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Your Thanksgiving Cooking Questions Answered

Your Thanksgiving Cooking Questions Answered

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Q: This is my first year cooking a turkey. Any tips?A: First bear in mind that a turkey is just a big chicken. If you’ve roasted a chicken—or even if you haven’t—there’s no need to be intimidated by the turkey. Three simple tips will guarantee success every time.

1. Pick the right bird: The first important decision happens when you purchase your turkey. For best flavor and texture, opt for a fresh (never-frozen) turkey. Organic is best; mass-produced and frozen birds are often “marinated” or injected with saline solution. You can often order from food emporiums, like Whole Foods, or from local farmers.

2. Cook to the perfect temp: Take all the guesswork out of the cooking process and invest in an inexpensive probe thermometer. Insert the probe into the meaty part of one thigh, and set the monitor to sound at 165˚F. The turkey is now done, so pull it from the oven.

3. Let it rest: Allow the turkey to stand for half an hour at room temperature while you ready all the sides and trimmings. Do not carve the turkey before it has rested, so the juices will redistribute and remain in the meat—if you carve too soon, the precious juices will be lost on your cutting board, leaving one dry turkey.

Q: What's the difference between stock and broth?A: In traditional chef-speak, stock is made from bones, and broth is made with meat. But this distinction does not always hold true among products available in the supermarket. The main problem with many commercial stocks and broths is they’re too salty. Sometimes specialty stores will sell homemade (unsalted) stock, but the best product that’s widely available in supermarkets is unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson).

Q: What can be made ahead? And what should be cooked Thanksgiving day?A: The smartest approach to preparing for the big day is to think through your menu in terms of tasks: Some dishes can be entirely prepared ahead and simply reheated on Turkey Day; others can be broken into components and finished just before serving. For instance, sweet potato and most casseroles, stuffing, and mac and cheese can all be fully cooked ahead, chilled, and reheated before serving. With sides like salads, you can prepare many components (wash and chop lettuce and veggies, toast nuts, make vinaigrette), but store them separately and toss together just before serving. There are others still, like mashed potatoes and the bird (see turkey question below), that need to be done from start to finish just before you plan to serve them.

Q: Can I cook the turkey the day before and just reheat it?A: Technically speaking, you can cook the turkey ahead and reheat, but quality will suffer, and reheating lean meat is a tricky business. The bird is at its best when it’s fresh out of the oven and fully rested. If you want to get a jump-start on your turkey prep a day ahead and guarantee juicy, flavorful results, consider brining the bird. Here’s a fantastic Cooking Light recipe: Apple Cider-Brined Turkey with Savory Herb Gravy.

Q: Why is my gravy always lumpy?A: This Q is so popular, it's been a part of our Oops column recently. Click here to see the answer to it and other holiday cooking mistakes.

Always Order Dessert

1. How do I fix lumpy gravy? Pour it into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Or pass through a fine sieve to strain out lumps.

2. How do I keep my pie crust from getting soggy? Brush the bottom crust with beaten egg white or partially bake it before pouring in your filling.

3. What size turkey should I buy for my dinner? Calculate about one pound per every adult in attendance. If you have a small oven, consider roasting 2 smaller turkeys side-by-side.

4. What's the difference between turkey "stuffing" and "dressing"? Technically, dressing is stuffing that's cooked outside of the turkey, but it's really just regional/cultural semantics.

5. What's your top Thanksgiving tip? Roast the turkey upside down. It protects the breast from overcooking and the juices from the dark meat will seep down and keep it moist.

6. How do I keep pumpkin pie from cracking? Underbake it slightly. Just bake until the filling is barely set in the center, but firm on edges.

7. How do I defrost a turkey at the last minute? Submerge the whole turkey (still in the packaging) breast-side down in cold water. Change water every hour. Turkey will defrost this way at rate of 30 minutes per pound.

8. Can you roast a frozen turkey? Skipped #7 on this list, eh? It's OK! It's a little tricky, but possible. Click here for directions on how to roast a still-frozen turkey.

11. What's the best way to reheat cold turkey? Best and tastiest is in the gravy. Slice turkey and simmer until hot in a skillet with gravy and some broth or water.

10. What happens if we start to carve the turkey and it's still raw inside? Discreetly take it back in the kitchen, cut it into pieces & spread on a baking sheet to finish roasting.

9. I don't own a roasting rack. Any DIY alternatives? Scrunch a bunch of foil into a 3-foot snake, then coil it into a ring. Or use a few clean empty tuna cans. Or a few whole potatoes.

12. How do you fix dry stuffing? Pour on some stock or broth (or water), cover with foil, and pop in the oven for a bit.

13. What's an easy basic gravy? Saute 1/4 cup of turkey fat or butter and 1/4 cup flour. Pour in 4 cups hot broth. Whisk until gravy-fied. Season.

14. Can I bring a pie as a carry-on? You can! Pies, cakes, and other "solids" can go through security. Booze, gravy, jam, cranberry sauce, and other "liquids" need to be checked.

16. What happens if I have a major last-minute cooking disaster? Chuck it & don't mention it. Nobody will know. Unless the disaster is the turkey. In that case, confess pour more wine.

15. My cranberry sauce always comes out too watery how do I fix that? Let it reduce longer on the stove. Remember it will thicken as it cools. Also "loose" cranberry sauce isn't necessarily bad. [Ed Note: Here's my favorite cranberry sauce recipe.]

17. My sister is gluten-free and I planned desserts for her, but totally forgot about the gravy. How do I thicken gluten-free gravy? Use cornstarch or arrow root powder.

18. What's an easy side-dish I can make with little time and even less skill? Chop up a bunch of your favorite fresh vegetables, toss them in olive oil & kosher salt, and roast for about 20-30 mins in a 400 degree oven.

19. What's the quickest way to sober someone up so he can drive home? Don't you dare even try it. Call him a cab, have another guest drive him, or let him sleep on your couch tonight.

