How big should a turkey be? And other Thanksgiving FAQs, answered.

How big should a turkey be? And other Thanksgiving FAQs, answered.

How big a turkey you buy depends on how many people come to you and what else you serve. You probably have leftovers, but below we have ideas for you. (Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post)

To emphasize Thanksgiving is as much a time-honored tradition as Thanksgiving. Which turkey size should I buy? Oh, wait, it's frozen! Who has that one copy of this indispensable family recipe? Why are the mashed potatoes sticky ?! That means every year the holiday equivalent of "Groundhog Day". Therefore, it makes sense that we ask many questions year after year. If you find yourself asking the same thing, you are not alone, not by a long way. Consider this guide as a resource for your most urgent questions.

Feel free to ask for help in our online chat on November 14 and in a two-hour November 21 issue. We have the usual WaPo Food suspects on deck and a few special guests to guide you through all of your Thanksgiving preparation needs. We are also accessible via Twitter, Instagram and good old email via food@washpost.com.

Stress especially! Know that you are perfectly capable of making a Thanksgiving meal.

Click on the questions below to go directly to each topic. Many of them are linked to our more detailed explanations. This rundown will be updated with more tips and recipes as the big day approaches.

The turkey

• It's Thanksgiving day and my turkey is frozen, help! • How big should my turkey be? •
• When do I buy and how do I store the turkey? • Should I salt the turkey? •
• Should I make an extra turkey breast? What if I like dark meat better? • Should I fry a turkey breast for two? • How do I carve the turkey? •

The ingredients

• How can I make sauce in advance? • I need a cocktail. •
• How do I make the best, fluffiest and creamiest mashed potatoes? • How do I make a perfect pie crust? •

The other stuff

• How can I bring food to bring? • What can I do in advance? •
• Which meal can I prepare at the last minute? • What can I do with leftovers? •

It's Thanksgiving day and my turkey is frozen, help!
Did you know that you can put a frozen bird in the oven, and in less than twice the time it would take a fresh cook, do you have a perfectly delicious fried bird? This is true! The roast turkey does not get any easier. So come at the last minute and you'll be rewarded with plenty of crisp skin and plenty of pan juices that season the meat after it's cut. Here you will find the foolproof recipe.

How big should my turkey be?
The Agriculture Department proposes a pound of turkey per person. We have recommended for each restaurant about 1.5 kg to allow leftovers. One of our main resources in the food sector is the "cookbook of formulas, yields and sizes" by Arno Schmidt. The book states that a 22-pound turkey will deliver 12 pounds of fried meat, including leftovers, which equates to 22 servings – perfectly in line with USDA guidance. "Chef's Book" also indicates that you can stretch this 22-pound bird to 40 servings "on a buffet when served with other types of meat and lettuce."

When to buy and how to store your turkey
When you buy the bird, it depends on whether you go fresh or frozen. A raw, fresh turkey should not be refrigerated for more than two days. Theoretically, a frozen turkey can be indefinitely preserved. But for the best quality use it within a year.

Should I salt the turkey?
Brining helps poultry stay moist and delicious. (Kosher or self-puffing birds should not be salted.) Some people choose the dry brine of their turkey – always rub them with salt. In this situation, salt pulls the meat juices to the surface of the bird. The juices then mix with the salt to form a salt solution that is absorbed by the meat. A few years ago, Assistant Food Editor Bonnie S. Benwick tried both methods and decided that she prefers a wet brine that requires less effort and results in consistently moist and seasoned meats. If you take the turkey out of the brine, make sure you dab it completely dry to get a fresh skin. But keep in mind that you can reach a moist, spicy turkey without salt water.


Do not neglect the lovers of dark meat. make turkey legs poached in duck fat. (Scott Suchman for the Washington Post)

Should I make an extra turkey breast? What if I like dark meat better?
Even dark meat lovers can appreciate the moist, tender yield of a bone-in turkey breast. The key is to choose the ideal cooking method: look at our turkey breast recipes in a slow cooker; a foolproof low and slow roasting method; and turkey breast with pear, hazelnut and fennel filling.

Gold lovers can choose the Turkey Leg Confit for gold lovers. The method is flexible – poaching legs with duck fat for another hour will not hurt them. You can also strain the cooking fat, freeze it for up to a year and use it as a substitute for other fats in potatoes, soup, pate, braised cabbage, etc.

One of the two options can only be the ticket for a small group, but also an alternative to roasting a second bird if you plan to feed a crowd. A real selling point: Both methods can be carried out in advance.

Should I fry a turkey breast for two?
In terms of size, a turkey breast is definitely a good choice for a small group, although a pair is likely to be worth nearly six pounds. Even then you have a little more for subsequent meals. To satisfy all those who prefer dark meat, you should get yourself a small whole turkey. You can be especially lucky with a local farmer. If you do not like the idea of ​​a white meat breast or a big turkey, there are other options. You can consider a duck breast or a whole duck, which is smaller and has a rich, playful taste. Or embark on the ultimate route for single or small portioned fowl and cook chickens from Cornwall.


