So you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner at your house this year? East Central College’s Chef Mike Palazzola has some tips on how to make it go smoothly!
As turkey is arguably the backbone of most Thanksgiving meals, it only makes sense we start there for the first three tips!
TIP 1 – Brine Your Turkey– Brining is simply submerging your protein (the turkey) in a salt, sugar and water solution. Use a basic poultry brine and add some culinary flair!
- Basic Poultry Brine Yield: 3 Gal
- 8oz Kosher salt
- 12oz sugar, honey, or brown sugar
- 1T garlic powder
- 1 gal water
- 2 gal ice water
Bring 1 gallon of water and all ingredients above to a simmer. Cool with remaining 2 gallons of ice water. Submerge the turkey in clean cooler for 2-3 days. You’ll want to make sure to check the ice daily. This will also free up refrigerator space! Now, remove from the liquid and place in cooler uncovered to develop a skin (this step is crucial if you want a nice crisp skin!).
Turkey can then be smoked, roasted or fried and enjoyed by the whole family. Brining may be used for any protein (meat) and is a must for keeping the final product nice and juicy. The amount of time will vary based on the size of the product.
TIP 2 – Separate Thighs and Legs from Breasts– As white meat and dark meat cook at different rates, it is very easy to see why “Mom” always ends up cooking a dry turkey. Do yourself a favor – separate the white and dark meat and check temps on each. When you hit an internal temperature of 162 (not when the little popper deal that comes standard with every turkey says it’s done), the turkey can be pulled and allowed to rest. Don’t worry – it will still continue to cook when you take it out. You’ll still hit the necessary 165 degree temperature for turkey in what is called “carry-over cooking.” This will cut down on the amount of time you need to have an oven available for a turkey.
TIP 3 – Allow Turkey to Rest– Now after spending 2-3 days in a salt bath, 1 day being allowed to dry and however long your turkey spends in the oven to reach 165, it is going to be tired….LET IT REST!!! Resting is a practice that chefs use to ensure that a carved piece of meat will be juicy once it is cut. Ideally, once your bird reaches 165 degrees allow it to “rest” (meaning “cool down”) to 145 degrees before ANY cutting is done.
TIP 4 – Make Your Own Green Bean Casserole- Before Campbell’s even thought of dumping cans of tasty cream of mushroom soup into green beans and topping them with fried onions, people were enjoying the homemade version of this traditional favorite. Check out Chef Mike’s Green Bean Casserole Recipe below!
TIP 5 – Salad Bar Sous Chef- Much of the nitty gritty prep-work involved with Thanksgiving can be lessened by taking a trip to your local grocery store’s salad bar. Having your eggs already hard boiled and sieved for potato salad, bacon cooked and diced, onions diced, mushrooms sliced for green bean casserole, all of these items will give you back valuable prep time that you can better spend with your guests!
Bon Appetite and I hope these tips serve you well so that you may in turn, serve your guests well – Chef Mike.