Happy Thanksgiving! It’s time to sit back and relax — well, aside from some cooking — and make room for the big feast. Having prepared well ahead of time, you’ll impress your family and friends as the cool, calm and collected host. As much as we love the Thanksgiving meal, our favorite time of day is always the morning of, alternating between preparing the final dishes in the kitchen and sitting down to watch the parade with family and early guests. Not to mention, nothing beats the smells of a kitchen in full-on Thanksgiving mode.
• The Grand Finale: The moment you’ve been waiting for: time to roast the turkey. Unstuffed turkeys take hours to roast (anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on the size and the method), and you’ll want to give the bird at least 30 minutes to rest before carving, so start nice and early. One technique we like is to roast the bird at moderate heat, around 350 degrees F, only opening the oven door to baste occasionally so the heat stays inside. If the breast is getting too dark, you can cover it with foil. The turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees F and the legs are about 175 degrees F. Here’s where you get to use that meat thermometer.
Make the mashed potatoes fresh »
Every year, I pull out my giant roasting pan (with fitted rack) and thus begins the annual ritual of cooking a giant turkey for Thanksgiving. What kind of turkey did I make last year? How did I cook it? Though I consider myself a fairly well-seasoned cook, learning how to cook the perfect turkey is something I take care to re-learn every year.
So, where to begin?
A few preliminary questions I always ask:
1. How big does my turkey need to be? I usually estimate about 1 pound of turkey (factoring in the carcass as part of that weight) per person.
2. What kind of turkey? Like a lot of poultry these days, there is quite a variety of turkeys (all raised in different ways, fed different foods) to choose from. You know, this is a difficult question to answer. I don’t think I have ever cooked the same turkey two years in a row. I love Heritage brand the most, but those types of birds are raised in such a way that the meat is leaner and can be slightly tough. I also love a good ol’ supermarket turkey. I say, whatever suits your personal taste.
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Take a deep breath — the finish line is in sight. You’ve made it this far, and will be happily sitting down to eat in about 36 short hours or so. The day before is a great opportunity to cross off a hefty portion of your to-do list. You only have one more trip to the store ahead of you for the flowers and then you’re home-free to hunker down in the kitchen.
• Brine Time: To ensure a moist and flavorful turkey, we highly recommend brining the bird the day before. A simple salt-and-sugar water bath will easily safeguard you from the perils of a dried-out turkey that even gravy can’t fix.
• Easy As Pie: If you’ve made or bought your pie crusts ahead of time, most Thanksgiving desserts can be a piece of cake. But if you’re looking to cross some cooking off your list the day before, make your pies ahead of time. In fact, we even prefer pies that have had a day to sit, especially pumpkin and pecan. Just remember to take them out of the fridge 2 to 3 hours before serving on the big day — and tell your family no early taste-testing.
Soup’s on and snack attacks »
‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and the cook was stressing. How am I going to cook a 20-pound turkey and warm up four casseroles with one oven and promise to eat at a reasonable hour? Should I stuff the bird or not? How will I know when the potatoes are done? Don’t forget to make sure that Aunt Sally doesn’t sit near Aunt Mary — there’s tension.
Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet and there is still so much to think about. So it’s no wonder that for many families, the dinner before Thanksgiving involves one thing: ordering takeout. In fact, USA Today reports that the day before Thanksgiving is among the five most popular days of the year for pizza delivery. But there’s no need to spend extra money in the name of convenience. With our five pre-Turkey Day dinner recipes below, you can have a meal on the table in 20 minutes or fewer, less than the amount of time it would take to order and deliver takeout.
Simple recipes, delicious results »
Since the next two days will be a whirlwind of cooking and greeting out-of-towners, take advantage of the calm before the storm to make sure you have absolutely everything you will need. Having all of your ingredients at the ready will make Thursday a breeze. If all of the cooking seems daunting, work on finishing your table. And remember: Thanksgiving is supposed to be fun.
• Supermarket Sweep: If there is one season that you really need a decent meat thermometer, it’s now. If you don’t have one, buy one. And if you have one, make sure it’s in fine working condition. Then head to the supermarket today to pick up all of your produce — and your turkey! Everything will still be fresh by Thursday and you’ll avoid the mad rush tomorrow and the day of.
• Quick Fix: Get the cranberry sauce out of the way today if you’re planning on making your own. It won’t take you more than an hour, and then it’ll be sitting in your fridge ready to go at the last minute.
