We asked some of our chef clients for advice on Thanksgiving cooking … and we got some good tips for you! This big holiday meal is often the most complicated and challenging one that a home cook undertakes all year. Read on to see what the pros do and how you can cook like a chef this Thanksgiving.
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What advice do you have for home cooks preparing the holiday meal?
Because chefs know how to cook for a crowd … they do it every day!
I would say start a few days in advance and do “prep” work so you are not trying to do everything in one day.
– Chef Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja, Bistro Vendome, & more, Denver
Keep it simple! Make the dishes you can execute without giving yourself a panic attack. Make comfort food to the best of your ability and remember to have fun. Play good music, drink good wine, and share with good people.
– Chef Matt Kern, Heirloom, Lewes, DE
I think over planning is the key, starting at least a week before. I make a big list, breaking down each dish into components for both shopping and prep. I go to the market and green market the weekend before to make sure I get what I want, and to make sure everything is on hand. I try to do as much prep as possible in days before the big event. I dice several quarts of onions and celery, peel potatoes and other vegetables and process them to the point of cooking, cube bread for stuffing, make pie shells and fillings all in advance.
I buy a spare turkey, break it down, freeze the breasts for another time, and make a big batch of turkey stock for gravy and basting and moistening (a few containers of commercial stock will also do). I shred cheese, mix dips and appetizers and dressings. I label everything.
– Chef Patti Jackson of Delaware and Hudson, Brooklyn
Anticipate early enough so you can enjoy the day, not spend it in the kitchen.
– Chef Pierre Calmels, Bibou, Philadelphia
Brine your turkey! Not only brine your turkey, but also allow yourself time to properly dry the turkey from the brine before you roast it. This will help with the crispiness and coloring, resulting in an overall delicious bird!
– Chef Peter McGough, Mida, Boston
Stay traditional. Keep it simple. After all, the holiday, to me, is about gathering with family and friends and enjoying everyone’s company.
I always do a light brine on the turkey, put some butter between the skin and the meat, add my mushroom and baguette stuffing, and roast over mirepoix with a little chicken stock in the pan at 275 – 300 degrees.
I think brining is key for turkey because it helps keep the breast from drying out which is easy to do. Also if you stuff the bird make sure that you only stuff a little bit, this helps with even cooking.
– Chef Adam Siegel, Bartolotta Restaurants, Milwaukee
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