Melissa Clark: Thanksgiving 101

Friday, November 22, 2013

Melissa Clark tackles Thanksgiving 101! She’ll share tips for making lumpless gravy, flaky pie crusts, using turkey leftovers, and creating a schedule for the day. She's New York Times Dining Section columnist and cookbook writer, and her most recent cookbook is Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make.

Do you have a Thanksgiving cooking question? Leave it as a comment, below!


Melissa Clark

Comments [39]

linda from Bedford, NY

Help! It is Tuesday. Two more days till Thanksgiving. I just finished making my sautéed vegetable stuffing and sat down to listen to Melissa Clark say not to make the stuffing ahead!! Now what should I do? Dump it?? Will it be awful if I keep it in the fridge and put it in the oven on Thanksgiving?

Nov. 26 2013 09:13 PM
margaret graham

I want to listen to you, Melissa, I really do, but if you could try to make simple statements every now and then, instead of endlessly asking us for approval (by working childlike upspeak to death), you would sound much more mature and much more credible.

Nov. 22 2013 11:17 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Woman from Brooklyn who wants to grill her turkey:

Do it! My family decided it was the only way to go some years back, and they do it, no matter the weather. My father insists on his weber kettle with wood briquets, but it sounds like you're working with a gas grill. No matter! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

You'd still put the bird on some kind of poultry rack, inside a shallow pan containing cut vegetables and stock, if you prefer a moister bird; I'd baste and check the moisture level every 40 minutes, but not more than that. The whole idea is to let the bird do its thing without interrupting the roasting environment.

Definitely brine or dry-rub the bird for best flavor; don't grill it stuffed. I've butterflied it or split it in two for more convenience, and it really does make for more even cooking (even in the oven).

Invest in a probe thermometer that allows you to leave the reading part outside the grill, so you don't have to open it and check it so much.

If you are working with a gas grill with zoned heat adjustment (which I've used a few times with turkey), go for the "indirect" style of cooking the bird. If there are three zones, do med-high/off/med-high. All zones on will dry it out.

There are a lot of cooks online who've done their turkey via barbeque--take a gander and take the plunge!

Nov. 22 2013 04:34 PM

Leonard: Your problem with for example someone who brings sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. It's Thanksgiving. Get over yourself. Don't eat the marshmallow part if you don't like it. Just hope no one brings canned string beans with canned onions. Eat something else if you have to.

For those who don't mind the marshmallows, and there is a reason for why people do that: PEEPS. Particularly the original chick ones at Easter. At Christmas, they have green trees and white stars and snowmen. Maybe a tree and snowman combo would be nice. I'm sure Amy Sedaris would agree. Unfortunately they don't seem to make turkey Peeps. Maybe you can find some leftover Halloween pumpkin ones.

Nov. 22 2013 01:31 PM

To the person transporting the already cooked turkey breast, or whatever that was: Melissa's advice to serve it room temperature? No way. Edible, but why? Do not be afraid of reheating it in a microwave oven. It will be fine. You can roast it a little short of being really done if you want.

Also, if you are carving the turkey and it turns out the meat deeper in is a bit pink, no problem. First, tell everyone to quit freaking out and go have some wine or get back to their part of the deal. Then slice the pink meat and pile it on the biggest plate or whatever microwave safe dish you have that will fit in the microwave oven. Cook it for a few minutes until it isn't pink. It will be fine. Check the temperature for 165 if you want.

Actually most dishes that got too cool while waiting for something else or someone to arrive or whatever can be reheated in the microwave oven.

(From America's test kitchen) If you like to actually stuff the turkey, and I do, put the dressing in a microwave safe dish (like something Pyrex or Corningware or a big ceramic bowl or whatever you have) and heat it for a few minutes in the microwave oven until it's really hot. If you want to be precise, go for 165 degrees. Then stuff the turkey with it and roast. This keeps the stuffing from making the turkey take longer to roast which tends to dry out the outside too much while getting the internal temperature up to 165 and takes a lot more time in the oven. And saves energy.

Takeaway lesson: There's probably a microwave oven sitting there. There's nothing wrong with using it where appropriate.

Nov. 22 2013 01:20 PM

Jane with the 28 pound turkey: a pan big enough for the turkey to fit in. A disposable one if you have to. But clean it and put it in the recycling bin. Or if you're careful, store it an reuse.

Nov. 22 2013 12:59 PM
Miriam Duhan from Manhattan

I've cooked a turkey on a Weber grill and it was wonderful! I cut up the turkey (would have been better to have the butcher do it) taking off the legs and wings. Actually, I deboned the breast and dark meat and rolled them and tied them like little roasts. My son rubbed everything with some herb rub and we cooked them on the covered Weber. They cooked relatively quickly and were fantastic. You don't have to worry about making the white and dark meat come out at the same time.
Save the bones for stock.

