This might be a stupid question to some, but I'm absolutely clueless when it comes to cooking...but I've agreed to host Thanksgiving this year for 10!!
Anyways - I think I've got most everything planned except for... the turkey.
I want to buy a frozen turkey, but I have some questions.
How early can I buy it? WHERE do I buy it? Do I have to reserve one?
Oh my gosh, I am not laughing at you, but commenting to follow along! DH and I are hosting our first Thanksgiving this year for 8 of us and I am very excited, but also kind of freaking out! I am actually contemplating buying a small turkey this weekend and doing a test run (ok, now laugh at me because I am crazy and neurotic for doing that!!!).
They will have plenty to keep the store stocked. I would buy it at least 3 days before-hand, because it will take about that long for it to defrost.
You can buy it at your local grocery store. If you have space in your freezer, you can buy it now and just let it hang in there until a couple days before it's going to be cooked. The normal rule is that a turkey needs 24 hours per 5 lbs to defrost (in the fridge - don't thaw at room temp). So if you get a 20 lb turkey, plan on letting it defrost in the fridge for four days!
@KateByDesign: Why are you buying a frozen one? Fresh might be easier. I would do as the previous poster said and do a test run this weekend or next. Also, call around to different places that have turkeys and see if you need to reserve one. I would try to find one that is organic/free range. The meat tastes better!
@peachacid: I have to work until 9pm the day before Thanksgiving so don't plan on having any free time (or patience) to go to the store after that.
I've actually been looking into Kosher turkeys are they come seasoned already...I guess...haha.
I wish I could do a test run - but hosting is breaking the bank and my DH will kill me if I buy a turkey just to make sure I can do it.
I guess on that note...how much money are they? I'm looking at 16lbs.
You can buy a turkey now if you have room in your freezer but the good sales are the weekend before Thanksgiving. I take mine out of the freezer on Sunday afternoon to thaw. Keep it wrapped and in a big container in the refrigerator.
@KateByDesign: If you have Stop & Shop or Shaws in your area - you can probably go onto their website and search to see how much the turkeys currently are going for. You can expect prices to rise as you get closer to the holiday. 16-20lbs in my area is going for about $30.00.
@MsMindle: :/ I don't have either. I've actually never heard of either! But $30 sounds pretty awesome...
@KateByDesign: We get our turkey at Trader Joe's. It's not frozen, so we pick it up the weekend before Thanksgiving. Like others have said, if you buy a frozen turkey plan on 3-4 days of thawing time in the fridge.
We brine our turkey and it always comes out fabulous. I use salt, honey, apple juice, vegetable broth, water and ice. It all goes inside a small cooler that we use just for brining the turkey.
I can't find my recipe online, but here's one:
@KateByDesign: I don't think turkey goes bad in one day. A frozen turkey will need a few days to thoroughly thaw anyway!
Do you have a pan to cook it in? What "recipe" are you planning to follow?
what meat do you guys eat at Christmas out of interest?
@ChocolateLime: In our family we usually have turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas.
@KateByDesign: Haha, I'm in New England so those are our local chains. Check out a few of your local stores...I'm sure you can find a deal. Normally the stores have the "generic" brands that are cheaper (rather than Butterball or Perdue). When it comes to turkey though...I usually buy a recognizable brand! Oh, and for seasoning...my Mom's secret is a generous sprinkle of this over the whole bird:
And a wet cheesecloth over the top of the turkey to keep everything moist. :)
Get a fresh one a day or two before. For 10 People you probably want a 12 pound turkey. I like butterball the best. If you don't stuff it with stuffing then stuff it with veggies ( onion, celery, carrot) they add moisture and flavor. You will need a roasting pan, a meat thermometer and a baster. Cover the bird in butter or oil for a crispy skin and juicy meat. When it is done cooking let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.
@ChocolateLime: Ditto for me - turkey on Thanksgiving; ham on Christmas. Mmm.
Also if the day of you pull it out and start carving it, and it's not completely done, you can always stick it back in the oven. It's not the end of the world!
@peachacid: I do have a pan to cook it in. The frozen route I was just thinking I could get the turkey over the weekend and not have to worry about it until the morning of.
This is the "receipe" I plan to follow: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-a-turkey-the-simplest-easiest-method-160905
I definitely welcome all of the helpful tips and pointers!
