who doesn’t have extensive sets of coordinating platters and serving-ware. But don't start getting frustrated before you take inventory of what you have to work with. Big dinners like Thanksgiving can be a great opportunity to get creative with your table. Cast-iron skillets, pretty patterned linens, and ceramic or wooden serving dishes, bowls, and platters in alternating styles and colors create a fun, retro-chic look that doesn’t feel too stuffy, but is still company-worthy.
5. Keep décor beyond the necessary table settings simple and clean.
When it comes to Thanksgiving tablescaping, a few tasteful table decorations are the best way to elevate your display from average to absolutely elegant, but don’t go too crazy with it.
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Now you may be the kind of person who just has the eye for these kinds of things and can take a few pieces of burlap, strands of raffia, and magnolia branches from your backyard and work some kind of fairy godmother magic to artfully design a gorgeous, fall-themed table in minutes. If that’s you, I applaud you. The rest of us, myself included, need some guidance, and that’s where I would advise you to keep it simple. When you already have a table fully loaded-up with plates and silverware, more is less, so keep it clean with an elegant runner along the length of the table, a few festive bouquets, and several candles, if desired.
6. Set up the buffet line for seamless flow.
In this month’s issue of Cooking Light, our sister brand recommended a few genius tips for managing the flow of the buffet line:
- Place plates on one side of the buffet to signal where the line begins.
- Meats should be up first so your guests don’t overfill their plates with sides (unless they just want to, of course). After meat, arrange the sides.
- Sauces should be placed at the end of the line, rather than with their associated dish, so they don’t cause congestion with the flow of traffic.
- Place napkins and flatware last so guests don’t have too much to balance as they go through the line.
Having a Pie-Dough Meltdown? Make a Galette Instead
On vacation this summer, I was cooking a big dinner for around a dozen people and feeling pretty accomplished. I had already made a large bowl of cole slaw, baked a squash casserole, boiled a sizable portion of corn, and rubbed and marinated a variety of steaks and ribs for grilling. Earlier in the day, I had also prepared a simple watermelon sorbet from scratch. Still, something was missing: a heartier dessert. So, with little time to spare, I decided to throw together a peach pie.
It seemed innocent enough at the time, but I made one big mistake. After I’d rolled out the dough, I went looking for a pie dish—yet all I could find was a round baking pan with no sloped sides. I tried to keep calm, thinking that maybe I could defy physics, and gently coaxed the bottom layer of the dough into the pan. The sides immediately flopped over, like sad dog’s ears. Worse, because I was stretching the dough more than I normally do, it was starting to rip apart. My heart began to race.
If you make pies, I’m sure you’ve been in some situation like this. Everything is going smoothly until the dough gives you trouble—it won’t come together, say, or it is starting to look like Swiss cheese because you’ve overworked it. But I am here to tell you that this needn’t be a problem. You can always pivot and make a galette as a fallback if your pie dough is being unruly.
Galettes are easier to make than pies because they only require one rolled-out dough round rather than two. They are kind of like rustic tarts, with the sides folded over to keep the filling in. Galettes almost always look tossed off because they don’t require much manicuring, unlike a pie, whose edges often need to be crimped and fluted and which sometimes requires a lattice top or some other sort of complex decoration. Crucially, galettes don’t require a pie dish—just a baking sheet and some parchment paper.
I had never before made a galette when my plans for a peach pie dessert were crumbling apart. But I’d watched enough cooking shows to know that it wouldn’t be that hard. I tossed the round cake pan to the side and began rolling the dough—I was using a wine bottle, as I had also failed to ensure that the kitchen had a rolling pin—into one large round.
The dough was still a little stubborn, but because galettes don’t have tops, there was less pressure to make it look appealing. Whatever holes there were I patched over with more dough. Then I transferred the dough to a baking sheet, poured the peach filling into the middle of the round, folded the sides over and placed it in the oven.
About 45 minutes later, I pulled out a nice galette that my guests seemed to enjoy heartily. The only problem was that, in my haste, I forgot to do an egg wash, which is where you brush the dough with a beaten egg so the crust browns nicely while it bakes.
Still, the galette came through. Not bad for a failed pie; not bad at all.
Why I Cook a Deconstructed Turkey Every Thanksgiving
As the keeper of Thanksgiving in my family for 28 years, and someone who has coached many a first-timer through their own hosting, I am here to say something that may shock everyone.
I do not cook my turkey whole.
This is not to say I do not cook a whole turkey, which I certainly do. I just deconstruct it first.