Nov. 22 2013 12:44 PM
hw from summit, nj

When brining a bird, I use 1/2 the total water with the seasonings then cool it down with the rest of the water made with ice cubes. Saves time waiting for the brine to cool before adding the bird. I grill my turkey in an aluminum foil roaster using the recipe for Maple-Glazed barbeque turkey. I have gotten rave reviews of "the best ever". I put a couple of small foil pans with water in the grill next to the bird. I have a gas bbq. BBQ usually roasts more quickly than oven so keep the thermometer handy and check often.

Nov. 22 2013 12:40 PM
Phoebe from bushwick

Does Melissa have an opinion on using vodka instead of water in pie crust?

Nov. 22 2013 12:39 PM
hw from summit, nj

When brining a bird, I use 1/2 the total water with the seasonings then cool it down with the rest of the water made with ice cubes. Saves time waiting for the brine to cool before adding the bird. I grill my turkey in an aluminum foil roaster using the recipe for Maple-Glazed barbeque turkey. I have gotten rave reviews of "the best ever". I put a couple of small foil pans with water in the grill next to the bird. I have a gas bbq.

Nov. 22 2013 12:38 PM
Maureen from Colonia NJ

I like the idea of cooking the turkey breast down and this year I plan to stuff the bird. Can i still do a face down turkey stuffed? I do a sage butter for seasoning. And, by the way, I'm celiac so my whole feast is gluten free (35 people this year) and the non-celiacs have no complaints. (Desserts are a not all gluten free)

Nov. 22 2013 12:38 PM
Amy from Manhattan

For gluten-sensitive eaters, I've seen tapioca flour in health-food stores. I think it's mainly for baking--does Ms. Clark know if it would work in gravy too?

Nov. 22 2013 12:36 PM
Karen from Teaneck

I've been asked to bartend at the Thanksgiving I've been invited to. There will be about 20-30 people. Can you recommend a cocktail or 2 I can make in bulk?

Nov. 22 2013 12:36 PM
Ken from Cleveland, OH

For gluten free gravy, I love using chick pea flower. It has a great taste and doesn't get gelatinous like corn starch.

Nov. 22 2013 12:36 PM

Where is the best place to put your thermometer (I have a probe)

Thanks for your answer

Nov. 22 2013 12:35 PM
Duval from Glen Ridge, NJ

I just made Melissa's Simple Roast Turkey yestrerday! fantastic technique & taste! lemon was a little bitter though and i'd add more onion. question: i roasted the neck... now what do i do with it? thanks!

Nov. 22 2013 12:30 PM
Linda from Jersey Shore

PS… Melissa Clark, when I hear your voice I think it's Amy Adams ;-)
PSS .. also my favorite is the "popes nose" AKA the tail

Nov. 22 2013 12:29 PM
Margaret from Larchmont

Like the Kugel suggested; I will be making a Thanksgivukkah Giant Latke in an iron skillet. I use the typical proportions, fill the skillet. Fry on the stove until bottom done, broil the top for a while, flip (a mess sometimes) and then it stays warm nicely. Slice into wedges. Will substitute this for mashed potatoes.

Nov. 22 2013 12:29 PM
Kate from Verona, NJ

I make Melissa's butternut squash pie every year, but I find the peeling and dicing of the butternut squash time consuming. Is there any reason that I cannot roast the squash, face down with the skin on, until the flesh is soft, then scoop out and purée?

Nov. 22 2013 12:29 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

To the person considering roasting 2 turkeys, try spatchcocking them. Then You can roast them on two different racks, one above the other. Look up Mark Bitman for instructions on spatchcocking.

Nov. 22 2013 12:27 PM
Linda from Jersey Shore

you can take the cheapest bird around and brine it in salt, water, garlic, lemon and maple syrup (REAL not fake) and it will come out SO so good. Gravy with REAL (mexican) coke and maple syrup (not too much you don't want it too sweet).
our family favorite

Nov. 22 2013 12:27 PM
Sal Gonzalez from East Northport

I love the tail and necks too. It's just so flavorful with the fat and bone juices marinating those bits of meat. It's the best.

Nov. 22 2013 12:27 PM
Jane from Croton on Hudson

My daughter bought a 28 pound turkey. It's huge but can't do anything about it. How big a pan must I use. I'm a nervous wreck!!! This is going to be very hard I believe.

Nov. 22 2013 12:25 PM
Stephanie from Nanuet, NY

Do you have any tips for cooking just the drumsticks?

