{secret chef tips} Here Is All The Thanksgiving Advice I Have to Offer

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that a lot of people ask me for advice about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. But why keep it to my inner circle? Here, in pretty much random order, are the resources, advice, and tips I have to make your Thanksgiving cooking successful!

And if you have specific questions or want to ask about something I didn’t cover – please feel free to ask away in the comments or on Facebook.

Let’s start with the most important part of the meal… DESSERT. 

If we’re talking pumpkin pie, then let me say that I have tried a lot of pumpkin pie recipes, but this Caramel Pumpkin Pie is probably the best filling. Do it with this Gingersnap Pie Crust for best results. (Hint: that also means no rolling out pie crust because it’s a press-in crust. Win win win!)

For the dairy-free people in your life – the Spice-Kissed Pumpkin Pie filling from 101 Cookbooks is excellent and uses coconut milk. For my dairy-free sister, I usually make a standard pie crust recipe but substitute the butter for butter-flavored Crisco (flaky!) or coconut oil or duck fat.

If you are not good at pie crusts, here is my method for fixing a f***ed up pie crust.

But no one brings ONE lousy dessert to Thanksgiving, so you’ll need a few more ideas. Add an upside-down cake to the mix as a way to introduce a fruit dessert and impress people with very little effort. Whether you go with Pear Ginger, Caramelly Banana, Peach Fig, or Spiced Apple, everyone will love it.

Or, if your family is full of lemon lovers, a Winter Citrus Cake will do the trick.

I usually round out the dessert table with Chocolate Cinnamon bread pudding, because it’s easy and I can make it the day before, and if I don’t make it my in-laws threaten to disown me.

My favorite part of the meal is hands-down the SIDE DISHES.

For perfect potatoes, refer to my Chef-Tested Methods and Scientific Facts for Perfect Mashed Potatoes which includes 10 recipes and my favorite make-ahead option.

Don’t make sad, lonely, unloved boiled Brussels sprouts this year – make them a star side dish by roasting them with hazelnuts and maple syrup or honey and parmesan or lemon and salt or bacon, shallots, and garlic.

I think it’s pretty hard to screw up stuffing, and you can get creative with it – here are 25 stuffing recipes that all look tasty (except for #17, just stahp, that is not stuffing.)

I can’t do sweet potatoes with marshmallows – don’t hate me for being honest. If you like them sweet, go for the Pioneer Woman’s sweet potato casserole which is basically dessert but you get to eat it at dinner time. For a savory sweet potato dish, I love this caramelized onion and sweet potato gratin recipe from The Kitchn.

Do people eat salad on Thanksgiving? My family doesn’t. But if I thought it would work, I might try to foist this kale salad with pecorino, golden raisins, and walnuts on them, or a classic green goddess salad with some modern additions like avocados and pine nuts.

Now comes the part where I admit that until 3 years ago, I had never roasted a TURKEY.

But that’s what the Internet is for. I follow the roast turkey method from Simply Recipes. You do it breast down so all the juices run into the breast and make it moist and then you flip the turkey over (which is harder even than it sounds, but worth it.) And the recipe includes all of the information a clueless first-time roaster needs to succeed.

Just to make sure it’s extra good, I rub a whole cube of softened butter on top of and inside the turkey with my hands and then sprinkle the whole thing with Bell’s poultry seasoning before cooking it.

Don’t buy a cheap supermarket turkey, go for the “heritage” or other fancy kind of turkey. There is actually quite a difference in these 2 types of birds! These days many cheap turkeys are injected with a saline solution so they are more “juicy.” Of course they are not actually juicy, they just ooze salt water when you cut into them. They are gross and they ruin your gravy. Order a turkey from a local butcher or other “nice” grocery store.

I couldn’t possibly tell you how to make GRAVY… 

But by all means, build a time machine and go back to the 1970s, get adopted by my parents, and watch my Mom and my Grammy bicker over the gravy-making pan for like 35 years’ worth of family holidays, and you will pick up the technique soon enough.

OK OK FINE. That is not helpful. These people never disappoint so try these methods from The Kitchn and from Simply Recipes (flour version) which sound pretty similar to how I do it, but with less bickering.

I almost forgot about APPETIZERS!

The dip is probably the most important part of Thanksgiving in our family! If I don’t deliver a double recipe of this hot onion dip, there will be blood. And it keeps everyone out of the kitchen while I mash potatoes and make gravy and all that last-minute stuff. I add a small jar of marinated artichokes, drained and chopped, to the dip mixture before cooking and serve it with tortilla chips.

Crispy parmesan-garlic edamame roasted in the oven is an easy and crowd-pleasing snack for cocktail hour.

For old-school, gut-busting, guilty pleasure fare I’m going to unironically recommend these Betty Crocker cheese and sausage balls.

And finally…

The New York Times food section has a terrific “Essential Thanksgiving Guide” with tons of recipes, ideas, and tips. It looks like a great resource as well.

Happy eating and happy Thanksgiving!

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4 Responses

  1. eliza says:

    You kill me. Delicious! All of it. YUM!!

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  3. roxana plaza says:

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