20. What kind of music should we play during dinner? I love warm autumn-type music. Classic jazz/swing standards, a few quirky songs off the Charlie Brown soundtrack, and a little bossa nova.

Got more questions? Email me, find me on Facebook, or Tweet me on Twitter (@nandita). I'll be checking in sporadically today and most of tomorrow to help out with any last-minute Thanksgiving questions you may have!

You Asked, We Answered: Thanksgiving Edition, Part 2

When I first started taking and answering questions for Thanksgiving a few years ago, I figured at most there'd be a few dozen. We're up to several hundred and counting, and every year we get more and more. This year's batch has focused heavily on sous-vide cooking and vegan/vegetarian options, both subjects close to my heart!

To make it easier on you, we've decided to catalog every question ever asked in one location (with the answers). Check it out—chances are your question has already been answered somewhere there!

We're doing our absolute best to answer every single question that's sent our way, but please check the FAQ, our Thanksgiving Survival Guide, our Definitive Guide to Buying, Prepping, Cooking, and Carving Your Thanksgiving Turkey, our Quick and Dirty Guide to Brining, or our blow-by-blow countdown to a stress-free Thanksgiving. The chances are good that the answer's already in there!

On Turkey, Spatchcocked and Grilled

Q: Can you cook the spatchcocked turkey on the barbeque?

Absolutely, and our grill-master Josh has even declared it the best method for cooking on the grill. Check out the recipe right here for a full walk-through!

On Turkey, Reheating of

Q: Some friends and I are having a Friendsgiving gathering this year and I'm in charge of the turkey. The host lives about 10 minutes away from my apartment and I was wondering how I could transport a fully cooked turkey while preserving the warmth and integrity of the crisp skin and moist flavor.

I'm afraid there's no great way to keep crispness in the skin. Your best bet is to transfer it to a large, deep dish, loosely cover with foil, and hold onto it carefully while you drive, walk, or ride over. Once there, pop it back into a 500°F oven for about 10 minutes to re-crisp, then carve immediately.

On Wine, Red or White?

Q: I want to make Kenji's red wine braised turkey legs, but I think I'd rather use white wine than red. I just prefer stuff braised in white wine, especially poultry. Any adjustments I should make if I decide to go that route?

No need to change a thing! In almost any recipe containing wine, you can substitute a dry red wine for a dry white wine (or vice versa) with little effect on the end result other than the base flavor of the wine.

On Brining and Dry Brining

Q: I'm trying dry-brining for the first time, and I'm a little confused as to how much (Morton kosher) salt to use. In your Quick and Dirty Guide to Brining, you suggest 6 T salt + 2 T baking powder, but I've seen other numbers elsewhere. Which is correct?

In reality it's a pretty approximate ratio. I go with about three-to-one salt to baking powder, mixing it in a small bowl and making more than I think I'm going to need (just like with Thanksgiving dinner, having too much is better than not having enough). Once the mixture is made, I sprinkle it on until the turkey is generously dusted. No need to use all of the mixture if your turkey is coated!

Q: I love to pre-salt my turkey (roulades as well as leg/thigh parts) but I don't like when it gets a hammy, cured taste on the outside. Why is that happening and what can I do to prevent it?

It's happening because you're entering that somewhat nebulous phase where a dry-brine actually starts to turn into an actual cure. The processes are very similar, the only difference being that curing goes on for an extended period of time and is designed to preserve meat, while brining takes place over a couple of hours or days and is designed to help meat retain moisture. My advice? Just don't brine as long, or perhaps consider using a little less salt.

On Planning

Q: What happens if my turkey is done several hours early? What's my best option for reheating if necessary?

Keep the turkey whole after it comes out of the oven and tent with foil in a warm spot in the kitchen for up to a couple hours. When ready to serve, pop it back into a 500°F oven for 10 to 20 minutes just to crisp and reheat a bit. Carve and serve immediately.

On Butter, Herbed and Stuffed

Q: How do you feel about putting herbed butter under the skin of the turkey breast?

With three different recipes that call for it in our arsenal (including a butterflied turkey, a single turkey breast, and a traditional whole turkey), you can bet I feel pretty darn good about it! As with almost all choices, there's a trade off. Butter can add flavor, but it also makes for skin that's less crisp. The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

On Turkey, Reheating Sous-Vide

Q: I am helping a friend by preparing dishes in advance for her dinner. I have a Sous Vide Supreme, she does not. If I pre-cook vacuum-sealed meat in the SVS, quick chill it and refrigerate it, what is the best way for her to re-heat it a day or so later before doing a finishing sear? We are looking at turkey and chicken rolls (similar to your porchetta recipe), and pork racks (I will have removed the skin to crisp up into crackling separately).

Use our beer cooler method. Just fill a cooler with hot water, top it off with boiling water until it hits 140°F, drop in the meat, slam down the lid, and give it an hour or two to reheat, adding more water as necessary to maintain the temperature during the process.

Salt in Brines, Kosher or Non

Q: When you specify Kosher salt to dry brine a turkey, is it coarse or fine salt? Could I just use regular table salt?

I'm talking coarse Kosher salt, either Diamond Crystal or Morton's brand. In fact, to my knowledge, all kosher salt is coarse, as it's designed to pull out liquids from inside meat without dissolving too rapidly. There's a good reason to use coarse salt: it lets you pick it up and feel it between your fingers before sprinkling it, giving you a much more even spread.

On Brining and Spatchcocking

Q: Can I dry brine a spatchcocked turkey?

Wow, have I gotten this question a lot. Absolutely you can, and I'd recommend it! If you are dry-brining, you can go ahead and butterfly the turkey first, then sprinkle it with the salt mixture, and refrigerate uncovered overnight. For a traditional wet brine, it's easier to brine it first before butterflying (though the other way will work if you've got your bird pre-butterflied). Take it out of the brine and let it rest uncovered for 1 to 3 days in the fridge to dry out a little. In either case, finish by following the recipe for Butterflied Roast Turkey With Gravy, omitting the extra seasoning step.

