Thanksgiving Cooking Guide

I’m re-posting my Thanksgiving Cooking Guide from last year. I still am afraid to risk my Thanksgiving turkey using Chris Kimball’s November 2012 recipe for Grilled Turkey. I still hope to give that recipe a try later, but won’t risk my huge Thanksgiving turkey on the idea. So, my options are:

  1. Herb Roasted Turkey, which I’ve rated 5-stars in the past. It is brined in salt water for 4 to 6 hours, then air-dried, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours to get crisp skin. The herb paste adds great flavor, but the recipe calls for a relatively hot oven (400-degrees) so I doubt this will work on my big turkey.
  2. Old Fashioned Roast Turkey.  This is one of my favorite turkeys. It is drapped with salt pork, which constantly bastes the turkey during baking. Also, it salts the turkey instead of brines it.
  3. Brined Roasted Turkey. For many years I brined my turkey to help keep the turkey from drying out. Chris Kimball’s formula is 1 cup salt per gallon cold water for 4-to 6-hour brine or 1/2 cup salt per gallon cold water for 12-to 14-hour brine. The hardest part is finding a stockpot or clean bucket large enough for the turkey.
  4. Roasting Pre-cut Turkey Parts. For 2013 Cook’s Illustrated is urging me to cut up my turkey prior to cooking. Even though using Julia Child’s name does give me some assurance that everything would be okay, I simply cannot bring myself to depart from a traditional whole turkey roasting all day in the oven. It’s as much as the warm, aroma-filled house as it is about the seeing the massive turkey resting before the meal. In other words, giving thanks for turkey parts seems insincere.


  1. Best Turkey Gravy. A classic recipe for turkey gravy.
  2. Make-Ahead Dripping-less Turkey Gravy. This recipe was developed by Cook Illustrated because it’s associated turkey recipe was cooked too hot to yield usable drippings. So if you don’t have drippings, here is the solution.

Cranberry Sauce:

  1. Cranberry-Orange Sauce. Don’t make a standard cranberry sauce, when a little bit of triple sec and orange zest make it so much more interesting.
  2. Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce. I made this recipe for years, which is 100 times better than canned cranberry sauce.


  1. Fluffy Mashed potatoes. Cut potatoes into 1″ chunks. Rinse, Steam for 10 minutes, Rinse again, Steam for 20 more minutes until done. It requires my Dutch Oven, but I’ve had dinner guest that raved more about these potatoes than the 5-star main course.
  2. Holiday Scalloped Potatoes. A nice 4-star alternative to standard mashed potatoes.
  3. Master Recipe for Mashed Potatoes. Requires boiling potatoes with their skins on, then peeling hot potatoes. For 15 years Chris Kimball has told us to make mashed potatoes this way.
  4. Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Peeled before cooking, then boiled in half-and-half normally added at the end of the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie:

  1. Matt’s Pumpkin Pie. Make the filling the night before for the best flavor. This recipe is based upon King Arthur Flour recipe. My son Matt took over the pumpkin pie baking responsibilities in 2011. For him, it’s a labor of love.
  2. Libby’s Pumpkin Pie. For a long time this was my “go to” pumpkin pie recipe, until I discovered the King Arthur recipe.
  3. Chris Kimball’s Pumpkin Pie. I could never bring myself to put yams into a pumpkin pie, so have never made it.

4 Responses to Thanksgiving Cooking Guide

  1. Dennis says:

    I combine the thawing and brining process. Monday evening (assuming Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday 🙂 put the frozen turkey in the sink and pour a small stream of cold water over it just long enough so you can get the plastic wrapper off. In a large ice chest mix brine of 3 cups salt (kosher or pickling) 1 cup sugar and 3 gallons water. Put the still frozen turkey in the ice chest. If the brine does not come up 1/2 way add plastic pop bottles filled with water to take up space. Flip the bird every 12 hours. Thursday morning the bird will be thawed but still cold. Rinse well with water before baking. Bird will be perfectly seasoned but the drippings will be on the salty side. Make a roux with the drippings and add lots of milk to make gravy.

  2. Sarah says:

    For me, it’s the old fashioned roast turkey with the salt pork. Tasty, easy, and low maintenance. As for your pie? I have been a pumpkin pie girl my whole life, but this year I made Cook’s Country Sweet Potato Pie and it was so successful that I have made it four times again since(for various family and friends who enjoyed it during Thanksgiving). If not, it’s hard to go wrong with Libby’s recipe.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I’m going the salt pork version this year too. I already bought the salt pork, so I am committed.

    I think my son would run away from home if there was no pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. lol. In addition to the standard Libby recipe, the King Arthur Recipe adds the following:
    -Extra Egg
    -1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    -A little more brown sugar
    -1 teaspoon ground ginger
    -1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    Overall, I think it’s an improvement over Libby’s.


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