Follow these timing tips to ensure a stress-free turkey day
Thanksgiving is stressful enough without also having to break out the calculator and suffer through math class flashbacks. So leave the calculating to us and use this holiday cheat sheet to make your life – and cooking – a little easier.
All serving estimates are generous to allow for plenty of seconds and leftovers.
For turkeys under 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per serving (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine; they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio. But if your goal is to have ample leftovers, aim for 1 1/2 pounds per person whatever the turkey’s size.
• For eight people, buy a 12-pound turkey
• For 10 people, buy a 15-pound turkey
• For 12 people, buy an 18-pound turkey
• For 14 people, buy a 20-pound turkey
The big thaw?
The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. You’ll need about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. You also can put the turkey in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and plan for about 30 minutes per pound.
Never brine a turkey for more than about eight to 10 hours; much longer and the meat will be too salty. Always keep the bird refrigerated during brining. If the turkey is too big, an ice-filled cooler stored outside works, too.
Roasting temperatures vary widely by recipe. Some go at a slow and steady 325 degrees. Others crank the heat to 400 degrees or 425 degrees for the first hour, then drop it down for the rest of the time.
However you roast, use an instant thermometer inserted at the innermost part of the thigh (without touching bone) to determine when your turkey is done. The meat needs to hit 165 degrees for safe eating, though some people say thigh meat tastes better at 170 degrees.
The following roasting time estimates are based on a stuffed turkey cooked at 325 degrees. Reduce cooking time by 20 to 40 minutes for turkeys that are not stuffed. And remember, a crowded oven cooks more slowly, so plan ahead if your bird needs to share the space.
• 12-pound turkey: 3 to 4 hours
• 15-pound turkey: 4 to 4 1/2 hours
• 18-pound turkey: 4 1/2 to 5 hours
• 20-pound turkey: 5 to 6 hours
The turkey should never go directly from the oven to the table. Like most meat, it needs to rest at least 20 minutes for the juices to redistribute.
• Carrots: a 1-pound bag makes 4 to 5 servings
• Cranberry sauce: a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries makes about 2 1/4 cups of sauce; a 16-ounce can has 6 servings
• Gravy: plan for 1/3 cup of gravy per person
• Green beans: 1 1/2 pounds makes 6 to 8 servings
• Mashed potatoes: a 5-pound bag of potatoes makes 10 to 12 servings
• Stuffing: a 14-ounce bag of stuffing makes about 11 servings
The following recipes are from Alison Ladman’s stories for the Associated Press.
Maple-Cider Glazed Turkey with Gravy and Apple-Onion Stuffing
“The goal here was a deliciously moist roasted Thanksgiving turkey with tons of autumnal flavor,” Ladman writes. “So we started with that most classic of fall beverages – apple cider. But to get the greatest flavor from it, we decided to boil it down until we had reduced 8 cups to just 4, thereby concentrating the sweet-tart flavors. That reduction is used as both a glaze for the turkey as well as to flavor the stuffing and gravy.”
For the glaze:
2 cups maple syrup
8 cups ( 1/2 gallon) apple cider
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
For the turkey:
4 medium yellow onions, quartered
1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey
For the stuffing:
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
3 cups chicken or turkey broth
2 eggs, beaten
1 (16-ounce) bag stuffing cubes
For the gravy:
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
5 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
To prepare the glaze, in a large saucepan over medium-high, combine the maple syrup and cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Whisk in the mustard, then season with salt and pepper.
Reserve 3 cups of the glaze to use with the gravy and stuffing (cover and refrigerate until needed). This can be done the day before, if desired.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large roasting pan, scatter the onion quarters. Place the turkey, breast up, on top of the onions. Pour the unreserved (about 2 cups) maple cider glaze all over the turkey. Be sure to pour some in the turkey’s cavity and some under the skin.
Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 160 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 degrees. During roasting, every 30 to 45 minutes baste the turkey with the juices in the pan. If the turkey begins to brown too much, cover the pan with foil.