This means, which I know will surprise anyone who follows my Instagram, that there is never a photo of a giant mahogany bird worthy of Norman Rockwell to be trotted out and presented to the gathered people. The bird is fully sliced and portioned before it arrives on the buffet in all of its accessible glory.
Because turkey? It’s a real b*tch. The modern bird has been bred for so much white meat that it cooks wildly unevenly. White meat is fully cooked and moist at a full fifteen to twenty degrees less than the dark meat, so by the time the dark meat is at temp, the breast meat is hammered. All of the tips and tricks for preventing this require the ungainly (and frankly, a little dangerous) procedure of flipping the bird around during cooking.
Ever picked up a medicine ball in the gym? Now imagine it covered in butter, with two legs and two wings sticking out, and scorching hot, and you have some idea of what goes into those recipes.
The other problem with the whole turkey is the stuffing issue. Stuffing is polarizing, especially in the food community. People who know what is what where food safety is concerned know that stuffing must get to 185 before being fully safe to eat. By this time, the whole bird that surrounds the stuffing is overcooked, and wildly dry because the stuffing has sucked up most of the juices. But that super-moist dressing stuffed inside the bird stuffing is simply more delicious than any pan of baked dressing that might be presented.
Carving a whole turkey is also an exercise in futility if you are not Jacques Pepin or a trained butcher. Now you are taking that hot and greasy legged medicine ball and attempting to wrangle it on a cutting board that is filling with juice—with a knife (manual or electric), the handle of which is also getting plenty slick. You end up with uneven slices of breast, shreds of thigh meat, and that wonderful crisp burnished skin you worked so hard to achieve is sort of attached to some pieces, and for most portions missing altogether.
Enter, the deconstructed turkey. This is not my idea, nor a new one. I got it from Julia Child originally, likely based on an old French concept. But when I came across the method over a decade ago, it was a total gamechanger. Essentially you break the bird down into a breast crown (the whole breast with the wings attached, and two leg/thigh quarters. The back, having been removed, is saved for stock for the gravy. The thigh bones are removed, and then the thighs tied like mini roasts, so that you now have two boomerang looking things (the legs with a tube of tied thigh attached).These three turkey pieces are then roasted on top of a pile of stuffing. Being deconstructed means that the meat cooks more evenly, generally speaking, but also means that if the breast meat hits temp before the dark meat? You can take it out and let the dark meat keep going, and vice versa. One leg finished before the other? Out it comes. So every piece can be served at its optimal deliciousness. Have a lot of dark meat lovers in your family? Order a couple of extra leg/thigh quarters from your butcher and double up on the good stuff.
The stuffing, not being enclosed inside a bird, comes to a safe temp while still receiving all the awesome flavor and texture of in-the-bird stuffing. Carving is a delight, because the tied thigh now slices into perfect round slices of meat, the legs are still whole for those who love a drumstick, and the breast crown sits solidly on a cutting board where the meat can be removed in whole lobes and then sliced across, with every slice getting its bit of skin.
RELATED: Easy Turkey Gravy
The only thing to know is that there are no pan juices for gravy. Personally, I don’t care about this because I make my gravy well in advance, roasting the neck and backbone with an onion before making turkey stock and using that fond instead. No one has, as yet, complained, and I do not miss trying to whip up a decent gravy at the last minute while hoping the turkey doesn’t get cold.
How to Make It
Dry Brined Turkey Over Stuffing
Adapted lightly from both Julia and America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 12-16 with leftovers
- One 12- to 16-pound turkey, deconstructed as per notes below.
- Kosher salt
- Herbs and/or spices to flavor the salt
- 1 large batch of your favorite stuffing recipe
1. Measure 1 tablespoon of salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you'd have 3 tablespoons). You can flavor the salt with herbs and spices if you like—try smoked paprika and orange zest, bay leaf and thyme, or rosemary and lemon zest. To season the salt, grind the spices together with the salt in a spice grinder, small food processor, or mortar and pestle. (Or sticking with plain salt is fine; however you want to roll.)
2. Season the deconstructed turkey pieces all over evenly with the seasoned salt.
3. Place the turkey in a 2 1/2-gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. (If you can't find a resealable bag this big, you can you can use a turkey oven bag, or a clean non-fragranced garbage bag, but be prepared for it to leak.) Place the turkey parts breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, turning the breast over face down for the last day. Smoosh the salt around inside the bag once a day.
