Let’s get one thing straight. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, your mother-in-law (or whoever) will be watching and judging.
There are five mistakes Thanksgiving newbies make that can seriously derail a gathering. Don’t be that person.
1. Not defrosting early enough
It takes longer than you think.
The best way to defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator. Figure a day for every four pounds. So, if you have a 16-pound turkey, it’s going to take FOUR days to thaw.
If you already dropped the ball on this, there is one more thing you can do.
2. Cooking the stuffing inside the bird
True, it’s called stuffing. Also true, it takes much longer to cook a turkey that is jammed full of stuffing. Next thing you know, dinner is two hours late and now your uncle is drunk, talking politics with your cousin who’s in her sophomore year of college.
Do yourself a favor and cook the stuffing outside of the bird. Here’s a good recipe.
3. Not letting the turkey get to room temperature
Think about it. If you put cold meat in the oven, the outside will start to cook much faster than the inside.
Let the turkey sit for at least an hour before you put it in the oven. It’ll cook more evenly and the meat will be more moist.
4. Overcooking the turkey
DO NOT use the little button thing that comes with the turkey. Get a meat thermometer and make sure you stick it where the thigh meets the breast.
Everything you find online will tell you to cook the bird to 165 degrees. That means you’re going to want to take the turkey out of the oven at about 160 degrees. The turkey will continue cooking after you take it out.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
The breast is going to cook faster than the leg and thigh. So, you’re going to need to use foil. After about 30 minutes in the oven, cover the breast in aluminum foil. Fold it in half to double the thickness. This will protect the breast from direct heat and help it cook evenly.
5. Trying to carve the turkey at the table while it’s hot
This may be how it’s done in movies and Norman Rockwell paintings, but unless you want a huge mess and a hacked up bird do it in the kitchen.
Also, you’re going to get very intimate with this bird. You need to be able to handle it. Let it COOL! Don’t worry, piping hot gravy will make up for warmish turkey.
This video shows how to get the most out of your bird and make it look presentable on a platter.
If all else fails, just start drinking.