@StarryNight2011: Good to know you got your turkey the weekend before not frozen.
That receipe looks fabulous...but I'm really afraid of brining on my first turkey attempt. I'm so nervous as it is...I just feel like it's one more thing I could possibly mess up!
@KateByDesign: "The frozen route I was just thinking I could get the turkey over the weekend and not have to worry about it until the morning of." YOU NEED TO THAW THE TURKEY!!!!! lol don't forget!!!!!! ALERT ALERT!!!! =)
Are you making EVERYTHING for the dinner, or just the turkey?
@KateByDesign: You can't really mess up the brine. You mix the ingredients then plop the turkey in the solution overnight. It helps keep the turkey juicy and less likely to dry out while cooking.
@peachacid: I know that. 16 pounds would thaw by Thursday in my fridge.
I'm making everything myself.
@KateByDesign: No one is helping at all? That is a big undertaking! Good luck.
What other dishes are you making? Are you stuffing the turkey?
@peachacid: Everyone is traveling from out of town - but I haven't had any offers for help so far except for my Mom who said she would make a pie.
oysters wrapped in bacon
stuffing (outside of turkey in the crock pot)
mashed potatoes (night before with receipe mentioned above)
green bean casserole
gravy (made days before and frozen)
Ham Asparagus Spirals
And buying the rest of the pies at Costco or something. And on top of that I have to think about what I'm going to feed by family the rest of the time...
Le sigh. What did I get myself into?!
@KateByDesign: WOW you are good!! I am just putting together the appetizers (which is just cheese/crackers/meats and a veggie spread), the turkey + gravy, mashed potatoes, a salad and a pumpkin pie (oh and DH is making the pie so that's one less thing for me to focus on!). Between his parents and mine they are bringing the stuffing, green beans, stuffed mushrooms, cranberry sauce and apple pie.
It's stressful enough hosting for the first time, I can't imagine doing ALL of the cooking myself as well!
@Mrs. Coyote: I'm starting to think it might be too much. Maybe people will start asking me soon what they can bring/make?
I'm so glad to see this thread! Turkey is mine as well this year. I'm nervous!
Okay, I just bought a brining bag...that receipe sounded too good to pass up.
@KateByDesign: Great idea to go with a Kosher turkey. My mom switched to Kosher turkeys a few years back and the meat is so much more moist and tender, (same receipe and cooking method). If you have a Gelson's in your area, they have great kosher turkeys.
I used to brine my turkey and all that other fancy crap. Now I buy the Reynolds turkey bags (in the aisle with the foil and plastic wrap) and it makes life so easy! The turkey comes out moist and tender ever time, there is ample turkey broth to make gravy and clean-up is a breeze! I now make my mashed potatoes and stuffing the day before (homemade cranberry sauce is already made and in the freezer), as well as my famous pumpkin-spice bundt cake. My bread machine is hard at work while the turkey cooks. So on the big day, I just cook the turkey, start the bread machine and heat the potatoes, yams, and stuffing and presto!
So I'm kind of jealous of the Thanksgiving hosting. I know that sounds crazy but just last night I was talking to the hubs about how I wanted to host a Christmas dinner or something. I'm even trying to get his annual work Christmas party. Although its also a ploy to get a new dining room table.
Good luck! I've never been solely responsible for the turkey but from what I can see, its one of the easier parts. And like a PP said, if it's not done when you pull it out just put it back in. And then keep refilling everyone's drinks so no one realizes how late dinner is. Okay that last part might just be my family.
@trueblue14: ahh you make it sound so easy!
@KateByDesign: We're also hosting Thanksgiving this year. Its our first as husband/wife, but I've done several family dinners over the years. My tips/hints would be-
1) Ask for help- My family has no problem pitching in, but I definitly have to ask first. Some great things the family can do- bring sodas/beer/wine, bring apps like veggie trays, dips and cheese balls, bring desserts. A lot of time I would ask like this "Aunt ______ everyone loves the ______ (dip, pie etc) you make. Would you mind bringing it to share? I'd love to get the recipe from you too, if you don't mind."