4. Remove the turkey from the bag. Place the turkey parts (breast-side up) on a rack over a baking tray and refrigerate UNCOVERED for at least 8 hours. This will dry out the skin which will help make it crispy. (Be careful for the raw turkey to not touch anything else in your fridge.) If you do not have this kind of fridge space, transfer the turkey to a clean bag and leave it unsealed.
5. On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least an hour, and up to ninety minutes.
6. Heat your oven to 425 degrees.
7. Brush the turkey breast with canola or grapeseed oil (I often use canola or grapeseed spray for even coverage.)Place the turkey breast skin side down in a preheated, oven-safe nonstick skillet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
8. Transfer your stuffing into a deep 16 by 13-inch roasting pan and pat it level into a rectangle that leaves about a 1 ½- to 2-inch border all around.
9. Remove the breast from oven and, using some wadded-up paper towels or grease proof oven mitts, flip the breast over and place it on top of the stuffing in the center. Arrange the leg quarters over remaining stuffing flanking the breast and brush or spray them with oil. Tuck any large chunks of exposed stuffing under the bird pieces so that most of the stuffing is covered by turkey. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
10. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to roast until the thickest part of breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 175 to 180 degrees, 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes longer. Start checking the temperature after 30 minutes, and remove any piece that hits temperature as needed. Transfer the pieces to a cutting board with a well for juices, tent with foil, and let rest for 30-45 minutes. While turkey rests, stir the stuffing well, scraping up any browned bits. Redistribute stuffing evenly and loosely over the bottom of the roasting pan, return the pan to the oven, and turn off the oven.
11. Carve and serve.
Additional notes on the deconstructed turkey:
Ask your butcher to remove the breast in one large crown, essentially taking out the backbone, and removing the leg-thigh quarters. Ask them to debone just the thigh part of the leg quarters, leaving the legs attached. This will look like a leg with a boneless thigh skirt. I usually ask them to save the backbone, neckbone, and giblets for me to make stock and gravy.
When you remove the turkey parts from the brining bag to dry, take the leg/thigh quarters and roll the thigh portion up and tie each with 2-3 small lengths of kitchen twine so that the thigh is a tight roll, still attached to the leg. This will allow you to carve the thigh meat in perfect rounds after cooking. Then, you can place these two weird turkey boomerangs next to the breast to dry out in the fridge.
How to Prepare a Tastier Thanksgiving Turkey
So you’ve stood in the meat department with your phone in hand, calculating how much exactly Uncle Jimmy is going to put away in turkey poundage this year and how long in advance of T-Day you need to start defrosting, and it’s time to get cracking on preparing your bird for its ideal mate—your oven.
Sarah Steffan, executive chef of The Dogwood at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, grew up on a farm with a dad and brothers who hunted wild turkey regularly, and she took that meaty experience on the road, doing stints in Relais & Chateaux kitchens and snapping up a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. These days, Steffan cooks plenty of turkeys and chickens at her job, and she shared how she gets her bird from the fridge to the roasting tray—exactly.
Plan On 3-6 Days Prep for Frozen Birds
First things first: Don’t buy a frozen bird the day before Thanksgiving, or even two days before! You can buy fresh or frozen, but you will need one full day to defrost per four-pounds of bird. The Butterball site specifies that you’ll need five full days to defrost a 20-lb bird. That’s a lot of advance time, especially if you want to brine it overnight. Know that you can quickly defrost a turkey using cold water, but you have to change out the water frequently. This is a very hands-on process, and the results tend to not be as tasty because you’re waterlogging your bird. Do not leave Mr. Turkey at room temperature to defrost from being frozen; it’s not safe, and you can get sick.
To Brine or Not to Brine?
Dry brines, wet brines, and the like abound on the internet, and Steffan likes to brine her birds overnight before roasting them. “A good rule of thumb is two parts salt, one part sugar,” she says, such as “two cups salt, one cup sugar, and one gallon of water” (for a chicken; expand that ratio for a larger bird). Plunk the bird in a cooler in the fridge covered with the brine. “You can leave the sugar out, or you can do honey,” she says. “We brine our chickens in… salt water and local honey. It’s so delicious.”
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Don’t Put an Ice-Cold Turkey in the Oven
The USDA is fussier than chefs tend to be about this, what with the poultry “danger zone,” but Steffan says you want your turkey at room temperature “at least an hour or two” before cooking it. “You want it to sort of temper gradually; it’ll help not shock the meat as much,” which she says could toughen the meat. Note: If you live in a hot climate, you won’t want it at room temperature for very long.
