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Help! I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and I've never cooked a
turkey before. I have no idea what size turkey to get, where to buy it, what
kind, and how early. Do I have to place an order ahead of time? Can I buy it
fresh and bring it home a couple of days ahead to avoid long lines? Or should it
be frozen and then thawed out? What about kosher turkeys? I've heard that
brining is the best and that kosher turkey's are already brined. Where do I buy a
kosher turkey? And what about all the cooking utensils? I don't have a carving
knife. Does it really matter? And what kind of thermometer works best?
There will be 8 adults eating the turkey. My oven is small and won't fit large
roasting pans. What is the smallest size turkey I can get away with for 8 people?
The SF Chronicle has done a great ''turkey training camp'' for
cooknig Thanksiving meals for the last several years. You can
find last year's article in the archives at
hope that helps, good luck!
I recommend going to www.epicurious.com. They just posted a
checklist and have some failproof methods on turkey-ing.
I always order my turkey from Piedmont Grocery. I say, I'm
having 15 people over. What size should I get? And they tell me
and I buy it. Leftovers are always good.
My tried and true method is to buy Cajun Injector spices (found
at Safeway), the Garlic Butter flavor. It comes with an
injector. I inject Tom up like a heroin addice and let him sit
for a bit in the fridge. Then, I preheat the oven to 375
degrees. I pop Tom in the oven for about 20 minutes. Then, I
lower the temp to 325 and cover him looseley with a foil tent.
I also wrap the edges of the wings and the legs in foil to keep
them from burning.
Also, buy a meat thermometer. Can't remember the temp it should
be but look it up and use that to help you determine its done.
Also, don't tell anyone, but in the first hour of roasting, I
put a stick of butter in his cavity. Then, toward the end, I
put a stick of butter on top and let it melt. Hey, you only eat
T-giving once a year so enjoy the fat.
Roast him for about 3 hours (depending on the size) and be sure
to BASTE every 20 minutes to keep him moist.
Don't forget to cook some really great sides.
Love to cook my turkey
For 8 people, you can get a small turkey 10-12 lbs, which is as
small as they go. Note that this is assuming there will be
plenty of side dishes as well.
You have many choices as to what type of turkey you get. Regular
supermarket turkeys have been bread to have huge breasts and they
are massed produced so they are cheaper. Kosher turkeys are
already brined, but it's easy to brine a turkey yourself by
submerging it in a salt/walter solution for a few hours. Still,
that may require a larger bowl or more refrigerator space that
you have available. Other choices are organic and heritage
turkeys. The latter are descendants of the original turkeys and
have smaller breasts/more dark meat. They are also much more
If you buy a regular turkey, you can just pick it up at the
supermarket frozen whenever. If you want a fresh turkey, a
heritage turkey or something special you may be better off
ordering one or at least talking to the poultry people at the
supermarket as to what they will have available.
A chef's knife is good enough for carving and any meat
thermometer that's working properly should be good.
Check for recipes and instructions online - there is a plethora
thanksgiving is family time... be human. You are probably
having ''family'' over for dinner... ask for help from the guests,
especially if they are local. get a 12 pound or so fresh turkey
and a pan that will fit your oven on Tuesday or Wednsday. Keep
the turkey in an Ice cest and leave it wraped and add ice 2X a
day until Thursday AM when the ''family arrives. Your Mother in
law will love being asked for help. Have eveyone bring
something, admit you are overwhelmed by it, Get aunt to bring
the potatoes, have a bag of frozen peas and jellied and berry
cranberry and take the advice OR
All the markets have ''prepared dinners''.... buy one
Personally, I would stop by Andronico's and have a chat with
the butcher; tell them your situation and ask for suggestions!
And even though it's Thanksgiving, you don't HAVE to do a
turkey, especially if you have a small oven; a couple of roast
chickens might be more appropriate. Or a ham. The simpler you
keep the logistics, the more fun you are going to have!
Williams and Sonoma has a lot of good info on their website
about cooking a Thanksgiving meal. As for getting a small
turkey, Andronico's has small turkeys that feed 6-8 people.