2) The general rule for turkey is 1pound/person, with an extra 4-5 pounds for leftovers. You can buy fresh or frozen, anytime this month and store in your freezer until a few days before. Defrost in your fridge for about 3 days (more for a bigger bird) . Since you're brining, allow enough time for that step. Don't panic/cook the turkey for too long. Follow your recipe and time. The most common mistake for new cooks is to think they need to cook the turkey ALL day and thats why they end up with a dry turkey. Also while you can cut a turkey and stick it back in the oven, you're soooo much better off getting a meat thermometer. When you use the slice and return to the oven method you'll end up with dry turkey.
3) Making stuff ahead of time is great. I do try to keep a list of what I made and when it needs to be warmed up, because I'm the ditz that would make a casserole, and forget it in the fridge if its not written down lol.
4)Be realistic with your oven space. If you have a turkey in, you may not have room to heat up casseroles, premade dishes etc. Crock pots are great as are the disposable chafing dishes sold at places like walmart.
I hope everything goes great!
@nikkialys: such great advice! thank you so much!
@KateByDesign: ShopRite (grocery chain store in my area) has a promotion that if you spend $300 worth of groceries between certain dates - you get your turkey for free. I would get it as soon as possible because they go pretty quickly. I'd freeze it until about a few days before Thanksgiving and put it in the fridge to defrost. Defrosting it outside of the fridge for most of the day before is very helpful too. The turkey would go in the oven at 6:30 or 7:00 AM to eat around 2:00. It also depends on the size and pound.
You'll be fine! No worries! I'm sure there'll be plenty of assistance if needed or you could just hurry onto here and ask questions. ;)
ETA: This year I plan on buying an injector to season the turkey inside and letting it cook from the inside out. Mmmm.
@KateByDesign: You have an ambitious menu - sounds fun!
As for feeding people the rest of the time, if you have any time now to make things like stews and freeze them in some tupperwares, that would be a nice thing to have on hand. I've also made buttermilk biscuts and cheddar-ham biscuts ahead and frozen them - they defrost well with a few minutes in a toaster oven or even the microwave in a pinch.
I'm a huge fan of getting a flat of muffins, some bagels, lunch meats, etc. for easy meals that people can make themselves for everything but dinner during their stay. I have tried the pre-made meatloaf and potatoes from Costco and must say it was tasty, so that could be a another option to have handy if you don't have time to make food ahead. I think it's about $15 and feeds 4-6 people, so not a bad deal! You'll probably also have leftovers that people will be eager to munch through, that's what always happened in my family - Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the days following :-)
I did find an awesome make-ahead brunch bake that is pretty easy, if you want to do something fancier: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-ham-and-cheese-breakfas-43364
I hosted a "friendsgiving" last year the Sunday after Thanksgiving and made my first turkey - 17 lbs!! I got a fresh turkey from Costco 2 days before and kept it in the fridge, and the night before I did a dry brine on it because I didn't have the space in the fridge to do a wet brine (would need a bucket or dish big enough to soak the turkey in) or a separate cooler to try it out in. They dry brine turned out wonderful! (Also, if you've never made a turkey, be prepared for it to be groooosss- the neck was inside as well as the gizzards inside a plastic bag in its cavity.)
You can look up dry brining I'm sure- I used kosher salt with seasonings the night before and then made a herb butter rub right before baking- be sure to lift up the skin and get the rub on top of and under the skin to keep it nice and moist! Lots of recipes have different suggestions- I did mine on real high heat (400 or so for the first half hour, then dropped it to 325.) I had a foil tent over it until about the last 30 minutes to keep the top from drying out. I used a temperature probe to make sure I cooked it the right amount of time. You can't tell in the pictures but after prepping, I did have it in a big roaster pan.
I did stuff the cavity with onions, thyme, and lemon and then discarded it after carving. And speaking of carving- be sure to watch some youtube videos if you haven't done it before! I think I watched Alton Brown's and a couple others maaaany times just to make sure I knew what to do! It was a lot of work and stressful as I was making 2 stuffings on the side and gravy (buy a can of gravy in case your turkey gravy doesn't work out!). I'd say try to prep as much as possible so that you don't feel too overwhelmed the day of, and asking for help is a good thing! Also, praying to the turkey gods. I think that's what helped make mine so tasty!
Pictures! (The raw turkey is definitely not beautiful, I know!)
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