It’s time to select your family’s go-to turkey recipe—and yes, we have ideas—and get cooking. Steffan and her mother like to dry their bird and stuff sage, rosemary, or lemon thyme under its skin, which looks “really beautiful,” she says. They’ll stuff it and cooks it on a rack with some chicken stock just coming up to the bottom of the bird, along with onions, carrots, and herbs. By covering the bird and cooks it through at 300 degrees, they’ll keep the whole thing moist. Finally, they’ll take the cover off and cranks the heat to 400 for crisp skin. (Pro tip: The mama-daughter duo will occasionally use a broiler to get a glossy, crisp skin.)
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Gourmet, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.
Does Pumpkin Pie Need to Be Refrigerated?
But loving something doesn’t make it last. To keep your leftovers safe and enjoyable for as long as possible, you have to make sure they’re stored correctly.
We’ve compiled some storage guidelines here, but it’s important to remember: Use common sense when deciding what to save and what to throw away. If something smells funny or doesn’t look right, it doesn’t matter if it’s a day old or a week old—don’t eat it.
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Get the recipe: Classic Pumpkin Pie
Don’t let the packaged pumpkin pies you see sitting out in stores fool you—homemade pumpkin pies should be refrigerated.
Many of the ones baked in-store or mass-produced have preservatives, which allow them to sit at room temperature without going bad.
You can keep your homemade pumpkin pie in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. After that, toss it or keep it up to 2 months in the freezer.
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Get the recipe: Oxbow Bakery Pecan Pie
If you’re going to consume your pecan pie within 24 hours, it’s fine to leave it on the counter. Keep it covered in the fridge if you’re storing it for longer than one day. After 3 to 4 days, toss it or keep it up to 2 months in the freezer.
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Get the recipe: Buxton Hall Ultimate Apple Pie
Great news! That apple pie can stay on the counter or in your pantry for about two days. If you plan to keep it longer than that, keep it in the fridge for up to a week. After that, toss it or keep it up to 2 months in the freezer.
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Get the recipe: Classic Roast Turkey
Eating turkey that hasn’t been stored correctly can make you very sick, so don’t do it.
Your leftover meat will last 3 to 4 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
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Get the recipe: Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce can stay in the fridge for about two weeks or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
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Get the recipe: Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Those mashed potatoes will be fine in the fridge for about a week. If you stick them in the freezer, though, they can last up to a whole year.
Sweet Potato Casserole
WATCH: Classic Sweet Potato Casserole
Get the recipe: Classic Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole will be OK in the fridge for 3 to 5 days, and for about a month in the freezer. However, casseroles topped with marshmallows might taste kinda funny after being refrigerated or frozen.
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Get the recipe: Double-Stock Turkey Gravy
Gravy should be kept in the fridge and eaten pretty quickly after Thanksgiving—like in the next day or two. However, the freezer can handle it for 2 to 3 months.
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Get the recipe: Lemon-Feta Green Beans
Green beans will be fine for a few days in the fridge, but can last up to a year in the freezer.
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Get the recipe: Instant Pot Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing
Your stuffing will keep for about a week in the refrigerator and for about a month in the freezer.
A Guest's Guide to Thanksgiving Leftover Etiquette
Leftovers are obviously the best part of any Thanksgiving meal. There's been sufficient time for the flavors to meld and mingle. Some of the dishes may have been crafted by hands other than yours, and that's just a pleasure. Most importantly, they're a chance to eat with the sloppy, pants-less abandon that you were denied while seated at the table, masquerading as a respectable member of society.
But let's say the festivities are winding down, the table has been cleared, dishes scrubbed, arguments resolved(ish). Everyone's bundling into their coats and no one seems to be making or offering plates for guests to take home. What gives?! Nope, you're not stuck in some horrifying tryptophan nightmare—that's just how some people do Thanksgiving, and technically, doling out leftovers is the host's prerogative. If they wished, the host could hoard every last scrap of dressing, mac and cheese, sandwichable turkey, and pie and send you away empty-handed into the cruel night air. These people walk among us.
On the flip side, there are the over-sharers who mean almost too well, and won't rest until you're toddling away from their home, laden with the weight of a barely-touched prune cobbler and their (in)famous creamed corn surprise. You don't want to hurt their feelings (that whole being respectable thing), and you hate to waste food, but there's no way you're going to eat it... and inflicting it on someone unsuspecting just seems mean.
So where's the sweet spot? How can you as a guest ensure that you're going to go home with your mitts full of a greatest-hits sampler from the best meal of the year? Short answer: You can't. But you can improve your chances while managing not to alienate a single soul.
