Simplify Your Feast by Slow Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey
Food features prominently in many holiday celebrations, but perhaps no holiday is more closely associated with eating than Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving and food are so closely connected that many people lovingly refer to the holiday as "Turkey Day," which is an homage to the popular main course that finds its way to millions of Thanksgiving dinner tables across the country each year.
Side dishes abound on Thanksgiving dinner tables, but turkey still takes center stage. That reality can put some pressure on hosts tasked with preparing the meal for their family and friends. Unlike some other dishes that require a laundry list of ingredients and lots of prep work, turkey is a relatively hands-off main course. However, home cooks know a dried out turkey is not on anyone's holiday wish list. Slow cooking can help to avoid such a result. This recipe for "Holiday Turkey," courtesy Andrew Schloss' "Cooking Slow" (Chronicle Books), calls for slow cooking the bird. Such an approach should result in a delicious and mouth-watering main course that satisfies anyone who's anxious to sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner table this year.
Makes 15 servings
- 1 fresh turkey, about 15 pounds, preferably free-range
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 quart apple cider
- 2 teaspoons dried poultry seasoning
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the giblets from the turkey and discard (or save for another use). Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Rub it all over with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. During that time, the surface of the turkey will become visibly dry and the skin will tighten; this encourages a nice crisp skin on the finished bird.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to start roasting. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Put the turkey on a rack set in a large, flameproof roasting pan. Drizzle the oil over the top.
Roast for 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 175 F. Pour the cider into the roasting pan and sprinkle the poultry seasoning in the liquid. Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching bone) registers to 170 F.
Transfer the turkey to a carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for about 15 minutes (see tip). Meanwhile, skim the fat from the surface of the liquid in the pan. Put the roasting pan over two burners and bring the pan drippings to a boil over high heat. Cook until the juices reduce and thicken slightly, enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Carve the turkey and serve with cider pan juices.
Resting tip: Slow-roasted meats need far less resting time (pretty much none) than those that are traditionally roasted. The reason for resting meat that has been roasted at a high temperature is to allow juices that have collected in the cooler center time to migrate back into the dryer (hotter) exterior sections after it comes out of the oven. Because slow-roasted meats are cooked evenly and a temperature that keeps most of the juices in place, a resting period is largely unnecessary. A brief resting time does allow the meat to become a little firmer as it cools, making it easier to carve.
Give a Beloved Side Dish a Fresh New Taste this Thanksgiving
A typical Thanksgiving dinner table is loaded with familiar foods. Turkey, of course, takes center stage, but side dishes also garner their fair share of attention during Thanksgiving dinner.
Hosts don't have much room to experiment when preparing turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Though turkey can be roasted, slow cooked, smoked, or even fried, recipes for seasoning the bird are likely to feature similar ingredients. Hosts have much more leeway when it comes to side dishes. New and bold flavors can add a little something special to side dishes this Thanksgiving, and guests might appreciate a break from the norm. That's just what this recipe for "Irresistible Basil Mashed Potatoes" from Marlena Spieler's "Yummy Potatoes" (Chronicle Books) provides. The fresh basil can add some unique flavor to a beloved side dish.
1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and fill with water to cover. Add a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are just tender. Drain, return to the heat and shake for a few minutes to dry them out; turn off the heat, cover the pan and keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, blanch the basil. Plunge it into a saucepan of boiling water, cook a moment or two until the leaves wilt and slightly change color and lift out of the pot using a slotted spoon, then plunge into a bowl of ice water. Leave for about five minutes or until it turns brightly colored, then lift from the ice water.
3. Heat the cream in a saucepan until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.
4. Squeeze the basil in your hands gently to rid it of excess water from cooking. Place in a food processor and whirl to purée. Slowly pour the hot cream into this puréed basil and whirl until it forms a fragrant, pale green cream.
5. Coarsely mash the potatoes with a masher, then add the basil cream and mash it in; work in the butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you're serving duck or lamb, serve the potatoes with a drizzle of the port reduction around the edge.
These Tips Can Help Make Turkey Terrific
Sweet potatoes may be stars; cornbread dressing a contender. Dinner rolls are divine and green bean casserole a go-to. But Thanksgiving dinner isn't complete without turkey.
Even in households that don't eat meat, plant-based turkey alternatives find their way onto the dinner table in a nod to Thanksgiving tradition. Given the emphasis placed on the main course each Thanksgiving, cooking a turkey can be intimidating. These turkey-cooking tips can calm anyone's nerves and result in a mouth-watering main course.
