Whether this year will be your first time cooking a turkey or you're just rethinking your cooking strategy, cooking one can seem overwhelming. But you don't need to feel like a turkey when you do it—the experts are here to ease any last-minute jitters:
The Pros Propose
- If you don't need to feed the entire extended family, Andrea Nguyen suggests: "Go for a small one (11 to 13 pounds)—they're easier to manage and taste better. Should this be your inaugural bird, ask others to pitch in with side dishes so you can devote time to your masterpiece."
Skip Out on Expensive Roasting Pans
- If your current stash of cookware doesn't quite match up with your Pinterest-worthy dream pieces, The Modernist Cuisine Team assures us that it will be okay: "You don’t need an expensive roasting pan to achieve a perfectly baked turkey. An inexpensive, V-shaped roasting rack will allow air to circulate around the turkey, which helps elevate its flavors and make sure it gets evenly browned."
Plan for Resting Time and Keep it Warm
- Merrill Stubbs recommends planning for 20 to 30 minutes of rest before carving.
- Michael Ruhlman makes sure his serving dish for the turkey is warm, and also ladles hot broth over it, saying: "You can cover this with foil and keep it warm in the turned-off oven, or on the stove top, while you ready the rest of the meal."
Thickening Your Gravy
- The Modernist Cuisine Team lets us in on a secret: "Wondra is an incredible thickener—we love using it to crunch up wings and thicken sauces, including Thanksgiving gravy. Dust Wondra over a flavorful liquid; use 4 to 5 grams of Wondra for every 100 grams of liquid. Whisk to distribute the starch evenly, simmer, and then remove from heat."
Think Outside the Box (or Bird)
- After trying to be an all-American turkey lover for years, Andrea Nguyen's mom declared them too dry: "From that moment on, my family was liberated to enjoy juicy roast chickens and game hens stuffed with Mom's incredible dressing of sticky rice, chestnuts, shiitake mushrooms, herbs, and Cognac. We felt free to create our own holiday tradition, which is why we came to the U.S. in the first place."
Tell us: How do you tackle your turkey?
Have you missed any of our Thanksgiving roundup of Burning Questions? Catch up now:
- The Definitive Pounds-Per-Person Guide to Turkey and Potatoes
- Everything You Need to Know About Brining
- How to Accommodate Guests with Special Diets and Stay Sane
- Solutions for Stuffing Slip-Ups
- The Essential Numbers: A Guide to Times and Temps for Cooking Your Bird
- How to Get Perfect Skin (On Your Turkey, That Is)
Photos by James Ransom