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19 Thanksgiving Questions and How to Save your Dinner

Need help answering the Thanksgiving questions crossing your mind? Don't worry; I have got your back. If you have wondered why your feast turns into a mess every time you aren't looking, you are not alone. Each year, lots of cooks get the not-so-pleasant surprise of a partially or completely ruined Thanksgiving meal.

Sometimes the turkey is as dry as the Sahara Desert, or the potatoes are ideal to mold jars. Angry relatives, disappointed friends, and upset children are the result of the mishap. It is my intention to help you do what you need to do in case any of those disasters threaten to show their head into your kitchen. 99.9% of the time you can avoid them by following a few easy-to-do steps.

The 19 Thanksgiving Questions you Need to be Answered

Cooking is not an easy task and the more help you can get the better for you. Here is a list of the most often asked questions during the Thanksgiving celebration and their respective answers.

1. How do I know when the turkey is done?

Knowing when the turkey is ready is vital. There are several ways you can do this. The easiest way by far is by using an instant-read thermometer. Place and check it in the thickest area of the upper thigh about one minute before the turkey is finished. The temperature should be around 180°F (82°C). Take readings every 15 minutes to make sure it remains steady.

Another way to do it is by using the more traditional meat thermometer. Before putting the turkey in the oven, you must place the meat thermometer in the upper thigh. Remember to avoid touching the bone with the thermometer, or you won't get the proper reading. When it reaches 180°F (82°C), the turkey is ready.

One detail a lot of people forget is that if you are cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, you also need to check the temperature at the center of it.

Turkey with stuffing

As soon as you get the right temp in the meat, take the thermometer (either meat or instant-read) and place it in the stuffing. A reading of 165 °F (74 °C) means the turkey is ready to go.

2. What is the best way to use the leftovers?

If you want to maximize the yield of your leftovers, there are one or two things you can do. There isn't a right or wrong answer, by the way, just the one you like the most. Take the remaining turkey, cut it into smaller pieces, and mix it with any leftover potatoes. Take the newly concocted hash and brown it in a skillet for a crispy texture. You can take it to the next level by pouring some gravy over it for extra flavor.

3. Is it bad to cook the stuffing inside the turkey?

Most people love to cook the stuffing inside the turkey; however, it may not be the best idea. As you cook the turkey, the stuffing inside may remain several degrees below the temperature of the turkey. So, for example, if the thermometer inserted in the turkey reads 180 °F (82 °C), you are likely to believe that the stuffing is ready but that isn't the case.

Experts suggest that you either cook it outside or keep it inside the turkey for longer. Now, if you leave the bird too long in the oven just to make sure the stuffing is well-cooked, you risk a dry turkey.

So what can you do? Cook the stuffing outside. That is the simplest way to ensure your guests' safety and getting that crispy texture we all love.

4. Is it possible to have all dishes ready at the same time?

One of the most stressful things when making a Thanksgiving dinner is to make sure everything is in place to be eaten at the right time. It isn't an easy task to have a turkey, pumpkin pies, potatoes, and other side dishes done at the same time when your guests are prepared to chow down. You have to be some kind of superhero, or even better, a master planner.

Cooking your side dishes in advance and reheating them later will make everything easier, but that's not the only thing you can do. There is the alternative of putting them together just after the turkey is finished and out of the oven. The only thing you need to do is cover the turkey with aluminum foil and wrap with a towel to prevent it from getting cold while your side dishes get cooked.

5. How can I store the turkey?

While cooking your turkey correctly is a must, keeping it in mint condition for its debut shouldn't be overlooked. You can always store it in the freezer, but there's a more efficient way of doing it.

Get a big tray and place it at the bottom of the fridge. This is the reserved spot for your turkey. The tray is there to prevent any juices from spilling and making a mess. Your future Thanksgiving main course should be stashed for about 4 days prior the big day. Also, do not remove it from its packaging unless you are ready to season it.

6. What if I cook mashed potatoes ahead of time, is it any good?

Preparing your potatoes the night before your Thanksgiving meal is an excellent idea. Not only will it help you save time, but also simplify your life during the tense the moments of turkey cooking. I'm well aware that some people have gotten grainy or gluey potatoes after storing them; however, there are ways around it. Adding a bit of extra heavy cream among other ingredients can preserve the potatoes' flavor and consistency.

7. How can I get yummy crispy roasted potatoes?

In addition to the turkey, your potatoes must be in pretty good shape if you want to impress your guests. One approach to doing this is by delivering crunchy roasted potatoes to your table. Not many dishes can match the tenderness of a well-done turkey with the crunchy-but-soft-at-the-same-time potatoes.

