What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?
They're all right here. 25 of them, from bacon-stuffed "turketta" to Mission Chinese's guaranteed non-gummy mashed potatoes to pumpkin pie milkshakes.
How big should my turkey be?
To ensure leftovers, we buy about about 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. That’s assuming you’re buying a whole, bone-in bird; if you’re getting just a turkey breast or some other kind of boneless meat, 1 pound per person is plenty.
Is a heritage breed turkey better?
It depends. If you’re a white meat lover, we think sticking with a Broad-Breasted White, the “standard” turkey, is just fine. The flavor can be quite mild, but it’s also the flavor that most people associate with turkey. But, you should find one that’s been pasture-raised without antibiotics or hormones.
There are benefits to heritage breed turkeys, of course. They often grow at a slower rate than conventional turkeys so their meat tends to be more flavorful (but often also need slower, lower-temperature cooking to ensure tenderness). Their breasts are smaller, but a layer of fat develops under their skin which can help preserve moisture during cooking. More often than not, they’re raised by small farmers and we love supporting small businesses and family farms.
My turkey's a frozen cannonball! How do I thaw it?
It’s best to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. This is going to take awhile. At least two days. You can also thaw your turkey in cold water, but it’s not ideal. If you must, make sure the turkey is completely covered in cold water. Estimate about 30 minutes in cold water for every pound of turkey.
What do I do with the giblets and neck?
Remove the giblets and neck before seasoning and cooking the turkey. You can do what you want, but we like to chop up the giblets and throw them in our stuffing or gravy; they add great richness and flavor. We also like to season and roast the neck alongside our turkey. It’s one of Francis Lam’s favorite Thanksgiving bites.
What should I do to the turkey before I roast it?
1) Brine it. We love a brined bird; it’s more moist, tender, and evenly seasoned.
2) After brining, pat the bird dry before cooking.
3) Scent it by putting wonderful aromatics in the cavity, like roughly chopped onion, celery and carrots, big bunches of herbs like thyme, parsley and a few bay leaves and an orange or a lemon, cut in half.
4) Ideally, let it come to room temperature before cooking; it will decrease the time in the oven, and the meat will cook more evenly.
5) Rub the skin (and under the skin) with tons of butter
6) Roast away!
What do I brine my turkey in?
Assuming, like most people, you don’t have a pot big enough to hold the bird in brine and a fridge big enough to hold both, we think a cooler is your best bet. It won’t leak or break and will keep the turkey cold. Add plenty of ice to the brine to keep the turkey cold (it should be below 40 degrees F at all times. Do you have a brine recipe? We sure do. At its most basic, a brine can be ¾ cup of Kosher salt, plus maybe the same amount of sugar, in a gallon of water. But here’s our favorite, flavor-packed version:
Our Favorite Brine Recipe
(a la Taste editor Whitney Chen)
3 cups apple juice or apple cider
2 gallons cold water
4 stems of fresh rosemary
10 stems of fresh thyme
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1½ cups Kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar
3 tablespoons peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
Peels from 2 oranges
1) Combine all ingredients in a large pot over high heat. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.
2) Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large cooler. Place your uncooked turkey in brine for 16 to 24 hours. If the turkey isn’t fully submerged, you can add water or ice to raise the water level.
3) When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine and rinse it well in cold water in your sink. Pat the turkey dry, and cook.
How long should I cook my turkey?
Cooking times will vary, but the following suggestions are a good gauge to use when cooking a room-temperature (take your turkey out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking), unstuffed, Broad-Breasted White turkey at or around 350 °F. If you’re cooking a heritage breed turkey, we recommend decreasing the temperature to 325° F and adding at least a half hour of cooking time.
12 to 14 pounds, unstuffed - 2.5 to 3.5 hours
16 to 18 pounds, unstuffed - 3.5 to 4.25 hours
18 to 24 pounds, unstuffed - 4.25 to 4.75 hours
24 pounds and up, unstuffed - 4.75 to 6.0 hours
Ok, I got a fancy heritage breed turkey. How do I cook that?
A heritage breed turkey must be cooked differently than a conventional turkey because the meat is a bit firmer, and distributed throughout its body differently. We recommend covering the breast with butter or oil-rubbed foil or slices of pancetta or bacon to prevent the smaller breasts from drying out during cooking.
Try pre-heating the oven to 450° F degrees. Crisp the bird, totally uncovered, for 15 minutes. Then, cover the breasts and roast at 325° F until fully cooked. Test for doneness with a thermometer inserted in the meat between the thigh and the breast. It should read about 155-165°F. Remove the covering from the breasts and crisp the skin at high heat for 5-7 minutes before removing from the oven. Allow the turkey to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
Should I stuff my turkey?
You can, but we don’t. We like to bake our stuffing separately so that the top of the stuffing gets brown and crispy. Also, stuffing will increase the cooking time, and we prefer to focus on making sure our bird is perfectly cooked rather than overcooking it while waiting for the stuffing to come up to temperature. Plus you can always pour your turkey pan drippings into the stuffing to increase its flavor after cooking.
If you decide to stuff your turkey, be sure to stuff it immediately before you cook it. Stuffing sitting around in a raw turkey is gross. Also, make sure the internal temperature of the stuffing (smack in the middle of the bird) reaches at least 165 degrees. Otherwise, you risk consuming undercooked turkey juices.
How do you deep-fry a turkey?
We do not recommend deep-frying a turkey. Yes, when done right, the results are delicious, but as any firefighter can tell you, it can be very dangerous. And we love a roasted turkey just the same!
What can I cook instead of a whole turkey?
You’ve got tons of options. We love simply roasting a turkey breast. Or, stuffing and rolling the turkey breast with garlic, herbs and bacon! You could also roast Cornish game hens, a pork loin, or a standing beef rib roast.
For vegetarians, we love serving mac n’cheese, mushroom lasagna or spinach pie. Or just go crazy on the sides like mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, roasted sweet potatoes, green beans and creamed spinach. Everyone knows the sides are the best part anyway, right?
What kind of wine goes with turkey?
Thanksgiving is full of lots of different flavors from sweet cranberry sauce, to herby stuffing, to rich potatoes to juicy poultry. Many people decide to select a strong red wine that will stand up to all of these flavors. More often than not, we think a fierce red just overpowers the food. Stay away from wines that are super oaky and full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Get a few bottles (after all, it is a holiday!) and serve different wines with different courses.
Some of our go-to varietals:
Any sparkling wine!
If you like white wine:
White Burgundy or Unoaked Chardonnay—to go with apples and nutty flavors
Riesling—for meals that have lots of spice
If you like red wine:
Red Burgundy or Pinot Noir—best with cooked berries and dessert spices
Red Bordeaux—if you’re not doing turkey, this wine is our beef pick