Allow the turkey to rest in the pan for 10 minutes before moving it to a serving platter and covering it with foil. Set aside the roasting pan, leaving the drippings and onions in it.
When the turkey has an hour left to roast, make the stuffing. Coat a large casserole dish or 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the butter. Add the onions, shallots and leeks. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for another 8 to 10 minutes, allowing the vegetables to slightly caramelize.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the apples, sage, thyme, walnuts (if using), broth, eggs and 2 cups of the reserved maple cider glaze. Add the stuffing cubes and toss well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and hot.
When the turkey is resting on the platter, make the gravy. Place the roasting pan with the onions and any remaining juices on the stove top. Add the remaining 1 cup of maple cider glaze. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
In a bowl, stir together the broth and cornstarch, then add it to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thickened. Strain the gravy through a mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Season with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the turkey and stuffing.
Yield: A 12- to 14-pound turkey with gravy and stuffing to serve 12
Approximate nutrition per serving, including turkey, stuffing and gravy: 1,011 calories, 20 grams fat (6 grams saturated, 18 percent fat calories), 111 grams protein, 92 grams carbohydrate, 377 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams dietary fiber, 1,165 milligrams sodium.
Sour Cream Creamed Corn
“This recipe uses a rich sauce made from sour cream. It is flavored with tarragon, shallots and a touch of white wine vinegar,” Ladman writes. “Just be sure not to boil the corn, as the sour cream will separate. If fresh chervil is unavailable, use fresh parsley.”
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
3 large shallots, finely chopped
3 (1-pound) bags frozen baby corn kernels
2 tablespoons tarragon white wine vinegar
2 (16-ounce) containers sour cream (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a large sauté pan over medium, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the corn and sauté until tender and just starting to brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the vinegar, deglazing the pan. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the sour cream, tarragon and chervil. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until just hot. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: 10 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: 350 calories, 18 grams fat (11 grams saturated, 46 percent fat calories), 8 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrate, 60 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams dietary fiber, 30 milligrams sodium.
Double Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
“Adding squash or pumpkin to a dinner roll produces a bread that is soft, slightly sweet and wonderfully rich. It also helps keep the rolls moist, making it easier to bake them ahead without worrying they will dry out,” Ladman says. “This recipe uses canned pumpkin for ease and pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) for a nutty-toasty crunch. Canned squash also could be used.”
1 cup whole or reduced-fat milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon instant or quick-rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
4 tablespoons melted butter
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the milk, sugar, pumpkin puree, egg, butter, yeast, salt and flour. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium-low and mix for 5 minutes to knead. The dough should be soft, but pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Add the pepitas and mix until incorporated throughout the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Coat two 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in two. Divide each of the halves into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Arrange 12 balls in each cake pan (they can touch), then cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until puffy.
After the rolls have risen for 30 minutes, heat the oven to 350 degrees.
When the rolls have finished rising, brush the tops with half of the melted butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. After removing them from the oven, brush with the remaining butter. Allow to cool in the pan.
To reheat, cover the pan with foil and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes.
Yield: 24 rolls
Approximate nutrition per serving: 214 calories, 8 grams fat (4 grams saturated, 33 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrate, 24 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams dietary fiber, 193 milligrams sodium.
Pumpkin Bee Sting Pie
“Simply put – it isn’t Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie,” Ladman writes. “That doesn’t mean you can’t vary from the side-of-the-can recipe. This version is inspired by bee sting cake from Germany (called bienenstich), which has a crunchy honey and almond topping.”
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
For the topping:
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the pumpkin puree, eggs, cream, honey, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Pour into the pie shell and bake until almost completely set at the center, 50 to 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the almonds and coconut.
In small saucepan over medium, combine the honey and butter. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted. Pour over the almonds and coconut and stir until well coated.
Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the top. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Cool before serving.
Yield: 8 servings