Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday.
It’s one of the few holidays that when I was a chef, I didn’t mind working. The dining club I worked at even had a very cool tradition where every reservation would get their turkey carved table side and then take the leftovers home to enjoy. The hardest part for most in relation to T-Day is getting everything ready without having a freak out moment, but with a few simple steps you can have a delicious and enjoyable time with your family.
Buying Ahead of Time
Yes, you might be able to save a few pennies by purchasing your frozen bird closer to the big day, but honestly, as it relates to a 16 or 22-pound bird, you’re only saving less than a dollar by waiting.
It is not uncommon to have a turkey shortage approaching the holiday, so buy early... The same also applies to all those side dish staples like stuffing mixes, frozen green beans, and canned sweet potatoes, should your recipe call for those. In the professional kitchen, we call it “mis-en-place”, which literally means get everything in its place, and I relate that to not only the herbs and seasonings, but the service platters and utensils needed to serve a delicious meal.
To Brine or Not to Brine?
It is a fact that most of the meats we buy (poultry, pork, and beef) contain a certain amount of saline solution to aide in moisture…
Check out the labels; it’s there, I promise! I choose to enjoy my poultry in about a 7% salt brine, which gives the right amount of flavor and moisture needed in my bird without overdoing what’s already been added. My basic brine consists of ½ cup kosher salt, ½ cup sugar, and 1 gallon of water, and you can feel free to add additional flavorings like citrus, herbs, and chilis. If you don’t want to make a fuss out of making brine, our good friends at Lane’s BBQ makes a great signature brine that has a nice tang from the added apple cider vinegar powder. I typically brine for 1 hour per pound, and by Tuesday, my bird is swimming. On Wednesday afternoon, I remove the turkey from the brine to allow time for the skin to dry out in the fridge. If I’m stuffing a compound butter under the skin, I will do that at this stage. I will also smoke/roast off the necks and get a head start on my turkey stock that day, so it’s done and out of the way prior to Thursday’s meal. REC TEC has a few great recipes for a Savory Stuffed Cornish Hens, as well as a Maple Pecan Butter Stuffed Turkey, so check those out for holiday meal ideas!
Check out Lane's BBQ Signature Brine:
When it comes to all those tasty sides, my biggest recommendation is on Tuesday or Wednesday to get all those onions, celery, carrots, and whatnot chopped, bagged, and labeled so as you prepare them on Thursday you can literally dump and go.
Remember, it’s all about mis-en-place, so would you rather spend 30-45 minutes cutting up vegetables on Thanksgiving Day or enjoy a glass of wine with family? It’s an easy decision for me! Jody and I made a few classic sides on a recent episode of Funday Friday, check out the recipes on our website.
For the most part, the turkey will take the longest time and will occupy the most space on your REC TEC, but luckily for you, it also needs to rest.
I tend to cook my turkey at a higher temperature to ensure I have fully rendered and crispy skin. On average, 10-12 minutes a pound is a good target, but it also is important to consider the starting internal temperature. I pull my bird when the internal temperature hits 160℉ in the breast and 170℉ in the leg/thigh. I also let my turkey rest for a long time, oftentimes over an hour. This gives me plenty of time to for the bird to rest, and if your legs/thighs are not coming to temp., you can cut them free so that way the breast does not become overcooked. Also, depending on the size of your casserole, most casserole dishes can be cooked on your REC TEC in under 45 minutes.
Thanksgiving for me is all about slowing down and appreciating everything around me.
Watching the kids do all their Thanksgiving crafts is one of my favorite things do while letting the REC TEC do the work me. I look forward to our yearly traditions each time the holiday rolls around, like drinking and chatting with the family, or seeing how my mother-in-law’s Jell-O dish miraculously turns out… All in all, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite food holiday, and with REC TEC’s catalog of recipes and rubs, it’s always a huge success!
Don't miss our Funday Friday episode on Thanksgiving dinner:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg Mueller is a WORLDCHEFS-certified master chef, and the Director of Culinary Innovation at REC TEC Grills. He has over 18 years of experience and is knowledgeable in all things food and cooking.