· Allow ample time for thawing. Some people may not be able to buy a fresh turkey, and millions of individuals purchase frozen turkeys each year. The Food Network says it can take 24 hours per every five pounds to thaw a turkey. Therefore, if you have a 15-pounder, allow for three days for thawing. Always thaw a turkey in a refrigerator.
· Get the right size bird. The general rule of thumb is 1 pound (uncooked) to 11/2 pounds of turkey per person if you're buying a whole turkey. Rather than purchasing the largest turkey you can find for a large crowd, consider two smaller turkeys or one turkey and one breast to make cooking more even. Smaller birds are more tender as well.
· Adjust the temperature. The food and cooking resource TheKitchn advises preheating an oven to 450 F, then dropping the temperature to 350 F after putting the turkey into the oven. Cook, on average, 13 minutes per each pound of turkey. The turkey is done when it registers a minimum temperature of 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh.
· To brine or not to brine? Many food fanatics swear by brining turkey to achieve more moist and flavorful meat. However, a wet brine may not lead to the crispiest skin possible. Good Housekeeping suggests trying a dry brine instead. This involves rubbing salt all over the raw turkey, placing the bird into a large plastic bag, and refrigerating overnight or up to two days before cooking; otherwise, purchase a kosher turkey, which already has been salted from the inside out.
· Avoid stuffing the bird. Rather than stuffing the turkey and cooking everything en masse, prepare the stuffing mixture separate from the turkey. This reduces the risk of contamination from the turkey's raw juices and helps to achieve a crispy coating on the stuffing guests will enjoy.
· Make an aromatic roasting rack. Turkeys typically are placed on a metal rack for cooking so the juices do not cause the turkey to stick to the pan. However, you also can cut onions and lay them with a bed of whole celery stalks and carrots to elevate the roast. This creates extra flavor in the bird and the vegetables also can be served or mixed into the stuffing.
Some turkey-roasting techniques can ensure a moist and flavorful main course this Thanksgiving.
Essential Gear for First-time Thanksgiving Hosts
Hosting Thanksgiving is a large undertaking that can put some hosts under pressure. Unlike some other holidays that are less food-focused, Thanksgiving is largely about the meal. Turkey is the centerpiece of the celebration, and any guests who come over are going to expect turkey and a number of side dishes. Leaving hungry is never an option on Thanksgiving.
Individuals who are new to Thanksgiving hosting may be at a loss as to where to start with their preparation. There are certain must-haves hosts should familiarize themselves with. Many of these essentials revolve around tools for cooking in the kitchen and serving guests.
· Large roasting pan: You'll need somewhere to oven-roast the turkey. While it's perfectly acceptable to purchase a disposable aluminum pan for this purpose, if you plan to host Thanksgiving year after year, investing in a quality roasting pan will help deliver even cooking temperatures to the food and also can be used for roasting other meats.
· Wire rack: The turkey is placed upon a rack inside of the roasting pan so that it will not swim in the juices and cause a soggy bottom during cooking. Many roasting pans and racks are sold as sets, but others can be purchased separately. The rack can be used for other purposes as well, including cooling baked cookies or even drying out fresh herbs.
· Food thermometer: Ensuring the turkey and other foods are cooked to the correct internal temperature is essential. You do not want to send guests home with foodborne illnesses. Food thermometers run the gamut from very basic to those that can be programmed to alert cooks through an app on a smartphone. Turkey is done when the temperature reads 170 F in the breast and 180 F in the thigh. If stuffed, the stuffing should register 165 F, according to Butterball.
· Coordinated casserole dishes: Casserole dishes can hold all of the sides served with the turkey, including stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and more. A set of matching dishes will help the tablescape look more coordinated.
· Service for eight or more: Thanksgiving draws a crowd, so take inventory of silverware, dishes, wine glasses, and any other table needs to ensure that you can accommodate all of the guests. Purchase new items if you cannot set the table completely with what you have, as mixed and matched may be okay for informal events but may not set the tone hosts are aiming for on Thanksgiving.
· Table and chairs: Determine if you have enough table space to seat all of your guests. Some dining tables come with an extension leaf, but you still may need to supplement with a folding table. You may need more seating. Chairs can be rented or you can utilize some folding chairs.
