10 Essential Thanksgiving Techniques

10 Essential Thanksgiving Techniques
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10 Essential Thanksgiving Techniques

These techniques are vital for Thanksgiving staples.

Image Credit: Christopher Testani

Baste With A Brush

News flash: You don’t need a baster. Use a brush to paint the drippings onto the turkey every 30 minutes or so, which keeps the bird moist and helps it get golden brown—all ­without burning yourself trying to ­siphon hot pan drippings.

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Always Use A Thermometer

Taking the temperature of your (de-)feathered friend is the most accurate way to tell if it’s ready. Remove the turkey from the oven (so the oven stays warm in case the bird’s not done). Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, keeping it parallel to the bone without hitting it. This spot reaches 165° last; if you’re good here, you’re good everywhere.

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A Ricer Is Nicer

Using a ricer gets you ­perfect mashed spuds: creamy, ­textured, fluffy, and never lumpy. Plus, it doesn’t make them gluey the way a potato masher does or hog cabinet space like a food mill. RSVP International makes a very good one ($15; chefsresource.com).

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Achieve Gratin Greatness

The key to gratins is having all the ingredients—whether they’re basic potatoes or the mixed root vegetables used in the recipe below—sliced the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. Make friends with a mandoline: It quickly yields precise, even slices.

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Don’t Sweat The Carving

It’s really not that hard, especially if you let the turkey rest at least 30 minutes beforehand. Just please—please!—use a sharp knife.

  1. Remove the legs: Cut through the skin connecting one leg to the breast.
Then, pull the leg away from the bird as you slice down to free the thigh joint. Use your hand to bend back the thigh until the joint pops out of the socket.
  2. Cut through the joint that connects the drumstick and thigh, then slice meat off the thigh. Leave drumstick whole. Repeat with other leg, transferring meat to a platter as you go.
  3. Cut through the shoulder joint to remove the wings from the breast, then through the “elbow” to separate the wing’s flat from the drumette.
  4. Remove each breast half: Starting near the neck, slice along one side of the breastbone, using it as a guide. Angle the knife and follow the curve of the rib cage to free the meat. Repeat on other side. Cut crosswise into slices.

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Day-Old Is The Way To Go

Airing out the bread for stuffing ensures it will keep its integrity and structure, so your end result is never gummy. (Don’t worry, drying bread doesn’t mean too-dry stuffing—broth takes care of that.) Let the torn bread sit out overnight, or bake the pieces in a 200° oven for an hour or two.

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We’re Big on Brine

A dry "brine" is great, but don’t forget the standard liquid version, which also yields moist and tender meat. Before you get started, remember these four points:

When brining your bird, go au naturel. Using kosher ­turkeys (which have already been salted and rinsed) or those injected with additives will make the meat way too salty.

  • Plan ahead. Brining takes about an hour per pound, so allow for a full day.

  • Use a large pot. Fifteen pounds is a whole lotta bird; make sure you have a bag or pot big enough to accommodate it—not to mention plenty of room in the fridge (an ice-filled cooler is handy for this).

  • Don’t wing it. Follow a recipe. The salt-sugar-water ratio is crucial and should not be improvised. When it comes to the other flavorings, suit yourself. Not into rosemary? Use a different herb. Want stronger garlic flavor? Crush up a few more heads.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Make That Pie Pretty

It’s your time to shine, pastry people. If you’re serving several pies, vary the look: crimped edges, leaf cutouts, double crust, or lattice toppings. But most important to master—and our favorite for a traditional pumpkin pie—is the classic crimp:

  1. After fitting dough into pie dish, trim excess with shears or a paring knife to create a 1″ overhang. Fold edge under to create a seamless, rounded border.
  2. Pinch dough between index finger and thumb to create a point while using your other index finger to make a dimple. Repeat, moving around edge.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Enhance Your Drippings

Adding liquid to the bottom of the roasting pan while the turkey cooks ensures plenty of flavorful drippings for basting and finishing the gravy, and keeps the bottom of the pan from scorching. Sure, you could add water, but using chicken broth and herbs gives you even tastier pan juices to work with.

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Gravy Is Only As Good As Its Roux

Yes, gravy should be lump-free (always whisk, don’t stir), but it’s the flavor of the roux that makes or breaks what gets passed at the table. Toasting flour in butter is what develops its deep, nutty taste. You’ll know it’s done when it’s the color of graham crackers and smells like popcorn.

Image Credit: Getty Images


By Alison Roman

Turkey carving, mashing potatoes, pie making, Thanksgiving is full of hard work! We've gathered the most important ones, so you don't have to worry.

Check out the slideshow above for 10 essential Thanksgiving techniques.

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For a mouth-watering stuffing and Thanksgiving entertaining ideas, check out our friends at Style Me Pretty.

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