So does Whole Foods and Magnani's on Hopkins Street. Buy
fresh,the turkey is always better this way. You can buy it a
few days ahead. I would suggest you keep it simple. Turkey,
one vegi, potatoes and stuffing. And, of course pie.
You can chop all the stuff for your stuffing the day before and
store in frig. Then mix it togther in the morning. Pies can
be made 2 days ahead of time (or buy them). Mashed potatoes
need to be cooked on Thanksgiving.
I just read in the Trader Joe's flyer that they are selling
bags of chopped celery and onions. What a easy way to go for
making stuffing. Their cranberry sauce is pretty good too.
TJ's would be a good place for a couple of easy appetizers.
Buy some spiced cashews, and one or two other things to nibble
on while turkey is cooking. I like to buy their gorgonzola and
pecan spread and put a small dollop on endive as an appetizer
(they sell the endive also). People seem to like this.
If you do a salad, buy at TJ's their bagged spinach, shredded
carrots, cooked soybeans, candied pecans and crumbled blue
cheese. Throw it all in a bowl and use Brianna's blush
dressing (Andronico's sells this). It is a very easy salad and
everyone loves it. They also have good rolls.
Feel free to contact me if you want some other ideas. I know
the first time can be a little scary. I know I always over do
it and cook too much. That is why I suggested keeping it
simple since you have a small group. Good luck.
Here's a link from the Chronicle for cooking a brined turkey.
I used this recipie a few weeks ago and it worked very nicely.
Fear not! Cooking a turkey is actually really, really easy.
Try to buy a fresh turkey - they are much better than frozen ones. I usually buy
mine on Monday or Tuesday, and it keeps just fine in the fridge until Tday. The
official rule of thumb is 1 pound per person, but I usually go larger so as to have
leftovers, especially if you have houseguests - turkey sandwiches are part of the fun
of Thanksgiving! Personally I would get a 12 pounder for 8 people.
Brining does indeed produce a nice bird, but if you have limited space and are
worried about it all, I wouldn't bother. You can cook a really nice bird without
Preheat your oven to 350. Wash the bird, then stuff it if you wish. Then cover the
bird with a clean kitchen towel (a teatowel, not a fluffy terrycloth towel. A clean
piece of old cotton sheet works just as well). The towel should completely cover the
bird. Then take a stick of soft butter, and rub it all over the towel. Anywhere the
towel touches the bird should have butter rubbed into it.
Place the turkey breast-side up in a roasting pan. Place in the oven, and let roast.
You can baste it if you want, but really you don't need to. You don't really need to
do anything else at all - just let it cook! A 12 pound turkey, with stuffing, will
probably take 3-3 1/2 hours to cook.
For a themometer, just pick up one a the grocery store. I have had bad luck with the
instant-read kind, so just get your basic meat thermometer.
The turkey will be jucier if you allow it to sit for about 15 minutes after you take it
out of the oven, before carving.
I saw your 2nd posting about logisitics. Pies, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes
can all be made in advance. The 2 things that you really cannot make in advance
are mashed potatoes and gravey. You can chop the potatoes up early, but you can't
cook them and then mash them later - they always come out lumpy.
Have a wonderful time, and please remember, your guests are there to enjoy
themselves. They are not going to sit around criticizing you! We all tend to think
we have to create some perfect meal, when in reality having a decent meal, with lots
of love and laugher, will make a memorable Thanksgiving.
Relax. It's not that hard to cook a turkey well, but it does take
some time and preparation.
First, if you really worried, you can always pre-order a
fully-cooked turkey from your supermarket. I know from experience
that Andronicos makes an excellent turkey.
Second, if you and your guests prefer white meat, you might
consider making a breast only. It will be more expensive,
especially when many supermarkets will give a turkey for free or
nearly free, but it will be faster and easier to cook.