· Turkey serving platter: When the turkey is ready, it can be placed on an attractive serving platter for your photos, after which you slice and then return the sliced poultry to the serving platter for dining.
Thanksgiving requires a number of essentials that hosts will need to have on hand to make the holiday complete.
Stay Safe the Night Before Thanksgiving
The evening before Thanksgiving may be crunch time for holiday hosts. However, for the hordes of college students arriving home for the first long break since the semester began, that night is often seen as a chance to let loose with friends close to home.
The night before Thanksgiving goes by many names, including Blackout Wednesday, Drinksgiving, Wacky Wednesday, and even Whiskey Wednesday. MADD and many local law enforcement authorities warn that this day has become associated with binge drinking and additional dangerous behaviors that can put individuals at risk. In fact, MADD says that Blackout Wednesday is one of the most fatal days of the year, even when compared to New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day. Easy accessibility to liquor (as parents likely are stocking their supplies in advance of holiday entertaining), coupled with no school or work responsibilities, can give college students free reign to party. Furthermore, certain bars or entertainment establishments may offer promotions on the night before Thanksgiving to appeal to returning students or even others who want to let loose before the Thanksgiving weekend.
Thankfully, there are many ways to make the evening before Thanksgiving a bit safer.
· Keep alcohol out of reach. Parents may need to police their young adults by making alcoholic beverages less accessible to those who are not yet legally eligible to drink. Lock up liquor cabinets and do not try to be the "cool parents" by offering to buy or serve underage drinkers. There's a very real legal risk should you serve an underage drinker and he or she goes on to get hurt or injure someone else.
· Choose designated drivers. Those who are 21 are free to drink, but reminders should be made to never get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Arrange for a rideshare vehicle or offer to pick up a loved one if need be.
· Offer to host friends. Your college student can be encouraged to invite people over for refreshments and entertainment that does not revolve around drinking alcohol. Hosting such a gathering means you can keep tabs on your own child.
· Avoid packed establishments. Encourage your child to skip bars or restaurants that are packed with other students to reduce the pressure to drink heavily.
· Go out with an accountability buddy. Ria Health suggests students look out for one another and embrace the buddy system. This way one student can stop the other if he or she is being irresponsible. Binge drinking can result in memory issues, unsafe sex, fights, sexual assault, and alcohol poisoning. People who binge drink often also may develop a dependence on alcohol.
· Keep things open and honest. Foster a strong relationship with your child so there is comfort in communicating. Those who are nervous about contacting parents if they become intoxicated may take risks rather than calling home.
Going out drinking has become the norm for many college students returning home prior to Thanksgiving. It's important that safety be a priority.
Consider These 13 Gratifying Thanksgiving Facts
Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends and reflect on one's blessings. In 2022, Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on October 10, while Americans celebrate on November 24. In anticipation of these holidays, here are some interesting facts about the Thanksgiving celebration.
1. American Thanksgiving is largely modeled on a 17th century harvest feast shared by the English settlers and the Wampanoag tribe.
2. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. It is based on European harvest festivals.
3. The National Turkey Federation says around 45 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving, which equates to about 720 million pounds of turkey being consumed (with the average turkey size being 16 pounds).
4. The Butterball hotline answers roughly 100,000 calls every year on its turkey question hotline.
5. In 1953, the Swanson company overestimated the number of frozen turkeys it would sell for the holiday season by 26 tons. Rather than waste the meat, Swanson sliced it up, repackaged it and created the first frozen TV dinners.
6. Thanksgiving in America may be older than many recognize. While Thanksgiving is largely tied to the 17th century settlers, the National Parks Service says in 1565 Spanish settlers in St. Augustine (now Florida) celebrated by having a meal to which they invited the native Seloy tribe. The Spanish served pork stew, sea biscuits, red wine, and garbanzo beans. Some say the Seloy contributed turkey, venison and maize.
7. Thanksgiving didn't become a civic holiday until Abraham Lincoln made it one after the Civil War tragedy. Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday on October 20, 1864.
8. The Pilgrims did not refer to themselves as "pilgrims." They used the word "separatists" as they were separating themselves from a larger belief system.
9. In addition to Canada and the United States, Grenada, Liberia, the Philippines, Saint Lucia, and the Netherlands celebrate their own versions of Thanksgiving.
10. Each year, the American president "pardons" a turkey from slaughter on Thanksgiving. This tradition dates back to when Abraham Lincoln's son was upset that his family's turkey that was going to be killed for Thanksgiving dinner.
