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All Your Thanksgiving Food Questions — Answered!

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Dry turkey? Lumpy gravy? Burnt pie crust? Whether you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time due to COVID-19, or are just looking for a refresher course on all things turkey, we’re here to answer all of your pressing Thanksgiving food questions.

Turkey

The star of the meal deserves the most attention, which is why we’re putting it at the top of the list of questions to be answered.

How big of a turkey do I need?

A general rule of thumb is 1 to 1 1⁄2 pounds of turkey per person to ensure you have enough to send home leftovers. You can omit any vegetarians and account for smaller eaters, like children if you have any attending. For 8 guests, you’ll want to buy a turkey between 12-14 pounds.

When should I start thawing my turkey?

There’s nothing worse than going to clean your turkey and finding it’s still frozen. It takes 5 pounds of turkey a day to thaw, so if you have a 20 pound turkey, you’ll want to take it out on Sunday to ensure it’s completely thawed. If the turkey is still a little frozen come Thanksgiving day, thaw the wrapped turkey in a pot of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until it’s thawed.

What’s the best way to cook a turkey?

There are so many options- slow cooker, smoker, fryer- but the tried and true method is to bake it in the oven. After removing all of the innards and cleaning the turkey, place it in a large roasting pan. Slather the skin with butter, salt, and pepper, and place some herbs and vegetables (like thyme, rosemary, sage, onions, celery, and carrots) inside the cavity of the turkey. Roast it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes per pound. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh meat registers at 175 degrees. Allow the turkey to rest a full 30 minutes before slicing to redistribute the juices.

How do I store my leftover turkey?

The only thing better than turkey on Thanksgiving day are the leftovers that follow. Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey pot pie…the possibilities are endless. To make sure your turkey is safe for consuming after Thanksgiving day, package the cooled turkey in an airtight container immediately after dinner is served. Place the container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or the freezer for up to 3 months.

Side Dishes and Gravy

The star of the show may be the turkey, but the side dishes and gravy can shine just as brightly if done properly.

Should I cook my stuffing inside or outside of the turkey?

You can cook your stuffing inside of the turkey, but it takes the turkey longer to cook which may result in a drier turkey. The stuffing needs to be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees for safety. To get a juicy turkey and perfect stuffing, cook them separately. You can bake your stuffing covered in a baking dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then bake uncovered for another 10 minutes to crisp up the top.

What do I do about lumpy gravy?

The perfect gravy is smooth and thick enough to coat a spoon. If your gravy is lumpy, try whisking in a little hot broth. If that doesn’t solve the problem, send your gravy through a strainer to remove the lumps. You can also whisk in more broth if your gravy is too thick, or add a cornstarch/flour slurry for thin gravy.

How do I make sure my Jell-O comes out perfectly?

Cranberry Jell-O is a staple on many Thanksgiving tables, but the frustration that comes along with it is enough to almost make you give up some years. There are a few important tricks to make sure your Jell-O comes out perfectly:
● Spray your mold with cooking spray prior to pouring the Jell-O into it.
● Make sure all of the sugar is completely dissolved before refrigerating.
● Refrigerate for a full 24 hours to make sure it’s completely set.
● Place the mold in a pan of warm water for a few minutes prior to unmolding the Jello-O.
● If you see the Jell-O sticking, try placing the mold back into warm water for a few more
minutes or gently loosen a corner of the Jell-O with a knife.

What’s the best way to cook a yam?

If you want yams that literally melt in your mouth and need little to no seasoning, cook them in a Nesco or slow cooker! Wash and dry the yams, then place them in the Nesco or slow cooker. Cook them in the Nesco at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours, or until fork tender. The slow cooker takes a bit longer- 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Drinks and Desserts

Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be complete without a tasty drink to wash it down with, or a sweet treat to finish off the meal.

What’s the best wine to serve with turkey?

Turkey has a relatively mild flavor, but the side dishes that accompany it are quite rich. That means you need a wine that can stand up to the wide range of flavors your mouth will experience. White or red wines both work for Thanksgiving dinner, but stick with something that’s relatively low in tannins and high in acidity, like a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

Should I serve coffee with dessert?

Turkey contains amino acids that some people argue make you sleepy, but the real reason Thanksgiving dinner probably makes you sleepy is because you eat so much all at once. Wake you and your guests up by serving up a pot of coffee at dessert time. Coffee also helps a bit with digestion, so it’s the perfect post-dinner drink.

How do I keep my pie crust from burning?

Burnt pie crust is almost as bad as soggy pie crust. Prevent this catastrophe from happening by covering your pie crust with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield for a majority of the baking time. Remove the shield for the last 20 minutes of baking to give the crust a nice, golden brown color.

Can I bake and freeze my cookies ahead of time?

You can save time ahead of Thanksgiving by baking your cookies 3-4 weeks in advance and freezing them. After baking your cookies, cool them completely and freeze them in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper. Once frozen, place the cookies in an airtight container or freezer bag and store them for up to 4 weeks in the freezer. Remove your cookies from the freezer and leave them at room temperature for 1-2 hours before serving to thaw them.
We hope these tips will help make your Thanksgiving day meal prep a bit easier. Enjoy the day with your loved ones, whether in-person or virtually, and have a happy and safe holiday!

About The Author

Lindsay is a writer and single mom whose mission is to remind other women going through a divorce or breakup that they are strong, beautiful, and worthy of all the good things life has to offer. You can find more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Instagram.

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