Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up this weekend and many of us have turkey at this time. Lots of people think that cooking a turkey is complicated and stressful, and I get that. But, if you’ve ever roasted a chicken, you can roast a turkey! It’s just a lot bigger!! To be honest, I get why people are stressed about it. It takes time and there’s a lot of mess that goes along with it. The only way to avoid the time and the mess is to find a restaurant that serves turkey dinner, or order the pre-cooked turkey and sides from your local grocery store. Those may be perfectly good options for many families at times, so don’t hesitate to go for it if that’s what you need. Being together is what’s important! Chances are if you are reading a food blog, you are not going to choose those options, but you are looking for ways to make a great dinner and to simplify it where you can. One way to do that is to opt for a potluck. If you are hosting, perhaps you’ll do the turkey, stuffing, and gravy and ask the rest of the friends and family to bring the appetizers, side dishes, and dessert. This is perfectly acceptable and I’ve found that friends and family are always happy to contribute in this way.
If you choose to do it all yourself, you’ll need some stress saving tips! The biggest suggestion I have is to make your turkey a day ahead. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve read my post What does cooking ahead at Christmas look like at our house? you’ll recognize some of the information below and you’ll know that we’ve been doing this in our family for many years. It’s been a great success and a stress reliever. To be honest, we thought it was a terrible idea when my Mom suggested it way back then, but it works like a charm. The turkey is tender and delicious every time. (Keep reading to find out how we keep it from drying out). My husband and I even do all the side dishes (except for one) and gravy the day ahead and reheat them before the dinner. It’s not actually a time saver because it takes the same amount of time to do it ahead, but it’s definitely a stress reliever!
Here are the benefits:
- You can prepare everything at your own pace without worrying when the guests will arrive
- You can be free to chat with your friends and family because you don’t need to spend all afternoon in the kitchen getting things ready
- You’ll have more energy on the day you are hosting because you haven’t been cooking since the early morning
- The very messy parts of dealing with the carving of the turkey and cleaning all the greasy pans gets done the day before your guests arrive. You simply warm up all the dishes in your oven and pull them out when it’s time to serve!
If you haven’t heard of making your turkey a day ahead, you should really give it a go the next time you are roasting a turkey. Here’s how you do it:
- Stuff and roast the turkey as you normally would
- Once the turkey is fully cooked, as indicated by the meat thermometer, take it out of the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes
- Remove the skin from the breasts and underside of the turkey and set aside
- Carve the turkey into slices, remove legs and wings
- Place your turkey slices into an oven safe dish and cover completely with the skin of the turkey. (The skin is what will keep the turkey moist when you reheat it). Place the legs and wings on the sides of the dish.
- Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight
- The next day, bring the dish to room temperature before placing in the oven at 275 degrees for about a half hour to 40 minutes. Keep the dish covered. (Time will vary depending on the amount of turkey you have as well as your oven temperature)
Our turkey always comes out moist and tasty when we do it this way. The biggest tip I have for making this a success is to use a meat thermometer. It is virtually foolproof and takes the guesswork out of wondering if your roast is done. I have used that same meat thermometer for almost 30 years now and it works like a charm on roasts of all kinds. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, get one today! It’s a great way to be sure your meat is done properly and an efficient way to monitor the cooking progress.
I don’t eat a lot of things with gravy anymore, but I do love gravy with my turkey! I find it very stressful to make gravy once the roast is done and you’re trying to get everything to the table while it’s still hot. So, one day a few years ago, I searched the internet to see if there was a way to make gravy without drippings and I found a great recipe that I have been using ever since for any kind of roast. I follow the directions and just add my own drippings to it at the end. It’s not quite as good as Mom’s, but it is very tasty and cuts down on the last-minute stress. Here’s the link:
My husband and I also like to do all the side dishes ahead of time and reheat them too. I never thought that reheated mashed potatoes would be good, but they have worked for us when we reheated them in the microwave. I like to make sure I have vegetables of different colours. It’s nutritious, tasty, interesting and looks great on the plate. So, we have done a combination of potatoes (mashed or roasted), squash, glazed carrots, green beans (steamed or roasted), mashed cauliflower, and brussel sprouts with prosciutto over the years. (We do the brussel sprouts and prociutto only about an hour before serving to keep the bright green colour…I’ll post that recipe in a future blog post).
We always choose one white, one orange and one green vegetable. We put all of the cooked side dishes in separate oven-safe dishes and then reheat them in the oven along with the turkey, or microwave if we need more space than we have in the oven. Of course, doing it this way means you use most of the oven-safe dishes you own! But it’s still easier and less stressful clean up compared to doing everything from scratch on the day you are hosting. So, give it all a try and reduce your stress…If you’ve got any questions or suggestions, drop me a note in the comment section or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy cooking, happy hosting, and Happy Thanksgiving!
*some of this information was previously posted by everydayhomegourmet in What does cooking ahead at Christmas look like at our house?