You can easily do this by first parboiling the potatoes in water before any roasting takes place. Once they are done, scrape them a bit to increase their surface area and finally throw them in a baking tray with some olive oil.

8. How big should the turkey be?

It all depends on how hungry your guests are (just kidding). A good rule of thumb is to plan for 1 pound of turkey per person. So for 15 people, a 15-pound turkey is good enough. That doesn't mean each is eating one pound of turkey as only some parts of the turkey are edible. It will be closer to 8 ounces of meat or less per guest. Still, that's more than enough.

9. Which is better, a big turkey or two small ones?

I think two small turkeys are better than one. Why? It isn't a secret that large birds take longer and are harder to cook evenly. Getting the precise moisture you want is more challenging for the big ones as well.

With two small turkeys, everybody wins. They are easier to cook, moist, and can make your guests happier. You will have more variety in the turkey pieces as some people are fascinated by the wings and the drumsticks rather than the breast (my father is one of them).

10. What if I want to deep fry a turkey?

If you want to deep fry a turkey, go for it. However, there are a few things you must keep in mind. First, always deep fry the turkey by itself. Why? The stuffing turns into a giant oily mess when it falls out of the turkey. Second, do it in an open space like the porch or the backyard. You want a lot of ventilation when deep frying.

Here is quick video answering common Thanksgiving questions:

11. Can I just cook the frozen turkey?

Nope, it will never work. If you risk it, the most you will get is burned skin with a frozen solid interior. Even if you set the oven to a very high temperature, it won't make a difference. In other words, this a huge don't in Thanksgiving.

12. What can I do if my guests are vegetarians?

You could always cook a tofu turkey, or another vegetarian “meat” as there are different alternatives in the freezer area of most grocery stores. And you can also still make great mashed potatoes with a dairy free milk (unsweetened) and “butter” spread or an amazing potato salad with vegetable mayonaisse.

Also a shepherd's pie filled with veggies, vegetable “meat” or chopped mushrooms (instead of ground beef), as an extra side dish is an almost guaranteed success.

13. How can I defrost a turkey fast?

There are several possible approaches to do this. The ideal one is leaving it in the fridge on a tray for 3 to 4 days (1 day per 4 lbs).

Another one, which is more of a quick fix, is submerging it in water in a large cooler or the sink (still wrapped in the packaging). The breast part should be facing the bottom, and you should rotate it every 30 minutes. Water must be cold and changed hourly.

14. Can I use a slow cooker to prepare any part of the Thanksgiving meal?

Yes, using a slow cooker is an excellent idea to get ahead in your preparations. More space in your oven, fewer complications while cooking, and extra time to enjoy your day are just some perks you get with this convenient appliance.

15. How to avoid the dry turkey?

I'm sure drying the turkey isn't part of your Thanksgiving plan. You see most people leave the bird inside the oven as they wait for the stuffing to get ready. But doing that just leeches the delicious juices out of the turkey.

To get the moist texture everybody loves, don't overcook it. Also, adding a generous amount of gravy doesn't hurt.

16. What do I do if the stuffing gets too dry?

Not a problem. Add some turkey stock (but not too much), cover with foil, and let the oven work its magic at 350 °F (177 °C) for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it every 4 minutes or so.

17. What if my gravy gets too lumpy?

That's easy enough to fix. Toss it in a blender, wait a few seconds, and it won't be lumpy anymore. If you don't like blenders, get your finest strainer and problem solved.

18. How do I get the ideal texture in mashed potatoes?

Soft mashed potatoes aren't that hard to make. As long you choose the right type, you have done most of the work. Russets are perfect to get a fluffy consistency, but if you pick any of the red variety, it will be more gluey and chunky. Extra butter and cream with the correct amount of mashing should be enough to complete one of the top companions of any Thanksgiving dinner.

19. How can I make amazing whipped cream?

You can start by getting heavy whipping cream directly from the fridge and pour it into a cold bowl, then whip to your liking (as long as you don't overdo it).

The difficulties that may occur while preparing a Thanksgiving dinner are almost endless. Even well-seasoned cooks may hit a roadblock if they forget to add an ingredient or execute a step in the preparation of the meal. It is your newly acquired knowledge what will come in handy whenever this situation arises.

I'm positive after answering the previous Thanksgiving questions your dinner will be great and your guests will be happy. If your food at some point is in critical condition, just apply what you have learned here, and rejoice in your prodigious culinary skills. Your family and friends will be grateful for the palate-friendly banquet.



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