Burning the turkey is far from all that can go wrong when it comes to preparing your Thanksgiving meal. Each side dish and dessert, from stuffing to pumpkin pie, provides potential pitfalls which threaten to take joy from the ever important holiday. Thankfully (yes!), there are myriad ways to avoid these traps, and reading these tips will hopefully boost your holiday experience.
Turkey Time is Here
Turkey is traditionally the main course of a Thanksgiving meal, so it is crucial to get that bird right. You may swear by your family recipe and know just how your friends and family members like their meat. That’s great! But it can be helpful to know that adding or subtracting variables can lead to potential mishaps. For instance, if someone wants to try cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, it may be a better idea not to. Cooking stuffing inside a turkey may result in raw meat juices seeping into the bread before it is cooked. There is also the likelihood cooking the stuffing inside the turkey will dry the meat out.
Speaking of dry turkeys, one of the best ways to avoid this dilemma is to invest in a cooking thermometer. This way you can check both the breast and thigh portions and know when the meat is precisely 160 degrees. Another method some people use to get an even browning of their turkey is “spactchocking.” This approach involves removing the bird’s backbone and cooking it flat. One can insert the backbone or other tool to keep the meat flat and sideways. This generally cooks the meat more evenly.
Get Your Carbs Correct
Thanksgiving would not be complete without delicious carb dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing. But even these classics can lose their luster if you are not careful. “Sticky” mashed potatoes is a common mishap people encounter, which generally has to do with starch reactions inside the potatoes. To avoid this, you may choose to use a potato ricer rather than mashing the potatoes. Another tip is to transform the potatoes into a cheesy mashed dish by baking them in a muffin pan.
Stuffing tends to become soggy if the proper steps are not taken. There are a couple ways to improve a stuffing dish that just hasn’t cut the mustard. If the stuffing comes out too loose and lacks structure, one may want to add toasted croutons to make the dish more firm. On the other hand, if the stuffing is too gummy, one may instead opt to fold in layers of heated vegetable oil to soften it up.
Gravy can be the perfect accompaniment to stuffing, mashed potatoes and turkey. But it doesn’t always turn out perfect, does it! Quick fix methods for lumpy gravy are additional whisking, and if that doesn’t work, pushing the gravy through a strainer. The most important whisking moments are when sprinkling flour over the fat, and then when your liquid is added. If all else fails, a quick trip to the blender can chop away the few stubborn clumps that remain.
Bring it Home with Dessert
What would Thanksgiving dinner be without pumpkin pie? While to the untrained eye the pumpkin pie may look like a straightforward conduit for whipped cream, in reality this holiday staple can be a tricky little devil. Some people struggle keeping the crust from getting burned, in which case you may want to try cutting a hole in a fairly large swath of tin foil, then placing it over the pie to protect the crust. For those who fear a soggy crust, adding the pie filing to an already oven-warmed crust can make all the difference in getting your crust perfect.
Thanksgiving should be a time of fun and festivity. If you plan on doing Thanksgiving cooking, hopefully you will have plenty of help. Plan ahead for the big day as well as you can, but keep in mind perfection is unlikely. Keep these cooking tips in mind and you may be able to avoid a measure of stress. Who knows, you may even find some of these methods add spice to your holiday experience.