Thanksgiving. A day spent with family and friends. A day to give thanks, watch football, and likely take a nap. And then there’s the food.
In an effort to inspire and encourage readers, Everygirl editors Danielle Moss and Alaina Kaczmarski decided that this was the year they would tackle making a Thanksgiving feast for the first time: the turkey, the stuffing, and the cranberry sauce. After all, it was totally going to be easier than people made it out to be (wrong), and after our triumphant success, we’d inspire women of all ages to step into the kitchen this holiday (wrong again). So in our confident determination, we turned to three of the most important women in our lives to help with these recipes–our moms and Martha Stewart.
We asked Alaina’s mom for her recipe which turned out to be Martha’s (no surprise there, really) and got to work around 11am. We started by cleaning and seasoning the turkey, which happened to be brined before we bought it. Cleaning consists of two parts: sticking your hand into the cavity and removing the giblets (heart, liver, neck, ew) then placing the turkey in the sink and running lukewarm water over it. The wrapper on our turkey said that some turkeys may not contain giblets, so after digging around for a while and pulling out nothing but a neck, we were pretty sure we had one of those turkeys. Boy were we wrong. Hours later when we were carving the turkey, we found the bag of giblets chilling ever so nonchalantly right where the turkey’s head once was. The stuffing must have pushed it out. This is all very disturbing so we’re going to stop talking about it now and just emphasize: find those giblets before proceeding!
Shortly after getting started, we came to the realization that we should have made the stuffing the night before preparing the turkey. Having to spend 30 minutes toasting bite-sized pieces of bread in the oven that should be preheating at a higher temperature for the turkey can definitely set you back. Not to mention take over every last inch of counter space. It is also recommended that you have at least two cookie sheets. We ended up using one cookie sheet and improvised with a cupcake pan and a gingerbread man pan. In Danielle’s words, “Who owns two cookies sheets?!” Alaina’s response, “People who don’t own a gingerbread man pan!” Now might be a good time to check out our list of kitchen essentials part 1 and 2 and stock up.
So we prepared the stuffing according to the directions, but there definitely wasn’t enough liquid (read: wine, butter, onion, celery concoction) to cover all the bread, so a lot of it was still dry. We don’t think this was right but aren’t sure where we messed up since we followed the directions pretty closely. How helpful are we? We stuffed a good portion into the turkey (this was actually kind of fun and we felt legit), then placed the remainder of stuffing into a glass baking dish. We covered the turkey in a marinated cheesecloth and placed it into the oven at 425°, ready to baste every 30 minutes.
And that was our fatal error.
After an hour and a half, Alaina ran out to pick up a few things while Danielle stayed behind to continue basting. But when Alaina returned home to a lovely burning smell, we realized something was wrong. We did not read through all of the directions post placing turkey in the oven, so we did not know to lower the temperature of the oven after the first half hour and remove the cheesecloth after two. So after 2.5 hours, our turkey’s inner temperature reached the required 165° (thank you, meat thermometer). In other words, we power cooked it. It looked great, but we were a little afraid to eat it.
The experience was anything but perfect. If you like a turkey cooked in 2.5 hours and find yourself dreaming of stuffing that tastes like wet bread, you would have been all over our Thanksgiving dinner. On a positive note, the turkey did taste pretty good, and the cranberry sauce turned out really well. That said, we learned a thing or two, so here are a few tips from us to you. Happy Thanksgiving!
Tips from Our Mistakes
- If this is your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner for family or friends, do everyone a favor and give yourself a trial run. Cook the entire thing a week or two out for practice.
- Read through the entire recipe before you begin.
- Find those giblets. They’re in there. They’re just hiding.
- It took about 30 minutes to prep the turkey, which did not include brining.
- Brining a turkey and covering a turkey in salt and pepper are not the same thing. Brining is the process of marinating a turkey in brine. Click on that link because we cannot explain it to you.
- Make your lives easier by preparing your stuffing before the turkey – likely the night before.
- You should have at least 2-3 large mixing bowls and two cookie sheets.
- Clean your sink very, very well. You’ll be placing your turkey in there.
Serves 12 to 14
1 20- to 21-pound fresh whole turkey, giblets and neck removed from cavity and reserved
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 bottle dry white wine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red or white wine for gravy (optional)
Giblet Stock (optional)
Tools and Materials
Instant-red meat thermometer
Toothpicks (this part is optional)
Visit Martha Stewart for the recipe. And consider reading it. You know–the whole thing. Not just part of it.
2 loaves sliced white sandwich bread (1 pound each), torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, plus more for baking dish and foil
4 celery stalks, diced medium
1 large onion, diced medium
2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
1 teaspoon celery seed
3 1/2 cups (29 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
Visit Martha Stewart for the recipe.
yields 2 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
3 allspice berries
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
Grated zest of 1 orange
1. Bring sugar, water, cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks to boil in 4-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring, until syrup is clear, about 3 minutes. Add cranberries and cook just until they begin to pop, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Remove from heat, add grated orange zest and cool.
3. Refrigerate 1 to 3 days before serving. Remove cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks before serving.