This roasted turkey sauce can be prepared one day in advance; It starts with a dark roux and is finished with turkey roast. (Jennifer Chase for the Washington Post)

How can I make sauce in advance?
Easy and Merciful: Roast additional turkey wings until they are deep browned and crispy. Put them in a pot with at least four cups of broth with your favorite flavors: celery, onion, fresh herbs, a bay leaf, whole black peppercorns. For a taste enhancement, add half a cup of dry red wine or Madeira or unsweetened cider. Boil, strain and discard the solids. Then melt eight tablespoons of unsalted butter in a separate pot and whisk half a cup of egg whites like wondra or pastry flour to make a smooth roux. it has to be boiled for a few minutes over medium heat to lose its floury taste. Whisk your fortified broth and cook until thick. This should not take more than 20 minutes. Season, cool, cool or freeze. When the bird comes out of the oven, you can dip the pan with the pan in the warmed up gravy and season with salt and pepper.

You can also prepare gravy with chicken broth (drip with roast turkey to enhance the taste); You can even make vegan sauce with beans.

How do I carve the turkey?
Watch this video.

Carving a Thanksgiving turkey is easy. Serious. How It Works (Jayne Orenstein, Bonnie Benwick / The Washington Post)

I need a cocktail.
How about three? Try our recipes for Cranberry Ginger Punch, Thanksgiving Daiquiri and Crimson Crane. If none of them are to your liking, you should choose one of the seven essential cocktails that every drinker should know. (We believe, for example, that a Negroni would be home during a Thanksgiving meal.)

How do I make the best, fluffiest, creamy mashed potatoes?
Watch and learn:

Joe Yonan, publisher of Washington Post Food and Dining, shows PostTV whipping buttery, creamy mashed potatoes. (Jason Aldag / The Washington Post)

How do I make a perfect pie crust?
A few pointers: Keep things cool. Turn the crust 90 degrees regularly while rolling it. Make your crusts in advance. And if something goes wrong, roll along.

If the dough crust overwhelms you, then do not make it! Try apple crumbs, pear tatin tatin from purchased puff pastry pasta or pumpkin pie with a (very simple) ginger naps crust. Drain the crust along with a Maple Pumpkin Custard.


This cranberry apple lattice pie can be made in several steps, starting two weeks in advance. The finished cake can be made the day before serving. (Jennifer Chase for the Washington Post)

How can I bring food to friendsgiving?
If your celebration is potluck-style, it's important to pack your dish effectively to avoid spilling. However, this is a nice meal. So if you take a few rolls with you, it will not help. Bring a serving bowl and serving utensils. If you have something to warm up, inform your host so you can coordinate the stove or oven room. Normally, you can pack the item directly into the casserole dish to warm it up easily.

Turkey. To avoid spilling, pour the drops into a lidded container. Transport the turkey on its baking pan or on a sheet of aluminum foil. It is not necessary to reheat the turkey (it could overeat the bird). Warm the drop on the stove for gravy or fillings. Bring a carving board, carving tools and a platter.
Mashed potatoes. Put the mashed potatoes in a pot to reheat (you may need to add some milk). If your pot is beautiful, serve it directly from there – the residual heat helps to keep the potatoes warm at the table.
Sauce. Pack it in a thermos or other insulated container.
Cranberry. A simple airtight container or a zipper bag is sufficient with a storage container.
Soup
, Bring it in a pot to warm up on the stove, with a pan to serve.
Rolls or biscuits, Put in a serving basket and cover with nice napkins or a towel.
pages, Many can be packaged in airtight containers or with zippered bags that are placed directly in their serving containers. Check with the host to see what area you want to warm him up to when needed. Casseroles, dressings and the like can easily pass from the oven to the table.
cake, If you do not have a special cake box, small shipping boxes are useful and disposable cake containers. You can put the cake on a bed of crumpled tissue paper or newspaper to get extra pillows.

What can I do in advance?
Cranberry. Most cranberry treats and sauces can be refrigerated for up to a week.
Sauce. You can make your gravy (or most of it without the drops) a few days earlier.
Loaf. Bake your bread or rolls one or two days in advance. Wrap in foil and heat in the oven before serving. You can also bake and freeze for several days in advance – set up your bread on Wednesday at room temperature.
Cake and other desserts. Most cakes can be prepared two or more days in advance. Or make a cake or cookies.
Turkey. Start burning the day before.
Filling. The preliminary work depends on the recipe. Some fillings can be made completely in advance; others should be filled until the liquid is added. Heat or finish baking on Thursday.
pages, Shric radicchio and radish slices for a coleslaw or fry some pumpkin for a savory salad; Blanch or steam green beans or Brussels sprouts. Think of elements that can be completed in advance or finished, then do it!

What type of meal can I prepare at the last minute?
A pretty good one! Click on the link above for our tips, tricks and recipes (including a method for cooking your turkey from frozen material, yes, frozen.)

What can I do with leftovers?
Send home extras with your friends and family. Make a Thanksgiving hash. Use vegetables as a taco or sandwich filling or mix it into soup. Turn bread into croutons or breadcrumbs or layers. Eating cake for breakfast. Make breakfast biscuits. We could go on.

Other things Thanksgiving from Food:

11 Thanksgiving turkey recipes to delight a crowd of all sizes

Hearty vegetarian and vegan dishes for Thanksgiving

Add some color to your Thanksgiving table with one of these side dishes

Pureed potatoes, crushed, mashed or roasted for the Thanksgiving feast

Our favorite Thanksgiving recipes will help you think outside the box

Thanksgiving filling (or dressing) is the dish that best reflects America's diversity

Prepare your breadbaskets: Our best bun, muffin and cornbread recipes for Thanksgiving

Make your cranberry sauce early – it stays in the fridge for at least a week

The tarts, cakes and biscuits make this Thanksgiving

Which wine for Thanksgiving? Try one or more of these strategies.

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