dcsimg

Plan a Thanksgiving Meal to Remember

We all know Thanksgiving is a time for family togetherness, but it's also the perfect time to discover or embrace your culinary passions. The celebration, after all, is really around the dinner table. Make this year's meal something to remember. Whether you cook a classic menu or create new traditions entirely.

Culinary Arts

Classic Thanksgiving Traditions ...

It's no secret that the centerpiece of an American Thanksgiving meal is typically a golden turkey. A classic menu is almost always sure to please a crowd. A traditional Thanksgiving menu usually includes the following elements, which you can prepare according to your tastes:

  • Turkey, Stuffing, and Gravy
  • Potatoes, mashed, roasted, or au gratin
  • Green Vegetable or Green Bean Casserole
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Rolls or Cornbread
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Pie (Apple, Pumpkin, or Pecan)

... And New Holiday Renditions

If classic bores you, don't be afraid to try something new. Add a special soup, a festive salad, or search for creative twists on the standard holiday fare.

Turkey Talk: Roasting the Perfect Thanksgiving Bird

No matter how you celebrate the fall harvest, almost everyone agrees that Thanksgiving means turkey. At its best, turkey is a delicious holiday treat--juicy, tender meat with a crisp and flavorful skin. Cooking an enormous bird for a crowd, however, can be intimidating for even experienced cooks. Follow these steps to take the terror out of roast turkey.

How to Pick a Turkey

The rule of thumb when buying a Thanksgiving turkey is to estimate one pound of meat per person. If you have a little extra time and money to spend, consider getting your turkey from a nearby farm. In addition to supporting the local economy, you get the freshest meat possible and won't have to worry about defrosting. Fresh turkeys should remain refrigerated until cooked. If you buy a frozen bird, follow the tips in step two.

How to Defrost Your Turkey

You can defrost a turkey in the refrigerator or in cold water. In the fridge, you need approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Cold water thawing takes only 30 minutes per pound of meat. You must change the water every 30 minutes, however, and refrigerate or cook your bird immediately after thawing.

Prepping Your Bird

To add extra flavor and tenderize your turkey, consider taking the time to marinate or brine it before roasting. The jury's still out on which method creates a tastier bird, so try one this year and the other next November and let your family decide!

  • To Marinate: Use a fork to make holes over the whole turkey. Put the bird in a large, sturdy plastic bag, add the marinade (homemade or purchased), close the bag, and let your bird marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Be sure to discard leftover marinade before cooking the turkey.
  • To Brine: Prepare the brining solution, mixing 2 cups of table salt with 2 gallons of cold water in a large, clean container. You can add dried herbs to the brine, and some chefs also use brown sugar, a few cloves of garlic, or even dried red chili peppers. Submerge the turkey in the brining solution and refrigerate for 6-8 hours. Before cooking, thoroughly wash the turkey, removing all remnants of the brine.

Stuffing - Let Your Creativity Reign

While you can buy stuffing mixes, the homemade alternative is much tastier, and not as hard to prepare as you might think. There are a myriad of stuffing combinations, including a few creative twists. Here are a few:

  • Apples & Cranberries
  • Dried Fruit and Nuts Marinated in Orange Juice
  • Wild Rice & Cornbread
  • Sausage & Chestnuts
  • Oyster Stuffing

Many pros recommend always cooking stuffing outside the bird to prevent salmonella poisoning. In this case, you can still put an aromatic inside the bird to enhance the flavor, such as a satchel of herbs, a combination of fruit, or a Mirepoix. If you cook the stuffing in the bird, make absolute certain that you check the internal temperature to ensure it has cooked completely.

Whatever method you choose, preparing stuffing the day before Thanksgiving is a great way to save time on the big day. Just remember to keep the wet (vegetables, fruit, broth, etc) and dry ingredients separate until it's time to cook them.

Roast a Moist Turkey

Sure you can deep fry or grill, but for most Americans, roasting is the way to enjoy this Thanksgiving staple. Use a roasting pan with low sides and add � cup of water to the bottom to help with clean-up after the meal. Roast at a minimum of 325° F until the internal temperature registers 165° F on a food thermometer. Be sure to check the meat's temperature both at the thickest part of the breast and on the inner thigh and wing to ensure that the whole bird is thoroughly cooked. If you've stuffed the turkey, make sure that the center of the stuffing has also reached 165°F.

Carving Your Bird

Letting the turkey sit for 20 minutes after removing it from the oven allows the juices to set and makes the carver's job much easier. While it's intimidating to slice into such a masterpiece, the best way to learn to carve a turkey is to practice! Using a sharp, straight knife helps you with this delicate task.

Experts also recommend removing the drumstick and wing before cutting into the highly coveted breast meat. Once you do, cut a vertical line along the center of the breast--there should be a cartilage ridge down the center. Next, cut a horizontal line along the breast bone, starting from the outside and moving toward your vertical cut. Do this for both sides. Then, slice the breast meat at a slight slant from the outside of the breast to the center. Layer meat on a slightly warm platter, and serve soon to prevent the meat from drying out

The Most Important Thanksgiving Lesson

Whether you opt for an elaborate feast or a casual dinner, your Thanksgiving meal will be special because you share it with loved ones. Give yourself time, relax, and enjoy your time in the kitchen. Whether you're a pro trying new things or a first-time cook planning your first feast, savor the process and take pride in your hard work.

About the Author:

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            5 Program(s) Found

            Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.

            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
            Show more [+]