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Appetizers on Thanksgiving can be tricky to manage. After all, you want to serve your guests a few snacks but nothing that may fill them up or detract from the main meal. To solve your appetizer apprehensions, check out Food Network’s top five pre-Thanksgiving dinner recipes below for no-fuss appetizers that will pair perfectly with the bird.
5. Onion Dip from Scratch — Alton uses a combination of sour cream and mayonnaise to make his tangy dip, featuring fresh onions and a dash of garlic powder.
4. Crispy Smoked Mozzarella With Honey and Figs — Giada uses store-bought phyllo dough to save time when making these light and airy eats, which are stuffed with a smoky mozzarella, quickly deep fried and drizzled with a honey-fig sauce.
Get the top three recipes »
Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays of the year. Not only because it’s all about food, which is clearly something I am very passionate about, but because it’s a great time to throw a fabulous party with your friends and family. In fact, this year I am throwing two Thanksgiving soirées, one with my friends from Los Angeles a week before Thanksgiving (aka Friendsgiving), and one for my family up in Seattle on the actual holiday.
For me, the key to throwing a great party is wowing your guests with a memorable food and drink experience. That means introducing them to a new ingredient or an inventive way to cook something. I’m a big believer in getting food into people’s hands shortly after they arrive to a party, especially if you’re having guests that might not know one another. It gives them something to do and a common ground to get the conversation going.
For Thanksgiving, most people come to expect the traditional appetizers like Baked Brie or Spinach Artichoke Dip, but this year, try something different. One of my favorite simple appetizer ideas, Fried Ravioli, comes from Giada and they really get the party started. These cheese-stuffed ravioli served with a side of warm marinara sauce are always a crowd-pleaser for adults and kids alike. Make sure to make a double or triple batch if there are a handful of kids — I can guarantee that they are going to go nuts over these fried bites of pasta.
Put your own personal spin on it »
Less than a week to go to Turkey Day and it’s time to hammer out the details. If your family vetoed your idea for an innovative reimagining of pumpkin pie, channel your creativity into designing a table centerpiece to set the mood. Also, consider four days ahead as a good time for a freezer exchange — frozen turkey (if you bought it that way) should come out, homemade pie crusts go in.
• Setting the Stage: While the food and the company always make Thanksgiving memorable, it doesn’t hurt to have a beautifully set table to sit around. Consider mixing flowers in with some artful edibles or even scout your backyard for inspiration. We like gourds, mini pumpkins, acorns, pine-cones and Indian corn to give the table a real fall feel. Gather everything you’ll need for the table (except the flowers), and stock up on candles for an extra-special touch.
From freezer to table »
For the first time ever, Food Network is going Live! Just in time for the feast, on Sunday at 12 pm/EST, Rachael, Bobby, Anne, Alex, Ted, Melissa, Sunny and your host, turkey master Alton Brown, will be on hand to answer your Thanksgiving questions live on-air. What do you want to know? Ask your question here.
The best Thanksgiving appetizer: Watch the Thanksgiving Live pre-show on Livestream or FoodNetwork.com at 11:30 am/EST Sunday. We’ll have exclusive interviews with Food Network chefs as they head into the kitchen to answer your questions.
The best Thanksgiving appetizer: Watch the Thanksgiving Live pre-show here at 11:30 am/EST Sunday. We’ll have exclusive interviews with Food Network chefs as they head into the kitchen to answer your questions.
In many homes, the words “stuffing” and “dressing” are used interchangeably to reference that steamy mixture of bread, veggies and herbs that takes second seat next to the turkey at your Thanksgiving table. Though for some, the loyalty to either stuffing or dressing over the other runs deep. But is there really a difference between stuffing and dressing? Which elements of the dishes dictate their classification as one and not the other? How should you cook the stuffing or dressing to ensure that it’s served piping hot and moist and has a subtle, crisp top? We have the answers, plus four foolproof recipes that will steal the side dish show at your Thanksgiving dinner.
Simply Stuffed: As its name suggests, stuffing is traditionally stuffed into the cavity of the turkey and roasted inside of it. Though this cooking method allows the bread to absorb all of those tasty turkey juices, it also poses a slight sanitation risk because of the raw bird. If you’re set on serving a traditional stuffing inside the turkey, the bread and the turkey thighs must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
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