Ten Tips for Turkey Day – A Mini Survival Guide

With Thanksgiving a week away, I compiled a list of helpful tips to help you survive it should you be hosting dinner, a survival guide of sorts. Most of these “tips” are lessons I learned over the several years I’ve been hosting (from disasters, some averted, some not), others are helpful tools I’ve learned from others.  Either way, I hope you are able to use some or all of them and they help you have a successful holiday dinner.  If all else fails….drink heavily, douse everything with gravy and finish off the night with an Irish coffee….or three.

1.  Brine that bird, brining leaves you with a more tender and juicy bird without a lot of prep work.  An added bonus, you have more room in your refrigerator if you brine the turkey in a cooler filled with ice.  Make sure your turkey is fully thawed and either buy your brining spices from a kitchen store such as the Turkey Brine from Williams-Sonoma or use Alton Brown’s recipe, which I’ve used in the past with stellar results.  Also be sure to pick a turkey that is not already in a salt solution, this would be noted on the package.

2. Resist the temptation to stuff the bird with stuffing.  Instead, fill the cavity with aromatics such as apples, lemons, onions, garlic and herbs.  Filling the turkey with stuffing can cause many problems, including foodbourne illness.  It’s very difficult to cook the stuffing to a safe temperature without overcooking the turkey.  So, bake it in a baking dish and serve it as a “dressing” not “stuffing” and everyone will leave happy and healthy.

3. Let the turkey take a rest…..I’m sure most people know this already but it is essential.  If you cut the bird too soon, all the juices will pour out onto the cutting board leaving you with very dry meat.  Gravy could always save the day but let’s not go there.  Thirty minutes is a perfect nap.  I cook my sides while the turkey rests, time well spent.

4. Bone up on your carving skills so you can avoid a mishap and make sure you’re using a sharp knife.  A dull knife and inexperience can lead to an unwelcome visit to the emergency room.  Sharpen your knife skills here.

5. Keep it clean, when dealing with raw meat and other foods be sure to wash your hands frequently and keep any surfaces used for food prep clean at all times.  Cross-contamination is a crime that can be avoided.

6. Waste not, want not….don’t throw out all those vegetable nubs and leftovers not used for your recipes.  You’re bound to have leftover celery, carrots, onions, herbs and other vegetables….use them to make a stock the day after Thanksgiving.  Even the ends of onions can be saved and tossed into the pot.  Stock does not take much effort at all, you can throw everything into a pot with the turkey carcass, fill with water just to the top of the turkey, salt, pepper, bring to a boil and then simmer for a few hours.  Stock can be frozen for up to 3 months.

7. Prep ahead….make bread cubes for stuffing a week ahead and store in a sealed container.  Make pie crust a week ahead and freeze.  Cut up all vegetables needed for various recipes and store in a sealed container labeled with the name of the dish they will go in to.

8. Don’t put too much effort into appetizers, a simple cheese platter and some crudites will be fine since the main event is dinner.  Plus, who needs the added stress of having to make more food for an already gluttonous meal.

9. Try not to stress too much about the overall meal, remember, this is a day of giving thanks and spending time with loved ones.  (Even though loved ones can cause some indigestion.)  But….if a disaster occurs, it can always be fixed.  Here are some great suggestions from Food Network.

10.  And…as always, wine and spirits make everything better.  Food and Wine has this list to help you select the best pairing for your turkey dinner. It’s from 2010 but is a good navigation tool when making your purchase.  Feel free to pop that cork before the first relative arrives!!!

Lastly…not a tip but isn’t this more about the leftover than anything else? Here are some great recipe ideas to help you clean our your refrigerator post Turkey Day!

If you have any helpful tips of your own, please share them below!!!

3 comments on “Ten Tips for Turkey Day – A Mini Survival Guide”

  1. These are such great tips! I am using Alton Brown’s turkey brine for the second time this year and it is truly fantastic. The other great thing about brining the turkey is that it eliminates the need for basting (which slows cooking time due to repeated oven opening). Thank you for pointing out the many reasons to NOT stuff the turkey. It’s safer, tastier, and easier to bake it separately!
    I always make the pies/desserts and appetizers the day before, so that I’m only cooking the main meal on Thanksgiving day. My other tip is: don’t be afraid to ask for help! You probably have a house full of people, so if you need something chopped, stirred, or cleaned, SPEAK UP. Chances are people won’t say no if you ask them.

  2. Pingback: Kildare’s Present the 3rd Annual Running of the Turkeys « My West Chester, PA

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