On Turkey, Temperature and Safety of

Q: The prospect of moist 150oF turkey is enticing, but I'm still nervous about food-borne illnesses. I'm planning on making your oven turchetta recipe, how can I ensure it's held at 150o long enough to kill anything nasty?

It's actually quite easy: Start with whatever temperature you'd like to cook your turkey to—say, 150°F—and subtract 5°F from it. Now look at the turkey safety chart. Note that for safely cooked turkey, you must hold it at 145°F or above for 10.8 minutes. This includes the entire time for the turkey to get from 145 to 150°, and for it to drop back to below 145°. This time is almost guaranteed to be longer than 10.8 minutes, but you can double check with a timer if you want to be extra safe!

On Stuffing, Make-Ahead

Q: Can you make bread stuffing 3-4 days ahead and freeze/refrigerate it and reheat on Thanksgiving?

My Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing can be made several days in advance, transferred to its casserole dish, covered, refrigerated, and baked on the day of Thanksgiving. That's how I do it every year!

On Stuffing, Waffling of

Q: What other stuffing/dressing recipes would be likely to work in your stuffing waffle method? Is there a certain quality the recipe must meet (you mentioned how yours was custardy)? Or will most stuffing recipes work, with there just being a difference in how crispy they get or how well they hold the perfect waffle shape?

You'll need to find a stuffing recipe that contains eggs, or add some eggs to your favorite stuffing recipe. Without them, the waffles simply fall apart. I tried it with this vegan stuffing recipe to disastrous results. Just like in my Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing recipe, I like to use just about 1 egg per pound of bread.

On Potatoes, Peeled Storage of

Q: How far in advance can I peel potatoes for mashed potatoes and keep them in a pot covered with water?

Turns out not too long, actually. As potatoes sit covered in water, they leech out a lot of excess starch. Meanwhile, their pectin structure begins to firm up. This is great for potato chips or french fries where excess starch can burn and a little structure is necessary, but not so much for mashed potatoes. I've seen potatoes soaked in water overnight flat out refuse to soften the next day when boiled. I would go no more than around 4 hours in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you cook them. Alternatively, check out one of our three easy techniques for making mashed potatoes in advance!

On Potatoes, Steaming of

Q: Everything I've read about making mashed potatoes says to start out boiling them in a pot full of water. I have always steamed mine on a rack over boiling water. Could you discuss the pros & cons of steaming potatoes?

You're right—most recipes for mashed potatoes, including ours, start with potatoes in water. Steaming can cook potatoes, but it leaves behind a lot of excess starch, which can lead to gumminess down the line if you aren't careful. If it works for you, then there's no reason to change, but for folks on the fence, I always advise boiling as it gives more bulletproof light and fluffy or smooth and creamy end results.

On Flour, Fluctuating Weight of

Q: I use King Arthur all-purpose unbleached flour in my pie crust. I noticed on KA's site that their conversion for that flour is 1 cup = 4.25 ounces, but other places like your foolproof pie dough, call for 5 ounces of flour per cup. Which is correct?

Both and neither! The problem is that flour is impossible to measure accurately by volume. Ask ten people to measure out a cup of flour and you'll get weights ranging from 4 ounces up to 6—a difference of 50%! That's why most reputable baking recipes will call for flour by weight rather than volume when it matters. In these cases, if all you have is a cup measure and no scale, make sure you know what particular conversion the recipe you are following uses. At Serious Eats, all of our recipes use 5 ounces as a standard cup of all-purpose flour.

On Pie Crust, Blind Baking of

Q: What pies do I need to blind-bake the crust for?

As a very general rule, double-crusted or latticed pies are not blind baked, as they require you to fold the top and bottom crusts together to form a seal. They are also typically baked for longer to allow both crusts to set and crisp. Single-crust pies are usually blind-baked, the reason being that with completely exposed fillings, it's difficult to bake them long enough to set the bottom crust without negatively impacting the texture and appearance of the filling. But the best advice here is to follow the recipes! They should always specify why a crust is to be blind baked or not.

On Spatchcocking Diminutive Birds

Q: Any tips for roasting Cornish hens? I'd like to dry-brine them, should I follow the same instructions as for turkey?

I like to spatchcock all of my poultry for the moistest meat, fastest cooking time, and crispest skin. The same will work for Cornish hen. Dry-brine them overnight just as you would a chicken or turkey, spatchcock them, then roast them in an oven that's completely maxed out at 550°F. They should cook in just 20 to 30 minutes (use that thermometer—you're aiming for 150°F in the breasts).

On Gravy, Gluten-Free

Q: What do you recommend for the best gluten-free turkey gravy?

A couple of options. First, we've got this recipe for you in our database. Alternatively, follow any of our gravy recipes. Instead of making a flour and butter roux, replace the flour with cornstarch, first mixing the cornstarch into a couple tablespoons of water or stock, and then whisking it into the simmering gravy before whisking in the butter. If using this method, make sure to add the cornstarch just before serving—it will thin out and lose texture with prolonged simmering.

On Drippings, Skimming of

Q: How do you skim the fat off of pan drippings for making gravy?

Very carefully! Ok, here's the real truth. The easiest way is to use a fat separator, a nifty little measuring cup that pours out from the bottom, letting you pour off your clear stock and keep the fat trapped in the cup. But if you don't want to clutter your kitchen with a tool you'll pull out once a year, a small ladle or big spoon will work. The trick is to transfer the drippings to a tall, narrow container and let it sit for 5 minutes. The fat should form a layer on top. Skim it off with the ladle and discard.

Your Cooking Questions Answered

A: In general, use one-third the amount of dried herbs to replace chopped fresh. So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, use 1 teaspoon dried. To release the most flavor, add dried herbs toward the beginning of cooking. One caveat: Cilantro, basil and parsley are so tender and delicate, they lose their flavor when dried. If you don&apost have these fresh leaves on hand, just omit them and add more salt and pepper for flavor. -- Diana Sturgis, test kitchen director

Q: Do I really need to let meat rest before slicing and serving it?

