In addition to your friends and family, a job you really love and that fun vacation you took this Summer my Thanksgiving Day Cheat Sheet is one more thing you'll be giving thanks for this year! Thanksgiving has always been my “spirit holiday” and after hosting for over fifteen years, and making some mistakes along the way, I’ve definitely learned a few things
As you tackle the plethora of recipes you pretty much only make once a year, questions invariably emerge. How many cups in a quart? To stuff or not to stuff? How many pounds of turkey per person? What was I thinking inviting thirty people over for Thanksgiving? Bookmark this page right now to save yourself a panic attack in front of thirty of your closest friends and family members and scroll down for ALL my advice on Necessary Equipment, Liquid/Dry Measure Equivalents, a little Culinary Vocabulary and 6 Tips & Tricks that will help get you through this crazy, culinary marathon!
MEAT THERMOMETER: You've put a lot of effort into this meal so why risk a dried out or undercooked turkey? Eliminate the guesswork by using a good quality, digital read thermometer with a roasting probe and you'll never ruin another piece of meat again! Just insert the probe into the deepest part of the thigh (being careful not to hit any bones) and roast the turkey until the thermometer reads 170 degrees. The bird should then rest for 20-30minutes before carving during which time it will continue to cook just enough and the juices will redistribute resulting in a juicier turkey.
ELECTRIC CARVING KNIFE: Rather than struggling with that dull, old Chef's knife that's been siting in your knife block needing sharpening for the past 5 years (or more), do yourself a favor and invest in an electric knife for occasions like this. A good electric knife will make carving that ginormous 25 pound bird feel like running a hot knife through butter.
BULB BASTER: Rather than risk burning your hand trying to clumsily baste your turkey with a metal spoon, the handy dandy bulb baster makes basting your bird with its beautiful juices a snap! Definitely worth the very minimal investment.
ROASTING PAN WITH RACK: If you plan on hosting Thanksgiving on a yearly basis, a good quality roasting pan should be the first piece of equipment you invest in. A rack is important to keep the bird off the bottom of the pan where you can also roast vegetables, potatoes and herbs OR just collect all those heavenly juices to make your gravy. Keep in mind though, the same pan you roast your 20 lb Thanksgiving turkey wouldn't be appropriate to roast your weeknight 5 lb. chicken, you'll need a smaller pan for that.
TURKEY PLATTER, SERVING DISHES, SPOONS: After your cooking marathon the last thing you want to encounter is a shortage of serving platters, dishes, or serving spoons. Have a nice serving platter specifically for the turkey and set our your serving dishes and bowls the night before along with their corresponding serving piece to eliminate any confusion.
1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints = 16 cups = 128 ounces = 3.8 liters
1 Tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 1/2 fluid ounce
1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons = 12 teaspoons = 2 ounces
1 pint = 2 cups = 16 ounces
1 cup = 8 ounces
4 cups = 1 quart
4 quarts = 1 gallon
BASTE: to moisten with liquid (usually using the drippings or other liquids in the bottom of a roasting pan) during the cooking process. This task is usually done using your bulb baster.
GIBLETS: the edible organ meat of poultry which most commonly includes the heart, liver and gizzard. The giblets (along with the neck) are usually packaged together and inserted into the bird's neck cavity. Be sure to remove prior to roasting or stuffing!
SPATCHCOCK: the removal of the backbone of a bird such as a chicken or turkey which allows it to cook more quickly; also called butterflying.
TURDUCKEN: a dish consisting of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey. Once assembled, it is then either braised, roasted, grilled or barbequed.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to thaw your turkey. It takes 1 day for every 3 pounds to defrost so get out your calculators and do the math. Or, you could save yourself the trouble and purchase a fresh turkey, just be sure to check the purchase date on the label.
To achieve the most delicious stuffing humanly possible, cook it inside the turkey! Just be sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly. A stuffed turkey can take a half hour to an hour longer than it would take to cook one that's not stuffed - another great reason to invest in a good quality meat thermometer! If you have stuffing leftover that won't fit in the bird, put it in a buttered casserole dish and cook it alongside the turkey.
After experimenting for years with different rubs and brines, it turns out the secret to a cooking-magazine-cover ready turkey is butter! Add some chopped herbs such as sage and thyme to some softened butter, mix well and slather the bird on top of as well as under the skin for maximum moistness. Just be sure when working under the skin not to tear it and all those juices make for a delicious gravy too!
In addition to the turkey drippings, my secret to delicious gravy is to add some Cognac towards the end which really gives it fabulous depth of flavor!
Make as many things in advance as humanly possible. This might sound like common sense but even something simple like having your veggies washed and prepped the night before will save you plenty of time.