Top 10 Essential Thanksgiving Tips



1. Spatchcock your turkey to cut cooking time in half.

For poultry that cooks quickly and evenly, I recommend Spatchcocking. To do this, use a chef's knife and poultry shears to remove the back bone, then flatten the bird on a sheet pan and rub it with butter, salt and pepper. This technique helps to cut cooking time in half and results in a juicier bird.

2. Roast your spices before rubbing them on your turkey.

To get the most out of peppercorns and other whole spices, I recommend roasting them in a sauté pan and then crushing them with a mortar and pestle to bring out the flavors before using in a turkey brine. The spice blend used consists of black pepper, cinnamon sticks and star anise. They can all be whole seeds or dry powder. Then lines the inside of the bird (not the outside — or else it would burn!) with the blend.

3. Use citrus to brighten the flavor of your turkey.

If you like to "wake up" the flavor of your turkey, you might want to do this - include citrus, such as lemon, limes and oranges, in a seasoning rub: Coat the turkey in peanut oil and season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and freshly chopped garlic. Then add enough lemon and orange zest to cover the bird. Save the fruit itself for your cocktails later! When you roast (or grill) the bird with citrus zest the skin gets nice and crispy and it also adds the much needed acidity to really elevate the flavor of the dish. Hint: When zesting citrus, be sure to stop zesting before you get to the bitter white pith below the colorful skin. A Microplane is useful for this.

4. Spread mayo under your turkey's skin to get it crispy.

You may have heard of rubbing seasoned butter under the skin of the turkey before cooking it to impart moisture and flavor, but I suggest a different spread: mayonnaise. You may season the mayo with lemon and herbs, roasted garlic or even bacon, then pipes it between the skin and meat. This adds flavor, locks in moisture and helps to crisp the skin.

Shallot & Herb Mayo

Makes 2 quarts

  • 14 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 42 ounces grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon shallots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon chives and parsley, chopped

Place yolks, Dijon and salt in a food processor. Turn on. Slowly pour in 1/4 of the oil. Slowly add red wine vinegar. Add another 1/4 of oil, slowly. You should start to see it thicken. Add half the water. Add another 1/4 of oil. Add the rest of the water. Add the rest of the oil. Fold in chopped shallots, chopped chives and parsley.

5. Rely on temperature rather than color to know when your turkey is done.

To be sure your turkey is done but not overdone, go by the reading on your meat thermometer (it should register 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh and breast), rather than the color of the meat. As long as the temperature is correct, no need to worry if the leg meat is dark pink rather than brown, especially if you are cooking a heritage bird. "But you don't want to see red".

6. Confit the dark meat.

Since the dark meat on a turkey takes longer to cook than the white meat, I like to cook the breast and legs separately. I suggest a confit for the dark meat, which means cooking the meat in fat (traditionally its own fat, but you can use other fats, such as the mixture of olive and canola oils.

7. Deep-fry individual portions of your turkey.

For faster and more even cooking, I also like to cook the different parts of the turkey separately. I recommend buying turkey parts rather than a whole bird and then deep-frying drumsticks, thighs, wings and breasts individually.

8. No more room in the fridge? Brine your turkey in a cooler.

If you can't find a brining bag and/or your fridge is not large enough to fit the whole turkey, just brine it in a cooler. Just be sure to replenish the cooler with ice as it melts, making sure to keep the turkey at or below 40 degrees. A clean, dry cooler is also useful for keeping turkey and side dishes warm in transit.

Turkey Brine

  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer until the salt is dissolved and the water is fragrant. Cool the mixture, pour it into a large container or brining bag, add the turkey and brine, refrigerated, for 24 hours.

9. Ice your turkey before it goes in the oven so it doesn't dry out.

Are you always drying out the turkey? This year, try this tip: throw an ice bag on your raw turkey for 15 minutes before it goes into the oven.


10. Use tapioca starch instead of flour to thicken your gravy.

Instead of thickening your gravy with flour, you may use tapioca starch, which gives gravy a nice consistency — not too thick or thin and not gelatinous — plus it's gluten-free!


* Tastic Spice is available HERE

Do me a favor?  If you decide to be great and make this recipe, take a pic and share it on Instagram and tag me (@mrfoodtastic) and use the hashtag #mrfoodtastic so I can see just how amazing you are.  I repost my favorite ones 😊

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