A: You should. When meat is hot, its proteins are tight, and all the juices get pushed to the middle. Letting the meat rest for a few minutes allows the proteins to relax (which makes it more tender) and evenly distributes the juices. Resting time depends on meat size: A whole turkey might need 20 minutes, while a steak that serves two will only need 8 to 10 minutes. If you&aposre worried about it getting cold during that time, keep it warm by loosely tenting it with foil. -- Diana

Q: I usually cook boneless chicken breasts, but I&aposve heard that bone-in chicken breasts taste better. Is that true?

A: It&aposs true! Any meat that&aposs cooked on the bone is going to be juicier and more flavorful. But there&aposs a catch: Bone-in cuts of meat can take twice as long as boneless to cook. So if you&aposre crunched for time during the busy week, boneless chicken and chops are the smart choices. -- Tracey Seaman, test kitchen director

Q: Rachael&aposs recipes often say you should reserve some pasta cooking water to use in the sauce. Can&apost I just use regular water?

A: Not really. The cooking water has starch in it from the pasta. When you add it to sauce, the sauce thickens and clings better to the pasta. To reserve some, use a ladle or dunk a glass measuring cup in the pot before you strain the pasta. Mix it into your sauce a few tablespoons at a time until you&aposre happy with the consistency. -- Katie Barreira, senior test kitchen associate

Q: I can&apost always find parmigiano-reggiano cheese at my grocery store. What other cheeses can I use instead?

A: You can use another hard, aged cheese that&aposs good for grating. In the test kitchen, we love grana padano, which is cheaper, milder and melts a bit easier than parmigiano-reggiano asiago, which is sharp yet buttery and pecorino-romano, which has a more pungent flavor. And last, a shopping tip from Rach: If you see parmesan cheese in your grocery store, make sure the word "reggiano" is on the label -- this means it&aposs an authentic Italian cheese (otherwise, it&aposs imitation, and nowhere near as delicious!). -- Katie

Q: I&aposve heard that most home cooks only need a few knives? What should I buy?

A: The single most important one is a chef&aposs knife (between 8 and 12 inches long). It will be your workhorse: You&aposll use it to chop onions, smash garlic, halve melons…you name it. Next up is a serrated knife, which uses a sawing motion to cut through delicate foods like tomatoes and bread without smashing them. Last, buy a paring knife for all those handheld tasks, like hulling strawberries and taking eyes out of potatoes. -- Katie

Q: Does it matter what type of milk I use when the recipe doesn&apost specify? I only keep skim milk at home.

A: Although I drink lots of skim milk, I don&apost recommend cooking with it. It&aposs missing a key ingredient -- fat! -- that affects the flavor and texture of a dish. If the recipe doesn&apost otherwise specify, use whole milk: It will make baked goods moist and sauces silky. -- Tracey

Q: Any advice on how to keep dishes warm and get everything on the table at the same time when you&aposre cooking for a big group?

A: If I&aposm expecting a crowd, I take the stress off myself by serving some room-temperature or cold dishes, like roasted veggies or salads. Any hot dishes that won&apost dry out (mashed potatoes or a pasta bake, for example) go in a warm oven or in a double boiler on the stovetop (a good option if you don&apost have a lot of oven space) this lets me focus on items that need to be served piping hot, like gravy. Also, put empty plates (if they&aposre oven-safe) in the oven for a few minutes before dinner. Food stays hot longer on a warm plate! -- Tracey

Q: Saffron is pricey, but Rachael uses it in many of her recipes. Any suggestions for a substitution?

A: It&aposs worth the splurge -- nothing else resembles the lightly mineral flavor of saffron. Plus, a little goes a long way, and it will keep for months. In a pinch, you can use turmeric (which has a harsher taste) to give your dish a yellow hue. -- Diana

Q: My mother always had a jar of pre-minced garlic in the fridge, so I&aposve never cooked with fresh garlic. Does it really taste that different?

A: Yes! Please give fresh garlic a try -- it&aposs one of Rach&aposs favorite ingredients, and with good reason. Garlic starts to lose flavor and texture once it&aposs chopped fresh whole garlic, meanwhile, is protected by its outer skin, so it&aposs more delicious (and nutritious). Rach has lots of time-saving tips for prepping garlic: If you lightly smash a clove with the flat part of a knife, the skin will come right off. Then toss it in your olive oil while you sauté, run it around the inside of a salad bowl before adding greens, or rub it on toast (yum!). If a recipe calls for finely chopped, scrape the clove along a fine-mesh grater (just watch your fingers). -- Katie

Q: I can&apost find arugula at my local grocery store. Do you have any other recommendations for salads and sides?

A: Arugula has small, tender leaves and a peppery flavor I&aposd say that watercress comes closest. Dandelion greens would also work, but I&aposm guessing they&aposll be harder to find than arugula! You can mix it up -- most any dark, leafy green will do. -- Diana

Q: What dishes should go in the middle of the oven and what should I put on the lower rack?

A: Roasted veggies, casseroles and other dishes that you want to be golden-brown on top should go on the highest oven rack, while items that you want to brown on the bottom, such as pizza, should be placed on the lowest rack. Cookies, bread and other baked goods do best in the middle of the oven to get the most even heat. (Tip: Rotate the pans to avoid overbrowning if your oven has hot spots.) -- Tracey

Q: Meat always sticks to the pan when I try to sear it. What am I doing wrong?