Set your expectations
"In general, leaving with leftovers shouldn't be an assumption," says Alex Hardy, creative director of GetSomeJoy and frequent writer on the topic of holiday gatherings. While he notes that the vast majority of hosts are happy to share the bounty after everyone has been sufficiently stuffed, that's not how everyone was raised.
A recent Twitter poll on the subject revealed a wide variety of experiences—though everyone was in agreement that the host should call the shots, even if that meant nabbing everything but the containers for themselves. Some respondents were more than happy to hand over any leftover food to their hosts to enjoy, while others expected to take the remainder of their own dish back home.
Some expressed genuine surprise that a host would allow other guests to divvy up food they hadn't personally made, while others operated on the assumption that all leftovers were fair game. As writer Sheri Castle put it, "Each guest gets a little echo plate of the entire meal." Assume only that the etiquette around leftovers is as much of a potluck as the dishes themselves.
Learn the rules
If it's your first time at a particular gathering, or it's being hosted by a different member of the crew, hang back for a minute before lunging forth with the Tupperware and foil. "Eager relatives will bring their own containers, but only a savage will do so without some type of inclination that this is allowable," Hardy says. If you're terrified of the prospect of riding home with a bare fistful of mashed potatoes and a pocket full of gravy, attempt plausible deniability by just happening to have some disposable containers or Ziplocs in your car or bag. The side-eye you may incur is the tax you pay for presuming.
On the other hand, if you are being heartily encouraged to take a particular item, especially by its creator, go ahead and do that even if you're not especially inclined. Hector Octavio, who shares his food adventures as Mexicanity, says, "Every matriarch has their specialty dish and they bring their A-game. No one wants to be remembered as Sonia and her Tinga nobody liked."
Hardy agrees. "Some passionate meemaws will be offended if you don't take a plate of greens, turkey, and their famous macaroni and cheese to go."
It's the polite thing to do. Just wait until you're far enough away from the house before you accidentally-on-purpose "lose" a container.
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Know your place
"First-timers, seasonal girlfriends, friends of friends of friends and such should definitely tread lightly in the leftover game," cautions Hardy. "Being enthusiastic and complimentary about the food is great, but being seen as greedy—doing stuff like stashing plates before important family members have eaten or taking way too much mac and cheese—is a sure way to get banned forever and ever."
One surefire way to climb the ranks: Offer assistance with the most tedious tasks, whether it's clearing plates, hauling trash, or scrubbing the most stubborn pot. Helpers get helpings.
Take the risk
If all else fails and you're staring helplessly as the candied yams of a lifetime are being packaged away, speak up. Tell the truth (flattering folks as needed that you just couldn't live with yourself if you didn't beg for one more helping to enjoy at home), invent a sick friend who will be brought back to life by a taste, or sidle into the kitchen to grab a scoop or slice while no one is watching. The worst that will happen is that they'll say no, or you'll incur a nasty look. Just be thankful that you probably won't be invited back next year to receive a reminder of it.
How Long Does Cranberry Sauce Last?
Perhaps you made your cranberry sauce awhile back, and now you’re curious how long cranberry sauce stays in the fridge. Or maybe you spotted a can of cranberry sauce in the back of your pantry, and you’re wondering how to tell if that cranberry sauce has gone bad. Either way, here is everything you need to know about the storage and care of cranberry sauce.
How Long Does Homemade Cranberry Sauce Last?
How long does homemade cranberry sauce last in the fridge? Start by storing it in a covered glass or plastic container. Properly stored, homemade cranberry sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days. If you’d like to keep it for longer than that, pour the sauce into covered airtight containers or freezer-safe bags and freeze.
How long will homemade cranberry sauce last in the freezer? It will stay fresh-tasting for about two months. It remains safe beyond that, up to a year at least. Additionally, fresh whole cranberries can be frozen in their original bag for a year.
How can you tell if homemade cranberry sauce is bad or spoiled? The best way is to smell and look at the homemade cranberry sauce: If it has an off smell, flavor, or appearance, or if mold appears, toss it.
Watch: How to Make Roasted Cranberry Sauce
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How Long Does Canned Cranberry Sauce Last?
First of all, store canned cranberry sauce in the pantry, where the temperature is consistently cool. In general, canned cranberry sauce will keep (and taste good) for at least a year beyond the date stamped on the can. (The date is the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the cranberry sauce will remain at peak quality; it’s not a safety-related deadline.) After a few years, if the can is undented, the cranberry sauce’s texture, color, or flavor may change, but it likely won’t be dangerous. Again, use your senses to test whether the cranberry sauce is still good. Signs of spoilage include cans that are leaking, rusting, bulging, or severely dented. If the top of the can is rounded instead of flat, the cranberry sauce has most likely gone bad. If you open the can and anything is brown or black, throw the cranberry sauce away without a second thought.