11. According to the U.S. Calorie Control Council (CCC), an average American may consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.
12. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an annual tradition. People line the parade route in New York City or tune in to watch the parade on television. It originated in 1924 and the famed balloons were added in 1927.
13. Apple pie is the pie of choice for Thanksgiving, even though pumpkin pie is prevalent this time of year.
Thanksgiving is a popular holiday in Canada and the U.S. Many traditions have been borne of the holiday, and it is a favorite time of year for many people.
Did You Know?
Thanksgiving is as synonymous with football as it is with turkey. When sports fans tune into the big games Thanksgiving day, two teams are on the field every year: the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions. There is no rule in place that says these teams have to play on Thanksgiving, but it has become tradition. When the National Football League makes its Thanksgiving schedule each year, the Lions get scheduled for an early afternoon game and the Cowboys a late afternoon matchup. These traditions can be traced back to publicity stunts to draw in more fans. The Lions played their first Thanksgiving game in 1934, while the Cowboys started the tradition in 1966. Other teams had played on Thanksgiving prior to these years, but the Lions solidified their place when then-owner George A. Richards (also an NBC-affiliated radio station owner) established a contract with NBC to show his Lions games on Thanksgiving across 94 stations. In 2022, there is once again a tripleheader on Thanksgiving day. The Buffalo Bills will play the Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET; the New York Giants will play the Dallas Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. ET; and the New England Patriots battle the Minnesota Vikings at 8:20 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the Lions on CBS, the Cowboys on FOX and the Vikings on NBC.
Potatoes and Cauliflower in a New Way
Certain items are staples of the Thanksgiving dinner table. For example, mashed potatoes, candied yams and stuffing are Thanksgiving stalwarts. Pumpkin and apple pies help wrap up the festivities.
Thanksgiving hosts and hostesses interested in injecting more variety into their Thanksgiving offerings may want to consider a few unique side dishes to complement their turkey dinners. Sides that borrow from familiar flavors may fit seamlessly into the holiday feast and add spark to the meal.
This recipe for "Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower" from "Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!" (Time Home Entertainment) from the editors of Real Simple is rooted in popular ingredients synonymous with Thanksgiving. Gnocchi is a chewy and filling pasta made from potato - a holiday standard, while cauliflower is a mild, versatile vegetable that absorbs the spices and flavors of other ingredients. Putting these two ingredients together allows holiday hosts to provide a new side with some familiar flavors at this year's Thanksgiving dinner.
Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4 (as a main course)
- 1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 pound gnocchi (fresh or frozen)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Heat oven to 400 F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and sage with the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the cauliflower is golden brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Fifteen minutes before the cauliflower is finished, cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Divide the gnocchi among bowls and top with the cauliflower and Parmesan.
Tip: Cauliflower florets are easier to separate if you remove the core first. Place the head stem-side up. Using a paring knife, cut around the core at an angle, creating a cone-shaped piece, then lift it out. If the head is very large, halve it first through the core.
2 Unique Ways to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday. Families may have their own unique Thanksgiving traditions, but one staple of this kickoff to the holiday season is bound to make its way to Thanksgiving dinner tables no matter how unusual families' holiday celebrations may be: turkey.
Much effort goes into picking and preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. Depending on the size of the bird, turkeys can take many hours to cook. Thanksgiving celebrants are no doubt familiar with oven-roasted turkey, which is the most traditional way to cook turkey. But this year hosts who want to expand their horizons and think beyond the oven can consider two popular alternative methods to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.
1. Deep frying
Deep frying is a popular way to prepare foods at outdoor events. For example, stroll through the parking lot on game day and you're liable to find football fans deep frying their favorite foods at their tailgate parties. Turkey can be deep fried and this method makes for an ideal option for hosts who want to enjoy the great outdoors while welcoming friends and loved ones to their homes. Deep frying imparts a juicy flavor that can be hard to replicate when roasting a turkey. Deep frying is a much faster way to cook a turkey than cooking it in the oven. However, deep frying also can be more dangerous, so it's imperative that cooks remain attentive when setting up the fryer and while the turkey is frying.
Where to deep fry the turkey also bears consideration. The turkey experts at Butterball® recommend deep frying the turkey outside on a flat surface that's far away from structures, including your home, garage, deck, etc.