A: Chances are you&aposre not letting your pan get hot enough, so your meat isn&apost caramelizing -- which means it&aposs sticking to the pan because it&aposs not getting a golden-brown crust. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat for at least five minutes. (Don&apost use a nonstick pan for this purpose because it has a special coating, it shouldn&apost be preheated when empty.) Then pour in some oil as soon as it starts to shimmer, add your meat in batches (to avoid overcrowding the pan). It&aposll be tempting to move the meat around or lift it to see how it&aposs doing, but the secret to a nice sear is to leave it undisturbed for at least two minutes per side. -- Diana

Q: I hate onions! Can I just leave them out when cooking, or is there something else I can use that will give me the same texture?

A: If onion is the main ingredient in a dish -- an onion tart, for example -- I wouldn&apost bother making the recipe, because there isn&apost another ingredient that comes close to the exact taste and texture of an onion. But if you&aposre cooking something like chili, where onion is used as an aromatic -- the backbone or base flavoring of a dish -- you can sauté other aromatics instead, such as celery, fennel, carrots or garlic. -- Katie

Q: Can I leave wine out of a recipe?

A: Yes, you can just use the same amount of whatever other liquid the recipe calls for. If you&aposre making risotto, for example, add more chicken broth or water. If there aren&apost other liquids in the dish, replace the alcohol with a splash of something acidic, like lemon juice or cider vinegar. (If there&aposs cream in the recipe, however, it will curdle, so in those cases just omit the liquid altogether.) -- Tracey

Q: If a recipe calls for coarse salt, can I just use table salt?

A: No. Table salt grains are a lot smaller than coarse salt grains -- so a teaspoon of table salt is a lot more potent than a teaspoon of coarse salt. You don&apost have to invest in fancy sea salt kosher salt is an affordable coarse type that works well in most recipes. If you only have table salt handy and the recipe calls for coarse, start by putting in half as much table salt, and taste the dish from there. -- Tracey

Q: I would like to do more deepfrying but hate throwing out all that oil. Can I reuse it?

A: If you fried something with a strong flavor, like fish, toss it. Otherwise, you can generally use deep-frying oil up to three times. Let it cool in the pan, then pour it into a container. If there&aposs sediment in the oil (like bits of fried food), pour it through a finemesh strainer. Each time you fry with the oil, it will darken. Once it&aposs two or three shades darker or starts to develop a rancid, "off" smell, discard it. (But don&apost pour it down the sink, because it can clog your pipes!) -- Katie

Q: Can I reuse my parchment paper?

A: Yes, you can usually reuse it at least once. Eventually it will dry out -- when it starts to darken, toss it. -- Diana

Q: When a recipe calls for just butter, should I use salted or unsalted?

A: When baking, you generally want to use unsalted butter. I usually prefer cooking with unsalted butter, too -- it gives me more control over how salty the final dish tastes, since I&aposm adding all the salt myself. That said, I love having salted butter at the table to spread on fresh bread! -- Tracey

Q: When I make hot soup in the blender, it splatters everywhere. Help!

A: To keep splattering to a minimum, put the solid ingredients in first and add just a bit of liquid. Blend everything together, then pour the rest of the liquid through the lid opening in a slow stream while the blender runs on low speed. Make sure you don&apost overfill the blender. The best thing to do is work in batches. The same goes for your food processor, which does a nice job of pureeing. -- Katie

Q: What cooking staples can be kept in the freezer?

A: Freeze chicken stock and pesto in ice cube trays -- then just pop them out to use in soups and sauces. Nuts stay fresh longer in the freezer and defrost quickly. And I always have a loaf of bread for breadcrumbs. -- Tracey

Q: Nutmeg looks like a nut -- do I have to remove its shell?

A: No, just rub it on a grater to get the fragrant spice. Rach uses it in everything from waffles to pasta! -- Katie

You Asked, We Answered: Thanksgiving Edition, Part 1

When I first started taking and answering questions for Thanksgiving a few years ago, I figured at most there'd be a few dozen. We're up to several hundred and counting, and every year we get more and more. This year's batch have focused heavily on sous-vide cooking and vegan/vegetarian options, both subjects close to my heart!

To make it easier on you, we've decided to catalog every question ever asked in one location (with the answers). Check it out—chances are your question has already been answered somewhere there! For the next couple of weeks I'll be updating that page with the answers to your recently submitted questions, like the ones below. Got a question for us? Use our handy submission form. We do our absolute best to answer every single one!

Looking for information specifically on turkey? Check out our Definitive Guide to Buying, Prepping, Cooking, and Carving Your Thanksgiving Turkey for rigorously researched and tested answers to the most common Thanksgiving conundrums.

On Turkey

Q: After many turkey defeats (overcooked, undercooked) I broke down and bought an expensive temperature gauge, a Thermapen. Now, what temperature should the different parts of the turkey "read"? And does it matter how deep the thermometer is inserted?

For moist and juicy turkey breast meat, you should aim for a final temperature of between 150 and 155°F. Thighs and legs should register at least 165°F. When taking the temperature, you should be looking for the coolest spot in the breast or the leg, which is generally toward the center or near the bone. Move the thermometer around until you find the coolest spot. And to get that breast and thigh meat to cook evenly, I suggest following either the Spatchcock Roast Turkey or this Simple Roast Turkey recipe.

Q: On a whim, I bought a 1 kilogram turkey breast fillet. It wasn't until I got it home did it occur to me that it doesn't have any skin on it. How do I roast it without drying it out like an old shoe?

Four words: wrap it in bacon.

Q: Any reason why a coq au vin style braise wouldn't work on turkey dark meat? Can you reheat a braise on the stovetop?

It works wonderfully! And in fact, just add some mushrooms and bacon to our Red Wine-Braised Turkey Legs and that's essentially what you've got. The dish can be reheated on the stovetop if you don't mind soft skin. For crisp skin, you'll need to use the oven.

Q: It seems like after the turkey has rested and is then carved for serving, it's always cold when it hits my plate. Any suggestions for serving a hot bird, but still using best-practices for retaining moisture?

Use a thermometer! Rest the turkey just until it's dropped down to about 5°F below its final cook temperature. So if you're cooking it to 155°F, let it cool to 150°F before carving. Preheating plates in the oven will also help keep food piping hot as you eat it.

