8 Expert Tips to Make Your Thanksgiving Feast a Success

In The Perfect Bird, author Molly Stevens lays out her foolproof method for roasting a turkey. But in the Saveur kitchen, we're rarely willing to just sit back and savor success. Stevens's beautiful bird sparked lively debates, with staffers putting forward their own techniques for getting the juiciest meat or the crispiest skin. In fact, every Thanksgiving recipe we tested for this issue either called forth another tried-and-true tip or gave rise to a new one. Here are a few we all agreed are worth adding to your Thanksgiving repertoire. Get tons of Thanksgiving tips, menu ideas, and more »

For a turkey with skin that's crisp, and flavorful, keep a small saucepan of melted butter, …
Tip 1: Crispier-Skinned Turkey
For a turkey with skin that's crisp, and flavorful, keep a small saucepan of melted butter, whole peppercorns, sherry vinegar, and dried sage and thyme on the stove, and use a basting brush to slather the infused butter all over the turkey as it roasts, every 30 minutes or so. See the recipe for The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey »

Related: A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu »

There are those who would say it's just not Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie - and those …
Tip 2: Fluffier Pumpkin Pie
There are those who would say it's just not Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie - and those who can't abide the pie's dense texture. A simple way to keep all of your guests happy: Fold two whipped egg whites into the filling for an airier, soufflé-like consistency. See the recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie »

Related: How to Carve a Turkey »

Fortified wines like Sherry, Port, and Madeira contain not only more alcohol but also …
Tip 3: Sweeter, Richer Gravy
Fortified wines like Sherry, Port, and Madeira contain not only more alcohol but also more sugar than unfortified wines do. Adding a few tablespoons of any of the above to a gravy at the end of cooking will accentuate the richness and sweetness of the caramelized pan juices and other ingredients. See the recipe for Turkey Pan Gravy »

Related: Perfect Thanksgiving Gravy »

If you're brining your turkey, dried herbs are a better bet than fresh ones for seasoning …
Tip 4: More Flavorful Meat
If you're brining your turkey, dried herbs are a better bet than fresh ones for seasoning the brine solution. Drying concentrates the flavor; after penetrating the meat along with the brine, the herbs will bloom in the heat of the oven, releasing their fragrant oils to flavor the meat. See the recipe for Brined and Roasted Turkey »

Related: 12 Brussels Sprout Recipes »

Peeling, boiling, and mashing potatoes is something you can get out of the way the day …
Tip 5: Day-Before Mashed Potatoes
Peeling, boiling, and mashing potatoes is something you can get out of the way the day before the big feast, leaving your hands and your stove top free for other tasks. Simply pass the boiled potatoes through a ricer directly into a Ziploc bag and refrigerate. Then, just before serving time, heat your cream and butter in a saucepan, fold in the prepared potatoes, and season to taste. See the recipe for Sage Mashed Potatoes »

Related: Surprising Side Dishes »

In lieu of cooking a whole bird, individual turkey roulades are an elegant and delicious …
Tip 6: Individual Portions
In lieu of cooking a whole bird, individual turkey roulades are an elegant and delicious alternative. Pound turkey cutlets to ⅛"-¼" thickness and season with salt and pepper. The filling can be anything from a traditional stuffing to a fresh herb pesto; lay it on the third of the cutlet nearest you and roll like a burrito. Then secure the roulade with toothpicks and pan-fry.

Related: Bread, Rolls, and Biscuits »

A mirepoix of chopped carrot, onion, and celery lining the bottom of the roasting pan …
Tip 7: All-Natural Roasting Rack
A mirepoix of chopped carrot, onion, and celery lining the bottom of the roasting pan not only enhances the flavor of the turkey as it cooks, it also acts as a roasting rack, elevating the bird so heat can circulate under it, for even browning all over. After roasting under the turkey and becoming infused with pan juices, the mirepoix can be added to the gravy to boost its flavor, too. See the recipe for Crisp Apple-Scented Roast Turkey with Cider-Calvados Gravy »

Related: A Mexican Thanksgiving Menu »

White meat cooks faster than dark meat does, and breaking down a whole turkey into breasts, …
Tip 8: Perfectly Cooked Turkey
White meat cooks faster than dark meat does, and breaking down a whole turkey into breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings before cooking lets you give each part the treatment it deserves. Begin by seasoning and pan searing the turkey pieces skin-side down, then roast them skin-side up in the oven, removing individual pieces once they're cooked. See the recipe for Roast Turkey with Root Vegetables and Gravy »

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