Once opened, remove cranberry sauce from the can and place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will stay good there for about a week. Frozen canned cranberry sauce isn’t the best idea, as it will turn watery. But it will stay good for a couple of months.
What to Do if You Left Out Cranberry Sauce Overnight
We hear you: After a full day cooking and hosting and (hopefully) enjoying Thanksgiving, some things are bound to fall by the wayside. But if you leave cranberry sauce out over night, whether it is homemade or store-bought, please throw it away.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.
6 Ways to Turn Leftover Stuffing Into Breakfast
No matter how much stuffing is eaten on Thanksgiving, I’ve always found there’s mounds of it left over the following morning. Leftover stuffing is the foundation of a great Thanksgiving sandwich, for sure, but seeing as I’ve eaten at least 53 of those in my lifetime it’s only natural to want to repurpose leftover stuffing in some other way. You too? Yeah, I thought so.
This one really couldn’t be easier. If your stuffing is a large solidified mass still in the baking dish, use a spatula to break it up into a sort of bread salad. Scoop portions of stuffing into a greased muffin tin. If you’d like, crack an egg on top of each muffin. Bake for 10 minutes (or, if using an egg, until the egg is cooked, which can take up to 20). Slather with cranberry sauce or gravy.
Stuffing Baked Eggs
Essentially a casserole version of the stuffing muffins with eggs, stuffing baked eggs are the perfect day after Thanksgiving breakfast, especially if you have guests over and feel like you should serve something more than cereal.
Another fun group breakfast is to waffle your stuffing. Plop stuffing onto a greased waffle iron and grill until toasty. You can then cover the waffle with classic Thanksgiving fixins, or even better, you can turn it into…
For a sandwich, of course! Compile your dream breakfast sandwich (I’m partial to fried eggs, Taylor ham, white cheddar cheese and maple syrup!), or pull a Ross Gellar and make a Thanksgiving sandwich with a slice of gravy-soaked stuffing waffle in the middle.
You might just be trying to feed yourself in a hurry, which clearly means you don’t have time to put a lot of thought into your stuffing breakfast. To you, I say make Thanksgiving hash, complete with stuffing, turkey, and any vegetables you have lying around.
Turn stuffing into fritters by forming patties from leftover stuffing. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet and fry the patties on both sides until brown.
How Long Is Pumpkin Pie Good For?
For many Americans, Thanksgiving is not complete until pumpkin pie is served. In the hustle and bustle of the day, you might be tempted to bake the pie early in the morning and then leave it sitting on the counter while you focus on the turkey and all those side dishes. But you might wonder—because the last thing you want is to make your guests sick!—how long is pumpkin pie good for? Should pumpkin pie be refrigerated or frozen, or is it okay to let it sit out? Below, we share how long pumpkin pie is good for in the fridge, freezer, and on the counter; how to tell if pumpkin pie is bad; and how these rules change when you’re talking about store-bought pie.
How Long Does Homemade Pumpkin Pie Last?
Whether you’ve baked your pumpkin pie using filling from a can or from the actual gourd (kudos to you for tackling that intimidating pumpkin!), the rules are the same. Because it’s made of custard—which include milk and eggs—pumpkin pie is less forgiving than fruit-filled pies and, therefore, cannot be left on the counter for too long. So how long does pumpkin pie last at room temperature? Because bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, pumpkin pie is only good for two hours sitting out at room temperature. After that, be sure to refrigerate your pie.
How long does pumpkin pie last in the fridge? Freshly baked pumpkin pie will keep for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge; cover loosely with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Because pumpkin pie is delicious cold, you can serve it straight from the fridge (with plenty of whipped cream, if you please). If you prefer, you could take it out of the fridge a couple hours beforehand so it comes to room temperature safely. (See how to freeze and defrost pumpkin pie.)
Watch: Perfect Pumpkin Pie
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How Long Is Store-Bought Pumpkin Pie Good For?
In general, store-bought pumpkin pie is more forgiving. Why? In a word: preservatives. How long is store-bought pumpkin pie good for? Look to the date on the package. If the pumpkin pie was sitting at room temperature in the store, it can continue to be stored on your counter until the sell-by date. In general, store-bought pies last about 2 to 4 days after their printed date in the refrigerator and about 6 to 9 months in the freezer. Pumpkin pies purchased from bakeries likely do not contain preservatives and, therefore, should be treated like a homemade pie (see above).