Q: Is there any benefit to salting a turkey if you're going to spatchcock?

The main advantage of both brining and dry-brining (see our quick and dirty guide here) is that it safeguards against dry meat if you accidentally overcook your bird. So while it's not strictly necessary for a spatchcocked turkey, it certainly doesn't hurt, especially if you, like me, have plenty of distractions of both the blood relative and liquid-variety going on on Thanksgiving day.

On Sous Vide Thanksgiving

Q: How long can the sous-vide turchetta sit post-sous-vide before hitting in the deep fryer?

Once you've cooked it sous-vide, so long as it's kept stored in its bag in the fridge, it has an incredibly long shelf life—anything up to a week is definitely safe, and you could probably go as long as several (though I wouldn't risk it). When ready to fry, bring it back up to temperature in a 140°F sous-vide water bath, remove it from the bag, pat dry, and deep fry. If you're planning on cooking it the same day, you can remove it from the bag, pat it dry, and let it rest up to 2 hours at room temperature before deep frying.

Q: I'm getting a sous-vide cooker as an early Christmas present for myself this year and was wondering if you had any suggestions for side dishes to make with it (I would do the Turchetta but my family fell in love with your spatchcocked recipe that I tried last year and I'm pretty sure I'd have a revolt on my hands if I didn't make it again). Anything to help with the rush of dishes reheating/cooking while the turkey rests would be most appreciated.

Creamy side dishes like mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes are custom-made for reheating sous-vide (check out complete instructions here). Creamed or glazed dishes like these Creamed Pearl Onions or these Gingery Glazed Carrots are also superb. Use your sous-vide for reheating and holding your gravy. If you like to serve soup as a first course, reheating it in the sous-vide cooker is a no-brainer.

On Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Q: I have a sister who is on a vegan/low fat diet, any suggestions for side dishes that would mesh well with traditional thanksgiving fare?

We've got tons of vegan recipes for you! For relatively low-fat Thanksgiving fare, I'd start with these Roasted Brussels Sprouts and these Roasted Sweet Potatoes (swapping out the honey for maple syrup if she's a honey-free vegan). This Vegan Stuffing isn't totally low fat, but in small doses it should do the trick. Finally, how about this Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Pine Nuts (again, use maple syrup in place of the honey) and this Roasted Chickpea Salad with Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette?

Q: Yikes! My son just told me that he and his vegetarian girlfriend are visiting with us the weekend before Thanksgiving and we want to celebrate the holiday with them early and vegetarian. I can handle the sides but need a main dish (no tofu, please). Thanks!

We've got a ton of options for you! Check out any one of these vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving turkey alternatives for ideas ranging from sweet potato chili to spinach lasagna to a full-on vegan roast!

Q: I'm the only vegan at a very traditional four course Thanksgiving. Any ideas for an appetizer, soup, and something to fill out the mains that take well to reheating?

Both this Spicy Carrot and Harissa Soup and this Cream of Mushroom Soup are 100% vegan and tasty enough for any carnivore to slurp up with no protest. For a side dish or appetizer, I'd go with this hearty Carrot and Rye Berry Salad which is delicious made ahead and doesn't need to be reheated (important for keeping the kitchen sane on Thanksgiving!). As for mains, this Rich and Hearty Mushroom Bolognese is better on the second or third day, as is this Sweet Potato Chili With Hominy and Two Beans.

Q: What about us vegans and vegetarians? We follow Serious Eats too!

Hmm. have you seen our incredible over-the-top recipe for Vegetables Wellington? It's insanely delicious, complex, and flavorful, and 100% vegan to boot!

On Gluten Free Baking

Q: Do you have a gluten-free traditional pie crust that's fabulous? Having GF guests and they're hoping for pies with a crust. Thanks!

On Fish

Q: My son is bringing his girlfriend but she won't eat our deep-fried turkey. She loves fish. What would be an impressive, yummy, fairly-easy-to-prepare fish dish that I could serve?

You want a recipe for fish that's easy, impressive, and incredibly delicious? Why didn't you just say so! Look no further than this Whole Roasted Fish right here.

On Stuffing, Potatoes, and Other Sides

Q: I need to make my turkey gravy way ahead and freeze it. What is the best thickener to use which will stand up to this freeze-and-thaw method and still be thick when reheated?

Pure starches like corn starch or arrowroot break down with prolonged heating or temperature changes. Your best bet is a traditional flour-thickened gravy. Let it thaw under running water or in the fridge overnight, then whisk it constantly as you reheat it. It should thicken just fine as it heats up.

Q: How would I make a traditional scalloped potato recipe for 30?

Scalloped potatoes are one of those dishes that actually do fantastically well cooked a couple of days in advance and reheated. I'd triple or quadruple your standard recipe, make it in several casserole dishes (or in large heavy duty disposable aluminum trays), bake it off in advance, then store it covered in foil in the fridge. Reheat it under the foil on the big day for 45 minutes at 375 to 400°F, remove the foil, and let the top re-crisp for an additional 15 minutes before serving.

Q: In the Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, you suggest making the stuffing/dressing the day before. Should the liquid be added to the stuffing when it's assembled on Wednesday or closer to the time it will go into the oven on Thursday?

You can go ahead and assemble the Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing Recipe to completion, including the liquid, transfer it to a casserole dish, cover it with aluminum foil, and keep it in the refrigerator for up to three days before baking it!

On Planning

Q: Do you have any tips on how to design a Thanksgiving menu where the dishes really complement each other? I know how to pick and cook recipes that taste great on their own, but I have no idea how to put a multi-course meal together last year that resulted in almost all of our dishes using bacon in some form or other, which was fine but was also a LOT of bacon. Any thoughts you have on menu-designing for the home cook would be appreciated!