Nov. 22 2013 12:25 PM
Kathy Lewis Bain from Fairfield, CT

Have tuned in a little late, but would like to know how to roast a bone in whole turkey breast. Many thanks from an avid listener!!

Nov. 22 2013 12:23 PM
khadija Boyd from Brooklyn

Oh boy! Tksgiving last year was a private "affaire" between just close relatives, my beloved Mommy-in-Law assured us. Oh well! 35 people with copious appetites. Guess who cleaned up? Yours, truly, while "relatives were raiding zip-locks etc... to scoop up food to take home, to some other relative(s). This time, I'll borrow my beloved husband ear-plugs, sit on the porch, actually sit down and eat, and go see a flick w/ my hubby & our son. Bye-Bye kitchen et al.

Re-cranberry sauce/preserves:

made some, simmered in orange juice, a stick of cinnamon, honey, jarred in Mason Jars (small). Shared w/ my friends, who relished it. 8 years later, my contribution to my beloved Belle-Maman still sits in the fridge. Oh well ;}}} ko

Nov. 22 2013 12:23 PM
Lois from New York City

Melissa, I'm planning to try your turkey recipe this year. I was thinking of replacing the lemon zest and the lemon with orange. Or maybe to just do lemon and orange. What do you think? What do you recommend?

Nov. 22 2013 12:22 PM
Susan from this great City

I make raw cranberry-orange relish. So easy and so good! All you need:

4 juice oranges,
1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries,
sugar (to taste, about 2 cups)

Run through food grinder alternating cranberries and oranges. Add sugar. Before serving add walnuts. You can also add raisins and spices if you wish (cinnamon, cardamom)-- but to me that's too much. It tastes great with just the nuts.

Nov. 22 2013 12:21 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Butterflying a turkey may make it cook faster, but it will need to be in a large pan in a large oven. It takes up much more square footage that way.

Nov. 22 2013 12:20 PM
Susan from UWS

Harold McGee in Wednesday's NY Times says it's ok to cook a frozen solid bird. Melissa says no--who is right?

Nov. 22 2013 12:17 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

To Veronica in Great Neck:

A cornstarch slurry into the boiling gravy. About 1 tablespoon of cornstarch stirred into about 2 tablespoons of water or broth per cup of gravy. If the gravy is boiling, it will begin to thicken as you pour in the slurry. Keep stirring and pouring until the gravy is the thickness you want.

Yicks, I can't imagine adding salt to a kosher turkey! Especially Empire brand. It's too salty already. This is from a salt lover.

Nov. 22 2013 12:17 PM
Ken from Cleveland, OH

I volunteered to make mashed potatoes this year for Thanksgiving at my mom's this year but I'm extremely limited on time. Can I make them on Monday and reheat them on Turkey Day?

Nov. 22 2013 12:15 PM
Alex from UWS, NYC

Hi, this year I am cooking for 8 adults and 2 kids - I usually cook for 6 adults and have tons of leftovers. Do you think it makes sense to cook the same amount of food and just expect less leftovers, or should I make more just in case? I don't want to run out, but at the same time I find I am often prone to overdoing it!

Nov. 22 2013 12:10 PM
Alyce from Centerport

PLEASE HELP! My mother-in-law handed off Thanksgiving this year- the crowd's huge so I ordered a 25 pound organic heritage bird. I'm beginning to think it will be safer (more succulent meat) to make two 14 lb turkeys. Should the the cooking time or temperature be adjusted if I make two turkeys in the same oven?

Nov. 22 2013 12:07 PM
Carrie from Westchester County, NY

Any thoughts on "dry brining" as opposed to traditional brining? I usually brine my turkey with great results, but dry brining seems simpler. Is it true you need to dry brine for three days?

Nov. 22 2013 06:50 AM
Michael Lawrence from Princeton, NJ

How about a recipe for no sugar cranberry sauce for those of us who are diabetic? Any suggestions for a grateful listener?

Nov. 21 2013 03:49 PM
Susan from Yorktown Heights, NY

I will be preparing a locally raised heritage breed turkey this year (seeing this in print is making me feel a bit sad for my turkey.) Are there any changes I should make to my roasting time?
Or anything else for that matter.
Thanks and have a lovely holiday!

Nov. 21 2013 02:11 PM
Veronica from Great Neck, NY

I have a friend attending this year who can't eat gluten. What can I substitute for the flour when making the gravy?

Nov. 21 2013 11:55 AM
Jane Bevans from NYC

Question: How do you render lard from a great piece of pork fat?

Nov. 20 2013 06:12 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.