Kosher meat, including turkey, has been salted and rinsed, which
is highly similar to brining. You can buy whole kosher turkeys at
most supermarkets frozen. You don't need to pre-order. In the
past few years Trader Joes has carried fresh kosher whole turkeys
and turkey breasts right before Thanksgiving. Of course, you
could also go to the kosher butcher, Oakland Kosher Foods on
Lakeshore Ave, who will probably have a good variety. My personal
feeling is that kosher turkeys are delicious and at least the
Empire brand birds are treated humanely and are not given
antibiotics routinely. The only downside to kosher poultry is
that they tend to have a few little feathers sticking to them.
Some people remove these, but I generally don't bother.
I don't think there is a detectable difference in the taste of
fresh and frozen turkeys. In fact, I believe government
regulations allow turkeys to be frozen to the point they are
hard, defrosted, and then sold as ''fresh.'' Thawing is easiest and
safest (but most time- and space-consuming) in the refrigerator.
You'll want to defrost one day for each 3-4 lbs of turkey, so a
12 lb. turkey will take 3-4 days.
If you brine your own turkey, the main challenge is to keep it
cool while it is soaking. This can be accomplished with a big
cooler and ice. You'll also find safety tips, instructions, and
recipes at various websites like http://www.butterball.com or
marthastewart.com, and you can be sure that you'll see a lot
about cooking turkey in the newspaper and on TV in the next few
In my opinion, the best type of thermometer is digital with a
little probe on a wire. You set it to go off when the meat
reaches a certain temp, e.g. 160F for white meat. These cost
$20-$40, so if this is the only time you'll use it, get something
cheaper. Second-best is a digital ''pencil'' instant-read
thermometer, about $15. It will take several hours to cook in the
For what its worth, my advice is to order a pre-cooked one at Whole Foods Market.
They are great turkeys and taste great. In addition, if you have a small oven, it
makes the day a lot easier because you can use your oven to cook all the side dishes
and dessert. You can send someone to pick it up that day and it'll be all ready to go.
You can get the gravy there too since that's hard to make without the turkey parts.
I find ordering the turkey and cooking everything else makes for a stress-free
holiday and its still full of home-made goodness.
You can order a boxed turkey dinner from Whole Foods or Diablo
Foods. I believe the turkey still needs to be ''finished'' in the
oven, but is all prepped - I've heard they do a good job.
Expensive though. To make your own... I recommend ''The Joy of
Cooking'' recipe for making a brined turkey, if you have it.
There are plenty of recipes online too. Don't brine a kosher
turkey, as it's already salted, different from brining. You can
make brine using table salt or kosher salt (maybe that was the
confusion) and soak the bird in it overnight in the
refrigerator. Get a BIG container that will hold the turkey,
covered with brine, and fit in your refrigerator. You'd be safe
with a 10 pound bird for 8 people. Order turkey now from most
supermarkets. Fresh turkeys are best, but sometimes are kept so
cold that they're superficially frozen and need a day to totally
thaw out. For a fresh turkey, pick up Tuesday and thaw overnight
in your refrigerator, brine overnight on Wednesday, cook on
Tools: #1. Instant-read meat thermometer: it has a dial on top
of a metal spike. #2. Even a cheap carving knife will work
better than a steak or table knife. A regular fork or tongs will
hold the turkey while you carve. #3. I've seen inexpensive
medium-sized roasting pans with V-shaped racks at places like
Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Costco. #4. Trussing kit (string
and small metal skewers) if you want, but I've cooked a turkey
without and it works fine.