I find that the easiest way to design a holiday menu that works well is to first think about the practical aspects by making sure you're employing a wide variety of cooking methods. Pick a casserole or two, pick a quick-roasted vegetable, choose a few stovetop items, and perhaps a salad. Not only does this make cooking easier by making sure that you aren't trying to cook every single dish in the oven at the same time while your burners go unoccupied, but it also makes for a meal that works well, with different cooking methods bringing different elements and flavors to the table! Meanwhile, check out our Thanksgiving Planning Guides for some menu suggestions!

Q: What to make for a solo Thanksgiving?

Why not try this One Hour, One Skillet Thanksgiving Dinner? It comes with everything from turkey to roast brussels sprouts to mashed carrots, and is good enough you'll want to eat the leftovers the next day!

Q: This is my first year being the head honcho for thanksgiving. I am taking over our 25 person ordeal while balancing "sharing" cooking responsibilities. Any suggestions on how best to have more than one cook in the kitchen at a time?

When I'm prepping a big meal, first, I like to make sure that everyone has a designated work space with a cutting board and knife. With clear delineations, there should be no bumping or fighting over counter space. Second, make sure you communicate! If you're walking behind someone, say "behind you!," and say it LOUD. Holding a hot pot? Say "HOT POT, COMING THROUGH!" It's the only way to make sure nobody gets injured. Third, have a prep list with clear tasks stuck on the refrigerator with a pen next to it. Make sure folks mark down what they're working on and when it's complete. That way there's no doubling up on tasks and no confusion. Fourth, make sure that everyone cleans as they go. Letting dirty dishes or scraps of food pile up is a surefire way to end up at each other's throats before the meal is even on the table.

10 Tips To Help You Win Thanksgiving

Every Monday night, Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport gives us a peek inside his brain by taking over our newsletter. He shares recipes he's been cooking, restaurants he's been eating at, and more. It gets better: If you sign up for our newsletter, you'll get this letter before everyone else.

I might never host as many Thanksgiving dinners as my mom—she’s clocked at least 40 of them—but I have edited nine Thanksgiving Issues of Bon Appétit. I’ve learned some things.

Here are my favorite lessons to help you make it through the big day.

No one has ever complained about a stuffing being too moist. When assembling, always use more stock than you think is necessary.

If you’re a guest and want to leave with a leftovers, bring your own resealable containers.

You don’t need six pies you need one great pie.

Roasted brussels are good. Shaved brussels are even better. Still one of my all-time fave BA recipes.

Serve a second protein, especially if you’re hosting 12 or more. No one will ever scoff at a scored-and-glazed bone-in-ham.

Set the table a day ahead.

And make double sure you have all the serving bowls, platters, and utensils that you’ll need.

Carla and Molly were right—creamy mashed potatoes are better when they’re also crunchy.

Drippings, schmippings. Make your gravy ahead—no one will know the difference.

Answering Your Thanksgiving Questions

How long do you barbecue a turkey, unstuffed, per pound with indirect heat?

Please explain the procedure for cooking a “high heat” turkey.

what are the instructions and ingredients for a good gravy to go with the turkey and mashed potatoes? Thanks

I am a vegetarian and have never served meat for Thanksgiving. This year a number of friends will be joining my family for dinner, however, and they all eat meat. Is it rude to skip the turkey, given that it is a centerpiece of traditional Thanksgiving dinners? Should I at least warn them in advance?

My name is Francesco and after having lived in the US for many years, I am back in Italy, at least temporarily.

While in the US I have always been a guest at friends’ Thanksgiving dinners. This year I would like to make a Thanksgiving dinner of my own in Italy.

Can you spare some tips and secrets to make it the most authentic Thanksgiving I could ever have.

Thanks in advance for the help you’ll provide me.

Looking forward to hearing back from you

I have to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 90, in Beijing, China, with only Wednesday afternoon and Thursday from noon until seven in the evening to prepare. There will be 15 people helping me, and the turkeys are to be bought already cooked from an expat store. Do you have any suggestions for easy side dishes that can be made to suit a crowd?

I understand that the best potatoes for mashing are russets and yukon golds. Do you agree? If so – they have very different textures can you discuss how this difference militates for different approaches (peeling vs. not, what size chunks for boiling, mashing vs. whipping vs. ricing, proportion of potatoes to butter to milk or cream)? Thanks.

Your Thanksgiving Cooking Questions Answered - Recipes

Get your most common Thanksgiving questions answered here.

Look no further, we have the answers to all of your Thanksgiving questions here!

Should I cook at the last minute so everything is fresh?

Definitely NOT. Thanksgiving meals are, by definition, loaded with different sides and options, and take a very long time to cook. Almost EVERYTHING should be prepared the day or evening before, and then the turkey the day-of. Keep in mind it will likely take at least two to three hours to cook. Then while you cook the turkey, you can use the heat of the oven to reheat all of yesterday's cooked food.

When should I buy my turkey?

When you buy your turkey usually does not greatly influence the taste of the turkey for the most part it is all the same. But if you buy fresh, buy it the day before, and if you buy frozen, keep in mind that to properly defrost a turkey it takes up to three days to properly defrost in the fridge. The reason why most people burned their houses down during the fried-turkey craze (which you should never do) is because they dropped turkeys in the hot oil that were still frozen. To avoid this fate, buy a frozen turkey at least four days in advance if you go that route.

What type of turkey is best? Fresh or frozen?

Again, there really is no best. You would think that a fresh turkey would have a fresher taste, but they are cooked for so long and so slow that it usually doesn't influence the taste very much so long as you cook it properly. Duration of cooking, spices, and style are the main taste influencers. The only other differences that exist are between "heritage" turkeys, which are organically raised and free-range versus the others which can sometimes be caged turkeys. Both morally and in terms of taste, organic free-range is always preferred if possible.

How often should I baste the turkey?

Really, as often as possible. There's no such thing as a turkey that is too moist. But remember every time you open the oven door you are losing heat, so the turkey will take longer to cook. About once every 30 minutes (or four to five times) is generally best. What is most important for maintaining moistness is to avoid overcooking.

