Our Best-Ever Cooking Tips For Your Thanksgiving Day Feast
Secrets to a Crispy, Golden Turkey
Start with Dry Skin
Moisture is the enemy of a crisp exterior. Use paper towels to thoroughly pat the outside of the turkey dry before it goes into the oven. Or simply air-dry it, uncovered, in the refrigerator one day in advance.
Add Some Fat
After patting the exterior dry, fully coat the turkey with an even layer of oil or butter. Oil (which does not contain water) will yield the crispiest skin, but butter will give it more flavor.
Keep it Uncovered
Tenting the cooked poultry with aluminum foil traps heat and creates steam, which will soften that perfect skin. Cool the turkey as is in the pan—it will still be warm by the time it hits the serving platter.
The Brine Debate
"Dry-brining with a mix of salt and sugar draws the natural moisture of the bird to the surface for the crispiest skin and most flavorful meat you've ever had. It's much less messy too." —Mark Driskill, Test Kitchen Professional
"Wet-brining is the best way to lock in moisture. The long soak breaks down the turkey's protein fibers, allowing it to absorb the seasoned water, which adds more flavor and tenderizes the meat. This method requires extra time and fridge space (or a cooler), but the results are well worth it." —Paige Grandjean, Test Kitchen Professional
Two Turkeys Are Better than One
Are you prepared for hungry holiday guests? Rather than hunting for a supersize bird big enough for everyone, buy two that weigh 12 pounds or less, and cook them at the same time in separate pans (if oven space allows). Two smaller turkeys will cook more evenly and quickly than a single giant one. Bonus: extra drumsticks!
3 Ingredients for Great Gravy
This finely ground flour will dissolve instantly in hot liquid for consistently silky-smooth, lump-free results.
Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
Using reduced-sodium chicken stock allows you to control the seasoning better.
Finish the gravy by stirring in 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, which will add extra richness.
Even if you've served the same recipe for generations, four tiny tweaks will take this traditional holiday dish to the next level.
1. Swap in butter (or bacon fat) for the oil.
2. Toast bread cubes instead of using packaged stuffing mix.
3. Choose fresh herbs instead of dried ones.
4. Add crunch with freshly toasted pecans or walnuts.
"The key to Southern-style dressing is savory cornbread that's been properly dried. Bake it one to two days ahead, and let it cool. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and store it on your countertop until you're ready to make the dressing. Air-drying creates a better texture than oven-toasting." —Robby Melvin, Test Kitchen Director
Fast and Fancy Frozen Rolls
These tasty bread toppers will bring your frozen rolls up a notch.
Brush frozen rolls with olive oil. Sprinkle tops with grated Parmesan cheese, onion flakes, and fresh thyme leaves. Then bake as directed.
Brush frozen rolls with melted honey butter. Sprinkle tops with flaky salt and chopped rosemary leaves. Then bake as directed.
Brush frozen rolls with melted butter. Sprinkle tops with black pepper, flaky salt, and sesame seeds. Then bake as directed.
Up Your Apple Pie
1. Slice the Apples evenly so they will bake in the same amount of time.
2. Avoid the gap between the top crust and the filling by partially cooking apples in a skillet before you add them to the pie. Uncooked apples will shrink during baking.
3. Cool the filling before pouring it into the bottom crust. This will keep the butter firm, which makes for a flakier crust.
Perfect the Pumpkin Pie
1. Whisk the spices into the plain pumpkin puree; they will be incorporated more evenly in the filling.
2. Watch the pie carefully at the end of the baking time. Remove it from the oven when the center (about a 3-inch circle) is still wobbly like gelatin. As the pie cools, it will firm up but remain creamy and silky.
3. Add an extra egg EGG to the pumpkin filling for softer, more custard-like results.
4. Ensure a crisp crust by baking the pie on a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Piece Together a Pecan Pie
1. Don't overtoast the pecans. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast at 350°F for 5 to 6 minutes or until just fragrant.
2. Chop pecans instead of using whole nuts, which will make it tricky to cut clean slices of pie.
3. Use light corn syrup and granulated sugar for a rich, buttery taste, or mix dark corn syrup with packed brown sugar to achieve a deeper caramel flavor.
4. Remove the pie from the oven when a knife inserted in the center comes out with a clear coating of the filling that is not grainy or lumpy. The filling will firm up as it cools.
The Right Way to Make Whipped Cream
• You can choose between heavy cream and whipping cream. Heavy cream has a higher fat content, which makes sturdier whipped cream. Whipping cream beats up a bit silkier and lighter.
• Whipped cream comes together much faster if everything is cold. Start with chilled cream, and pop the mixing bowl and beaters (or whisk) in the freezer for 15 minutes.
• Use confectioners' sugar or superfine granulated sugar for the smoothest texture.
Add Extra Flavor
Start with 2 cups whipped cream, and then gently fold in 1 tablespoon of any of these ingredients.
1. Finely minced crystallized ginger
2. Ground cinnamon
3. Fresh orange zest
4. Almond extract