Photography by Maya Visnyei
Our acting executive food editor Jennifer Danter is sharing her must-know tips to help you cook your best turkey yet and providing solutions to all-too-common Thanksgiving mishaps.
First things first: Decide what you'll be serving. Here, my go-to dishes for this Thanksgiving.
- Cider-Glazed Turkey
- Mini Hasselback Potatoes
- Haricots Verts With Pancetta Sausage & Apple Stuffing
- Squash & Quinoa Pilaf
- Dark Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
The To-Do List
A work-back schedule helps ensure your feast will be as flawless as possible — and your day-of stress as minimal as possible. Here, what to do and when:
ONE WEEK BEFORE
- Order the turkey. Let the butcher know which day you want to pick it up. Mark that date on your calendar!
- Print out recipes and make your grocery list. Don't forget cranberry sauce—and ice cream for the pie.
- Prepare pastry for Dark Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie; freeze.
- Delegate appetizers to family and friends—you have enough on your plate! (For appetizer ideas, go to canadianliving.com/holidayappetizers.)
- Place an order with a florist so you can guarantee that you get the flowers you want.
THREE DAYS BEFORE
- Roast and peel chestnuts for Haricots Verts With Pancetta. Quarter the shallots; place in a resealable plastic bag with the cooled chestnuts.
- Call the appetizer gang for a check-in.
TWO DAYS BEFORE
- Defrost the pie pastry in the fridge overnight. Set up a baking station with rolling pin, flour, maple leaf cookie cutter and pie plate.
- Prepare Sausage & Apple Stuffing (but don't pour broth over top yet); refrigerate.
ONE DAY BEFORE
- Pick up the flowers and turkey.
- Prepare Cider Glaze.
- Roll out pastry for Dark Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie; refrigerate. Reroll the scraps and cut out maple leaves. Bake piecrust and pastry leaves.
- Chop the squash and slice the brussels sprouts for Squash & Quinoa Pilaf; store them in separate resealable plastic bags. Cook the quinoa; let it cool in the fridge. Prepare the dressing. Measure out the almonds, pepitas and cranberries; combine, cover and set aside.
- Trim haricots verts for Haricots Verts With Pancetta; blanch and cool in an ice bath. Cut the pancetta.
- Pull out serving dishes. Attach sticky notes with recipe names for what goes where. Don't forget the gravy boat and small bowls for cranberry sauce.
- Set the table.
- Pour yourself a well-deserved glass of wine.
- Prepare pie filling and bake the pie.
- Roast the turkey. As it rests, you'll free up oven space for other dishes.
- Pour broth over Sausage & Apple Stuffing; bake.
- Finish Squash & Quinoa Pilaf: Roast the squash and brussels sprouts; reheat the quinoa in the microwave. Assemble and garnish.
- Bring haricots verts to room temperature; finish Haricots Verts With Pancetta.
- Roast Mini Hasselback Potatoes while the turkey is resting. They taste best straight from the oven, so do this 30 minutes before you're ready to dig in.
No matter how much you prepare, hiccups happen. Here, a few of our tips, straight from the Test Kitchen, that will ensure your feast is memorable for all the right things.
Achieve that golden and crispy finish: Mix together a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar and a quarter cup of melted butter, then generously baste the turkey during the last 15 to 20 minutes of roasting.
Make gravy lump-free: In a blender, purée the gravy in batches, then strain it through a fine-mesh sieve. Whisk in a knob or two of butter.
Avoid dry breast meat: Roast the turkey breast side down for the first two hours, then turn it over and continue with the recipe. If that's too unwieldy, try brining instead. Brining before roasting is a foolproof way to keep meat moist. Failing that, revive dry meat with a drizzle of warm chicken broth just before serving.
When the turkey is too big for the oven: Ask a butcher to carve it, then cook the legs separately from the breasts. Or buy two smaller birds; large turkeys often cook less evenly—and they take a long time, too.
Keep food warm: It's OK to serve stuffing and turkey at room temperature (for no more than two hours) as long as the gravy isn't! Pour piping-hot gravy into an insulated bottle or carafe; transfer it to a warm gravy boat just before serving. Free up oven space by using a slow cooker to keep mashed potatoes warm. Butter the insert first and coat the bottom with a little cream; spoon in the spuds and set the temperature to low, stirring occasionally.
When is it done? Never guess! Invest in an instant-read thermometer to know when the turkey is cooked to perfection. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast until the temperature reads 170°F (see resting tip, below).
When it comes to choosing and cooking the turkey, remember that while nearly everybody enjoys leftovers, there can be too much of a good thing. Whole turkeys commonly range from six to 25 pounds. The basic rule of thumb for calculating how much turkey you'll need is to tally about a pound per person. Bump that up to 1 1/2 or two pounds if you want leftovers.
- 8 people: 12 to 16 lb
- 10 people: 15 to 20 lb
- 12 people: 18 to 24 lb
- 14 people: 21 to 28 lb
- 16 people: 24 to 32 lb
For really juicy meat, let the turkey rest on the counter for 30 minutes (or up to an hour for a large bird) before carving. As it roasts, the muscle fibres firm up, pushing juices toward the surface of the meat. If you cut into it right away, those juices will escape! Instead, keep the turkey snugly covered with foil. Bear in mind that the temperature of the bird will continue to rise as it rests, so take it out of the oven around the 170°F mark.
More Thanksgiving Tips
For more great recipes, tips and tricks, check out our ultimate Thanksgiving dinner guide.