What steps should I take to prevent my turkey from drying out?

One method we sometimes use is to cook the turkey is under a gently placed aluminum foil tent, which helps the bird retain much of the moisture. We can still baste by simply lifting one side of the foil, then re-covering when we are done. For the last 30 minutes of cooking, remove the foil tent to allow the turkey to brown and crisp on the exterior. But again, the most important thing is to avoid overcooking. Know the exact weight of your turkey before cooking, and a good rule of thumb is to do about 20 minutes of cooking per pound unstuffed, and a few minutes longer per pound if stuffed.

Any carving tips?

Don't use an electric knife, as it tends to shred things. The best way to actually carve is to remove the breast from the bone, then slice on a carving board.

Should buy just enough food to last the meal?

Wrong. Thanksgiving leftovers are generally some of the best and easiest to use in the days after the meal. You can make a delicious fresh turkey sandwich with cranberry on challah toast, a turkey vegetable soup, or even a Tex-Mex turkey casserole with poblano sauce.

Should I store all my leftovers together or separately?

Separately. In fact, they should be stored in as many individual bags / containers as possible, and even the stuffing should be taken out of the turkey and stored separately. This is mostly because you want to cool the foods as quickly as possible in the fridge, and the more separation, the more surface area, which means faster cooling. It will also help to preserve individual flavors.

Does the meal need to have a theme?

Not necessarily. Thanksgiving is theme enough. However, it is great to get inventive with a particular ingredient and make that the "theme" of the meal, like cinnamon and cranberry. Infuse your special ingredient into cocktails and mulled wines, and into lots of your different sides!

Two small birds, or one big?

In terms of taste, it really shouldn't make a difference. Whether it is fresh or frozen it is ingredients, cooking time, and temperature that all influence taste much more than size. But think about the size of your oven and cooking space! If you have to re-heat six pans of side dishes in addition to a turkey and you live in a small Manhattan apartment, maybe two small turkeys will be easier. But try to have some sides that can be served room-temperature, so the oven isn't overloaded (string beans or snow peas work well, as does corn).

Ricky Eisen is the President and Founder of Between the Bread, one of Manhattan’s most love cafés and renowned corporate catering and event companies for the past 35 years, whose café is located at 145 West 55 th Street.

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Thanksgiving Questions, Answered!


For the next few days, I'll post some questions and answers of course, about Thanksgiving food, cooking and the general stress and madness associated with our greatest feast day.

Let's talk Triage--Tell us how to save a turkey from the brink of inedibility?

Turkey is a tricky one--it is really hard to WRECK turkey unless it is

So if the turkey is raw---open another bottle of wine and have another canape or six while you wait. This always works.

If it is really, really raw, have some pumpkin pie and have turkey later.

If it is overcooked, or burnt, there is only one way out--more gravy! Gravy is the panacea of many an overlooked beast.

Really, though, if the turkey is not cooking to your dinner timing, here are a few tips.

1. Remove the legs and thighs from the bird. They cook much slower than the breast as they are dark muscle with more liquid (blood). The breast is usually done a solid hour before the deepest part of the thigh on a 20 pound turkey. Ever wonder why the breast is often dry?

2. Add steam. Steam speeds up the bird's cooking, though it will keep the skin from getting as crisp as you may like. Solution? Tent the turkey with foil and pour some boiling water into the roasting pan to create steam,. Enough water to cover the bottom of the pan with 1/4 in deep of water will do. You can repeat this when the water has evaporated.

3. Desperation- Ok, so the natives are restless and they are on the verge of revolt.

It's Chef Mike to the rescue. Who is chef Mike? The MICROWAVE. While I do NOT recommend this as regular practice, in this situation, when the spears are flying and your own carcass is in the line, all will be forgiven. You can always carve enough turkey to feed Uncle Hal and assuage the disapproving Aunt Sophia. Put the slices on a place with a lil h20 and zap it for a minute or two to cook out the pinkness. Yes, it is a desperate measure, but in a pinch, it will cook your bird in stages and, in the words of Alton brown, you will survive to cook another day.

For Sides survival, remember-- Don't try to do everything in one day. Thanksgiving was set on a Thursday so we can have all week to get the little things done. Things like mashed winter squash and yams and braised cabbage can be made up to three days in advance and simply reheated in the oven. Make them on Sunday and stash them, they are not leftovers because you haven't eaten half of them first. They are consciously pre prepped dishes. Tell everyone how much better they now taste once the flavors have had time to mingle. That line always works. Very good.

PS-- In a desperate pinch, serve frozen spinach or frozen cauliflower in cheesy bechamel sauce

Thanksgiving Live: Ask Your Question

Home cooks and Thanksgiving dinner guests have another reason to be thankful this year. Ted Allen, Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell, Melissa d’Arabian, Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli and Rachael Ray will come together to answer some of the toughest questions about holiday meal making on Thanksgiving Live!, a two-hour call-in show hosted by Turkey master Alton Brown on Nov. 20 from 12 pm to 2 pm.

From solutions to dry turkey and lumpy gravy to Food Network stars demonstrating helpful tips and delicious recipes, experts will be on hand to address perennial problems.

Do you have a question you need answered? Leave your question in the comment section below, and then tune in to on Nov. 20 from 12 pm to 2 pm to see if your question has been answered.

After the on-air broadcast concludes, the cast will sit down to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast they prepared during the show, and the online streaming video will continue with post-show coverage. Each guest will contribute a signature dish — covering everything from starters to desserts — and Alton will carve the turkey.

Do you want to be on Thanksgiving Live! on Food Network?

We are soliciting Skype viewers and callers throughout the country who would like to be part of our show: Sunday, November 20, 12 pm to 2pm EST.

Watch the video: Als Mutti in den Westen ging: Die verlassenen Kinder. MDR DOK (October 2021).