Remember that once cut, all types of pies should be wrapped and refrigerated. If you want your pumpkin pie to last for longer than a few days after the sell-by date, freeze it.
If you’re at all concerned about the freshness of your dessert, here’s how to tell if your pumpkin pie is bad or spoiled: Look for any “off” smell or appearance. It should go without saying—if mold appears, toss that pumpkin pie.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.
Brilliant Ways to Use Leftover Mashed Potatoes
Amongst friends and family, for all of the things I cook and bake, I am most famous for my mashed potatoes. My mashed potatoes appear only at holidays and very special occasions, because they are good for the soul, and deeply decadent. This is not your weeknight mash, pulled together quickly to accompany dinner. These are the mashed potatoes I bring out for Thanksgiving, and when delivering condolence or sickbed dinners. When I make them for gatherings, I literally plan on one pound of potatoes for every person in attendance, because people go back for seconds and thirds, and you definitely want leftovers.
RELATED: Our Best Mashed Potato Recipes
These are your total indulgence mashed potatoes, and I often ban people from the kitchen when they are being prepared, not because I am ever reluctant to share a recipe, but because certain people have their joy diminished if they have any sense of the caloric or fat content of a dish, and I don’t ever want someone to limit their own happiness. I’m with Oscar Wilde. Everything in moderation, including moderation. These are the potatoes you eat just a couple of times a year, not weekly; and as such, I stand by all the things that make them so delicious. (Even though I should probably serve them with a defibrillator and a garnish of Lipitor.)
It is, to my knowledge, the first time I will ever say definitively that I am not going to publish the recipe, but if you find me on social media and ask me, I will be happy to send it to you. It’s not the nuclear codes, but still, some things have to remain on a need-to-know basis. Plus, my mom reads all my articles and if she had any idea what I put into my mashed potatoes she might never eat them again.
Since I always make plenty of taters to leave some leftovers, and since we are all facing down the holiday season and buckets of mash are imminent, I have also come up with some great uses for leftovers. These ideas can serve many functions. They can extend a small amount of potatoes into another whole meal. They can take a mediocre mash and elevate it to something better than the original, or a superior mash into something nearly ethereal.
RECIPE: Ranch Mashed Potatoes
I have made rolls, biscuits and breads out of leftover mashed potatoes. Knishes, pierogi and gnocchi are often mere minutes away if you have leftover mashed potatoes. The world’s easiest vichyssoise soup is really just leftover mashed potatoes cooked in milk to your desired consistency and served hot or cold with chives. Our cousins across the pond in the UK have elevated the leftover mashed potato to legendary status. The Scottish Tatty Scone is a traditional way to use up mash, as is the Irish Colcannon and the whimsically named British Bubble and Squeak. And of course, the classic Shepherd’s and Cottage pies both use a lid of leftover mashed potatoes as the trademark of those casseroles. Try leveraging your leftover mash for samosas, latkes, this breakfast casserole fit for a queen, a pot of loaded potato soup, savory hand pies, and so much more.
Whatever mashed potato recipe you use, having some fun uses for leftovers are always a good thing, so here are 5 more mouthwatering recipes for using up the rest of the pot!
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Get the Recipe: Mashed Potato Pancakes
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Get the Recipe: Easy Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie
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Get the Recipe: Cheesy Leftover Mashed Potato Waffles
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Get the Recipe: Picadillo Stuffed Mashed Potato Balls
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Get the Recipe: Leftover Mashed Potato Doughnuts with Cranberry Sauce Filling
How to Use Up Leftover Cranberry Sauce
It had never been a problem before. In 27 years of making Thanksgiving, not once had it ever happened. But then last year, I make one little change, and BOOM. Leftover cranberry sauce.
Not just a little leftover cranberry sauce, just enough to anoint a sandwich or two. I mean a vat of leftover cranberry sauce. About three quarters of the cranberry sauce I had made. The same cranberry sauce I perfected over the years: whole fresh cranberries and dried cherries, cooked in port wine and orange and lemon juice, with zests and clove and ground mustard, my mash-up of a traditional cranberry compote and an old school Cumberland sauce. It has always been a huge hit, and once everyone takes their little tub for leftovers, there is always just enough for me and my husband to get through the next day.