After the turkey is done, you should let it sit on the counter
for 1/2 hour+ to let the juices redistribute. In that time, you
can bake/reheat the other prepped food in the oven and
microwave, and make gravy. (If you're making gravy from the pan
drippings, I highly recommend a fat separator - like a measuring
cup with a spout coming out of the bottom.) The whole process
can be intimidating, but just smile and think about how tasty it
I would try a reynolds cooking bag. You just season and follow
the directions in the package. Comes out great everytime. No
mess all the grease and fat stay in the bag. Think of the turkey
as a BIG chicken. A 12lb turkey may be enough. You could cook
2 small ones. A 12 to 15 lb turkey takes about 3 hours or so in
a cooking bag. You could cook them one after another. Or take
the fast way and order a pre cooked dinner at the store. Good
Go to Cafe Rouge on 4th street and walk to the back of the restaurant to
the charcuterie and order a brined turkey. Explain exactly your problem
as you did in the email and the wonderful young, sweet smart articulate
butchers will tell you everything you need to know. They will tell you
how to cook it - what temp, where to stick the thermometer and how big
of a bird you can get away with - ask for shannon - (male shannon not
female) - he is wonderful at explaining technique. Then go across the
street to sur la tab and buy a thermometer and then to ace hardware to
buy a simple old fashioned roasting pan - black with white specs like
grandma has. the price is $3.50 and lb which is pricey but you are
getting free range, maybe organic (I forget), antibiotic free - a much
better bird than anything ele out there (all their meat is outrageously
delicious - if you don't shop there for meat you have no idea what you
are missing). Anyway, call 411 - tell them berkeley - cafe rouge and call
them to get their hours and directions if you are unsure where they are.
They open at 11 am. It is a fabulous meat market - I have cooked many
thanksgiving turkeys over the years and theirs are the best - also at
xmas I get a standing rib roast and it blows all my guests minds - it is like
eating like a king!
OKay - hope that helps - seriously, ignore everything else you read and
do this - it is the simplest, best way b/c these guys are cooks, they know
what they are saying - they will not steer you wrong like all these home
cooks who over cook their birds making a chewy dry gross turkey that
everyone pretends is good!
does anyone have a tasty recipe for low carb stuffing for
Thanksgiving? i hate to pass it up and thought there should be a
good recipe out there. Thanks!
I found these on an Atkins thread at eDiets.com: 2 stuffing
recipes; one for ''mashed potatoes'' using cauliflower--I LOVE it.
SAUSAGE STUFFING with NUTS
This stuffing harks back to the forcemeat stuffings of classic
French cuisine that moistened the dry interiors of wild game.
It's rich, dense, and savory-
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup minced onion
8 oz bulk pork sausage (like Jimmy Dean)
1 diced green pepper (I always use red)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage or thyme, optional
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans out on a
baking sheet. Spread the pine nuts out on another baking sheet.
Toast each batch of nuts 5 to 8 minutes, until they begin to
smell nutty and take on color. Check the pine nuts frequently,
since they burn easily. Cool the nuts and break the pecans into
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Cook
for two minutes over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up
with the side of a spoon. Cook slowly until the sausage is browned.
Stir in the nuts and the remaining ingredients except the eggs.
Whisk the eggs together lightly and combine with the sausage
mixture. Transfer the stuffing to a greased 9-inch baking dish.
Cover with foil and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25
Exotic Mushroom & Turkey Sausage Stuffing
Makes 6 Cups
4 Large Yellow Onions
4 Tbls Olive Oil
5 Cups mushrooms, coarsely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste, Sea Salt
1/2 cup White Wine
3 Tbls Butter
2 Pounds spicy turkey sausage, (you might have to remove the casings)
1 Bunch of Fresh Tarragon Leaves only
On Low heat saute the onions until carmelized in olive oil. Turn
up to medium heat & add the mushrooms. Cook 10 - 15 minutes until
Season with Salt and Pepper.
Turn up the heat to high & add the wine, cook 2 minutes, then
turn the mixture down to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Stir in butter, 1 Tbls at a time until it is all combined with
mushroom mixture. Remove and set aside.
In a large skillet, brown the sausage, add the mushroom mixture
You can make this one day ahead.
I was just on the Atkins site to look at recips and there is a
prompt for Thanksgiving recipe.
1 large head cauliflower
1/3 cup cream
4 oz. cream cheese
1 Tablespoon butter
salt & pepper
1. Simmer the cauliflower in water with the cream added to it
(This keeps the cauliflower sweet and prevents it from turning a
gray color). When the cauliflower is very soft, drain thouroughly.
2. Put the till-warm cauliflower in a food processor with the
cream cheese, butter and salt & pepper to taste and process until
smooth ( you may have to do this in more than one batch.
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