Thanksgiving Tips – 2020 will present challenges for all of us. Travel will be cut, more people will be alone or at least will have less family and friends around.
Even so, most of us will still gather to some degree, eat turkey and make a lot of the same things we would if we were having 20 people, instead of 4. With that in mind, here is our annual Thanksgiving article, updated for 2020.
Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize!
Make sure your guests have access to hand sanitizer. Set up stations in each area you expect your guests to be in. Pay extra attention to entrances, as well as bathrooms. The cleaner your hands, the better! And Masks should be considered.
Review COVID-19 Precautions
The most important thing you can do while you plan Thanksgiving dinner this year? Be informed. Make sure you’re up to date with the latest COVID-19 news in your area. Check out organizations like WHO and CDC — they offer the best information and recommendations to help you stay safe.
Spatchcock your turkey
Spatchcock or butterflied turkey allows you to cook the bird more evenly. And in about half the time. You sear the skin on the dark meat and get a nice, overall browning of the skin. And if you brine the turkey beforehand, the breast meat will not dry out. You will end up with a moist, tender delicious Thanksgiving Turkey that cooks in a little less than an two hours (depending on the size, of course). Either a wet or dry brine will work for turkeys.
There are many ways to cook a splayed turkey. My favorite recipe is the one from Melissa Clark of the NY Times https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018403-splayed-turkey-with-herbs. Not only is the recipe easy to follow, but I think she is a fabulous cook and engaging person on her cooking videos.
Or choose one of the following recipes below. But they all get to the same place eventually – a great Thanksgiving Turkey that is evenly cooked, moist and ready in half the time.
How to carve a turkey
Every Thanksgiving, I would roast a beautiful turkey, bring it to the table to show the admiring guests and proceed to butcher it into an unrecognizable mess. Until I learned how a turkey should be carved. Watch this NY Times video about how to carve a turkey. It shows you how and tells you why you do it this way. And the presentation at the table is far more elegant and functional for guests.
Other Thanksgiving Tips
- I know this will be heresy to many, but if you are cooking for a large group at Thanksgiving, save your self a lot of time and effort and buy Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes. To peel a couple dozen potatoes, cut them into 2 inch pieces, all the same size, boil them, cool them, put in a big pot and mash them is a lot of work when you have 10 other items to cook. Mashed Potatoes are not the stars of the meal, just a complimentary item.
- And if you happen to over cook the potatoes (which I have done) you have to start all over, because the starchy mess can’t be saved. You just hope a grocery store is open and they have a bag of potatoes left – on Thanksgiving Day. The best part is that Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes taste great, and have some minor lumps, so you can fool just about everyone into thinking you made them from scratch.
Shopping for Thanksgiving
- Shop several days early, especially for non-perishable items (stuffing, cranberry sauce, anything canned, baking supplies, etc). You will avoid the pre-Thanksgiving crush at the grocery store.
- Buy these things early and you’ll avoid the last-minute trip to the grocery store. You always forget something. These are the items we always forget to remember. Add them to your list, and you won’t have to make a trip Thursday morning to the store.
- Butter – One of my favorite sayings is there is no such thing as too much butter. Make sure you have plenty.
- Containers for Leftovers – For your guests to take home some leftovers. They don’t have to be fancy; in fact, they should be those restaurant take-out containers you don’t mind giving away.
- Aluminum foil – Like paper towels, this is indispensable and in high demand during the holiday—for tenting turkey or wrapping up leftover rolls. Be sure to have plenty on hand.
- Enough Ice – Easy to forget, so set a reminder to get a bag the day before, and put it in a cooler outside or your freezer.
- Heavy cream – Another kind of dairy you won’t want to forget. Because there’s nothing like fresh whipped cream on a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie.
- Paper towels – Cleaning up as you go. Wiping off plates, silverware and glasses. Lifting the turkey. Drying off anything. What do all of these have in common? The need for paper towels. Buy more than you think you need so you won’t get caught short. A definite Sam’s Club trip before Thanksgiving. If it hasn’t been hoarded in the pandemic.
- Beer/Wine/Sodas – After the grocery store, the worst place to be the day before Thanksgiving is the wine or liquor store. Take an inventory a week or so before the bog day and purchase accordingly. Most wine stores have curbside pickup now, making ordering easier.
Best Tips for Thanksgiving
- When making gravy from pan drippings, use soy sauce to both flavor the gravy and add color. Soy sauce has sodium (for flavor) and the dark color turns the home made gravy to a nice darker brown hue. You can find this tip in our FREE to download e-Cookbook “Sauces”.
- Start several days out with dicing your onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Keep them in a freezer bag or a plastic container.
- Go to your grocery store butcher in advance and order a fresh turkey instead of buying a frozen one. The difference in taste is noticeable. And you can usually pick it up whatever day you need to start preparing the bird. Curbside pickup may be very crowded this year.
- I feel like I’ve failed as a cook when there are no leftovers, so every year I cook a larger turkey, make a little more stuffing and make sure there is a lot of gravy. No such thing as too much gravy.
- If you are brining a turkey, do not brine a frozen turkey – they have added sodium injected in most cases.
And Even More Holiday Tips
- Try to get all of your side dishes done the day before.
- Have lots of chicken or turkey stock on hand. You can use stock to baste the turkey and make gravy.
- Use your oven space wisely: Do the mashed potatoes ahead and heat them in a double boiler to save room in the oven for things that need to crisp, like stuffing.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bird.
- Don’t try to serve the entire meal hot—you usually don’t have enough space or burners. One of my favorite dishes is a green bean salad that you can serve at room temperature.
- For big groups, don’t be afraid to use place cards. Strategic seating allows for better conversation by placing the extroverts in the right spot. No one wants to be stuck at the boring end of the table.
- The best of our Thanksgiving tips – Enjoy the day and the time spent with friends and family. Social distancing, of course.
Our e-Cookbook, Vol 1 “Sauces” is free and available to download. You can find it here. Vol 2 “Soups”, should be out soon.
If you liked our Thanksgiving Tips article, you should try our recipe for Spicy African Peanut Stew
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