The time required to deep fry a turkey will depend on the size of the bird, but experts note that it typically takes about 3 to 3.5 minutes per pound. Electric fryers may take significantly less time and they typically require less oil, so this is another option to consider. Many experts note that it's best to deep fry turkeys that are 15 lbs. or less, as the turkey will need to be completely submerged in oil when frying. In addition, turkeys larger than 15 lbs. may cook unevenly, which can affect flavor.
Smoking has grown in popularity in recent years as grills that make this method possible have become more affordable. Smoking is a "low and slow" method of cooking, so this option is ideal for people who intend to be home all day on Thanksgiving and want to infuse their birds with a smoky flavor. However, even busy hosts can still consider smoking, as electric smokers now allow cooks to remotely control the temperatures in their grills. That's important, as smoking requires cooks to periodically check the temperature on their grills to ensure it has not dropped too low or risen too high.
Smoking a turkey typically requires maintaining a temperature between 225 and 250 F. Cooking times for smoked turkeys are typically around 30 minutes per pound, though it can take longer if the temperature is lower. Because of the extended cooking time, hosts may want to pick a turkey that weighs around 15 lbs., especially if they don't have much experience smoking.
This Thanksgiving, hosts can try something new by deep frying or smoking their turkeys.
Crustless Pie: A Treat for Those with Gluten Intolerance
The holiday season is a popular time to entertain. Food is often a focal point of holiday season entertaining. Individuals who navigate food allergies or intolerances may shy away from certain celebrations out of fear that a nibble of this or a bite of that may trigger an allergic response. In such instances, concern about ingredients can cast a pall over normally festive occasions.
Those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerances must be mindful of the foods they consume. Meals or desserts containing gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, semolina, rye, barley, graham, spelt, farina, and more, can trigger intestinal distress and other symptoms. With delicious pies, cakes and cookies on the holiday serving table, gluten is likely to make an appearance. However, with careful planning, people who cannot stomach foods that contain gluten can still indulge in their favorite holiday flavors.
"Crustless Libby's® Famous Pumpkin Pie" is a variation on traditional pumpkin pie served at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. Without the crust, individuals who avoid gluten can still dive into that pumpkin-and-spice combination that's so popular around the holiday season. Enjoy this recipe, courtesy of Libby's® Pumpkin.
1. Preheat oven as directed below. Glass baking dishes without crust require a cooler oven, and in most cases, a longer baking time.
2. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or lightly grease bottom of baking pan or baking dish.
3. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
4. Bake as directed below or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.
5. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
9-inch-round glass pie dish: 325 F; bake for 55 to 60 minutes
10-inch-round glass pie dish: 325 F; bake for 45 to 50 minutes
8-inch-round cake pan: 350 F; bake for 45 to 50 minutes
9-inch-round cake pan: 350 F; bake for 35 to 40 minutes
8-inch-square baking pan: 350 F; bake for 45 to 50 minutes
8-inch-square glass baking dish: 325 F; 50 to 60 minutes
9-inch-square baking dish: 350 F; bake for 35 to 40 minutes
11x7-inch glass baking dish: 325 F; bake for 45 to 50 minutes
13x9-inch baking pan: 350 F; bake for 35 to 40 minutes
13x9-inch glass baking dish: 325 F; bake for 40 to 45 minutes
Chocolate Cookies are a Sweet Finale to Thanksgiving Dinners
Holiday entertaining season begins on Thanksgiving. Anyone who has been tasked with hosting Thanksgiving understands the commitment required to prepare a delicious meal for guests, which often encompasses appetizers, several side dishes and, of course, turkey as the centerpiece. Guests attending a Thanksgiving dinner can give holiday hosts and hostesses a break by providing dessert.
Cookies are a popular treat. Thanks to their flavor, portability and relatively short preparation and cooking times, cookies are a smart choice when bringing dessert to a holiday gathering. This recipe for "Flourless Chocolate Cookies" from Danielle Rye's "Live Well Bake Cookies: 75 Classic Cookie Recipes for Every Occasion" (Rock Point) offers the added benefit of being flourless. That means that even those with gluten allergies or intolerances can indulge.
Flourless Chocolate Cookies
Makes 24 to 36 cookies
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3/4 natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift the powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder together, then whisk in the instant espresso powder (if using) and salt until well combined. Set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, egg, and vanilla extract until fully combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until the mixture is fully combined and smooth. Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a little room between each one.
Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are set. Remove from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.