And then last year I got all ambitious and made a fresh spicy cranberry salsa in addition to my usual cranberry sauce, full of lime and ginger and serrano pepper and lo and behold the salsa bowl emptied completely and I was awash in the usual cranberry sauce, all sad and abandoned. And since I always make nearly two quarts of the stuff, so that we have plenty for the meal and for everyone to get some to take home? I had so much left.
So, I did what I do? I got creative. Turns out leftover cranberry sauce is the gift that keeps on giving. It is tart enough to go savory, so I made a cranberry vinaigrette by whisking in some white wine vinegar and chopped shallot and canola oil. It was perfect on an escarole salad with toasted almonds. I added some to a bottle of barbecue sauce and made some killer barbecue chicken. I stirred it into some good quality mayo for sandwiches and mashed it into softened butter to spread on toasted English muffins. I brushed some onto thick cut bacon and baked it in the oven for a killer breakfast side. I even mixed it into my usual meatball mix for a little extra oomph.
On the sweet side, things were even easier. I tucked some into frozen puff pastry for little hand pies and filled a crostata tart with it. I thinned it with orange juice and then added confectioners’ sugar for a glaze for pound cake. I simmered it until it thickened and then swirled it into homemade vanilla ice cream. I baked a chocolate cake and put it between the layers and frosted it with a fluffy marshmallow boiled frosting. The last few tablespoons got forked through a batch of scones, by which time one thing was clear: This year, I am definitely making the new popular cranberry salsa again. And I’m making even more of the old cranberry sauce than usual. Because there is so much more to do with it!
What to Do With Leftover Stuffing
The holidays are imminent. This is my favorite time of the year, because the only thing better than holiday dinners is holiday leftovers. I have been known to make much more of something than I know I will need just to ensure that leftovers occur, and my single favorite thing to over-estimate is stuffing.
My love of stuffing borders on obsession. I did, after all, invent Stuffing Butter just so that I could make my morning toast taste like stuffing. I will eat cold chunks of stuffing standing in front of the fridge while I am waiting for stuffing to reheat in the microwave. But as much as I love stuffing on its own merit? I love the inspiration I get from leftovers.
I have made stuffing muffins, by adding a bit of beaten egg to leftover stuffing and re-baking in muffin tins and glazed them with leftover cranberry sauce mixed with lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar.
I have made a seven-layer Thanksgiving casserole by lining a baking pan with stuffing, topping this with cranberry sauce, shredded turkey mixed with leftover gravy, green beans, and sealing it all under a blanket of leftover potatoes (either mashed or sweet) and making the Platonic ideal of a Shepherd’s pie.
I have patted leftover stuffing into ramekins and baked with eggs on top for sort of a stuffing-shuka, and formed them into patties and pan-fried for the base of a benedict. I have re-stuffed leftover stuffing into other vessels, from onions to apples to tomatoes to mushrooms. I have used it to make a version of Southern Sausage Balls, and a definitively not-Italian riff on arancini.
Lucky for me, in addition to my own flights of stuffing fancy, plenty of other folks have great ideas for stuffing that go way beyond the Thanksgiving turkey. Rachael Ray made a Thanksgiving Stromboli, filling a roll of bought bread dough. Here are some great ones.
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Get the recipe: After-Thanksgiving Turkey Hash
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Get the recipe: Cauliflower Turkey Tetrazzini
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Get the recipe: Stuffing Breakfast Strata
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Get the recipe: Thanksgiving Pizza
And if you need a great large-format recipe for a classic herb and onion stuffing that is guaranteed to give you leftovers? Here is my technique. Take a large loaf of country or French bread and cube it and let it sit out till totally dry and stale, or toast in a low oven to dry it out. For some added texture, you can toss in some cornbread, or rolls, cubes of soft pretzel, or focaccia, whatever you like. Sauté onion and celery in butter till softened, then add to the bread. Throw in a glug of cream, half and half or whole milk if you have some lying about. Heat up about a quart of stock, and add half to the mixture, then add by quarter cups until you have things nice and moist but not overly soggy. Stir in some fresh herbs like parsley, sage, and thyme. Season well with salt and pepper. If you want meat like crumbled cooked sausage, or bacon or pancetta, stir it in. Ditto things like chestnuts, dried fruit or nuts. Taste and adjust seasoning and add more stock if needed. Stir in two to four beaten eggs and bake in a buttered baking dish at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes covered in foil and another 20 uncovered.
If you want extra deep moistness, melt another four to eight tablespoons butter in 1 cup chicken stock and pour over top when you uncover the stuffing, then continue cooking.