Chatelaine Kitchen

10 things to know before cooking Thanksgiving dinner

We did a Q&A on Facebook with our food director, Claire Tansey, and got the answers to some of your most pressing questions about cooking Thanksgiving dinner! Here is a summary of that enlightening chat.
Spatchcock roast chicken with grapes Angus Fergusson

1. To baste or not to baste? Baste—but not too often, maybe once every 45 min or so: remember that you lose 50 degrees every time you open the oven door.

2. How do I get the most tender and juicy bird?

  • Buy the best bird you can afford. Most of the flavour work happens before you even buy it!
  • Brine it! (*See below for my dry-brine recipe)
  • Rest, rest, rest. Let your roasted turkey rest for 40 min before carving.

*Dry-brine recipe: Mix 1 cup kosher salt with 3 cups brown sugar and pack all over the bird. Place in the fridge for 12 - 24 hours, then rinse, rinse, rinse. (You MUST use kosher salt for this.)

3. How do I get easy no-lump gravy? For easy, no-lump gravy follow the "F" to "F" rule: flour to fat. Get your pan drippings nice and hot on the stovetop, then sprinkle in flour. Whisk until it's totally smooth, and then add wine and/or water.

4. Should I make my stuffing inside or outside the bird? OUT OUT OUT! Roasting turkey without stuffing makes it faster, easier and safer*. Make your stuffing alongside in a casserole dish (this way you can make lots and lots, too).

*It's safe as long as you cook the stuffing itself (not just the bird) to a full 185 degrees. Unfortunately, this usually means the breast is totally overcooked.


5. What’s the secret to a flaky and delicious pie pastry? Use butter, as shortening makes a very flaky, but flavourless pastry. And if you can, try making your pastry in the food processor—it usually turns out much flakier.

(Tough pastry usually means you added too much flour or water or you overworked the dough.)

6. What size turkey will I need? I suggest "a pound a person" plus a few extras if you like leftovers. In other words, if I’m hosting eight people I'll get a 12-lb bird. But I can never get enough turkey...

7. How do I barbecue an extra-large turkey? Barbecuing your turkey is a great alternative to deep-frying (I'm generally against deep frying anything. It’s too dangerous and wasteful for my taste).

You definitely want to flatten or spatchcock a large turkey. (Get your butcher to remove the backbone for you.)


8. How do I season a turkey without pepper? Allergic to pepper? Try this tip: for a bit of kick, a teensy bit of cayenne will work. Use lots of kosher salt, and stuff the cavity with fresh sage or thyme. Yum!

9. When cooking a single turkey breast do I go for bone-in or boneless? I generally prefer bone-in (it's juicier), but this year we did a boneless (skin-on) turkey breast and it's fantastic.

10. What are some alternatives to pumpkin pie? If you like puff pastry and have been out apple-picking (or to the store, we know you’re busy) this rustic caramel-apple pie is the PERFECT recipe.


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