Are you panicking about making your first Thanksgiving feast? Calm down, take a deep breath, and find out all you need to know about how to cook classic and traditional Thanksgiving favorite foods. Get your recipes lined up, make your shopping list, and plan ahead. Be prepared to impress your friends and loved ones with the perfect Thanksgiving meal.
The turkey is the star of Thanksgiving, but what type or size do you need or want? You can choose from fresh or frozen, organic, farm-raised, and from 5 to 30 pounds. Once you have bought your turkey, it must be stored properly. Find out how to buy and store your Thanksgiving turkey.
With all the sales during the Thanksgiving season, chances are good that you have purchased a frozen turkey or perhaps you bought an extra one to use later. It is most important that you learn how to thaw the turkey in a safe manner in order to avoid food poisoning. Depending upon the size of your turkey, this may take days. Here are 3 safe methods to thaw a turkey. I recommend the refrigerator method, so do plan ahead to allow enough time.
If you need last minute help for your Thanksgiving meal, this is your source for information. These toll-free hotlines are set up by major food companies to answer questions for consumers, and they can be a real life-saver when an unexpected situation pops up in the kitchen. Since many of these hotlines are accessible throughout the year, I suggest bookmarking the page for future reference. The links will take you to the individual sites with further cooking tips and answers to many Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Whether you roast your turkey stuffed or unstuffed, you need a general idea on how long to cook it. The traditional method is to roast the turkey long and slow in order to retain juices. This roasting chart will give you a good idea on how long it will take for various weights. A meat thermometer is a necessity to ensure the turkey is cooked to at least 165 F., particularly because all oven temperatures vary.
Not all turkeys are roasted. Here you will find many recipes for not only roast turkey, but also recipes using ground turkey, turkey breast, turkey legs, and cooked turkey leftovers. Keep in mind that most poultry is interchangeable in recipes, so look at these recipes with chicken or duck in mind as well as turkey.
Although bones definitely add flavor to roasted turkey, they can make carving a difficult job. You can remove the bones and still end up with a picture-perfect roasted turkey. No one will know it is boneless until you cut into it. You can easily de-bone the turkey yourself in about 15 minutes. These step-by-step instructions with photos will show you how. As a bonus, you will have more room for stuffing. Since turkey legs are a special treat, this is the only bone I leave in.
Turducken is a Southern specialty consisting of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, so you get 3 types of poultry in one dish. The 3 fowls are all deboned (see above) and stuffed inside each other. The end result looks like a stuffed turkey. You would never know it also contains duck and chicken. Some versions include stuffing in between the layers, and this is the one I prefer. The recipe is a bit time-consuming, but not really difficult. These photos and instructions will take you through each step of putting together turducken. It's definitely worth the effort.
You don't want to make anyone sick with your Thanksgiving meal, so be sure to bone up on how to avoid foodborne illnesses. Poultry is particularly susceptible to salmonella, one of the most common sources of food poisoning. It is important to avoid cross-contamination while preparing turkey and other poultry, as well as to cook to an internal temperature of at least 165 F. A thermometer is a must. Read more about poultry safety in the kitchen.
Many people cook ham in addition to or in place of turkey at Thanksgiving. Some hams require preparation a day in advance, so plan ahead. Learn about the history of ham, ham varieties, how to buy the right ham for your meal, and how to store it. Then try one of the many ham recipes, including recipes for leftover ham.
Side dishes on the Thanksgiving table are almost as important as the turkey. Get cooking tips and recipes for the most common Thanksgiving side dishes, including stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, cranberries, pumpkin cheesecake, and green bean casserole.