How To Make Thanksgiving Dinner Easy

Thanksgiving is the time of the year when the anxiety is at a fever pitch because in-law and friends populate the kitchen with advice and suggestions while all the taste buds await your hard work.  Are they honest and kind or do they have an ax to grind? Too much salt or not enough moisture or too much wine and not enough flavor? The struggle is real for those of us that reside in the oven and the pantry and bowels of the mixing bowls on Thanksgiving morning.

Because Thanksgiving can be stressful, those of us in the kitchen at have decided to help you plan and properly tackle all the responsibilities placed before you this holiday season.

First We Need a Drink!

The Mimosa is the proper way to start a morning of cooking on Thanksgiving. The drink is simple and you really only need 2 ingredients Champagne and orange juice. Add equal parts of the two into a flute and you are set. I often will drop in some blackberries and a little triple sec but the truth is that your morning has to be uncomplicated so do not over exert yourself, this is a cocktail that will set the tone for your lovely day of cooking.

Here are a few ideas if you need a bit more from your morning mimosa on Thanksgiving:


The Main Dish

The turkey is the star on Thanksgiving and don’t forget that. I have a friend who invited us all over for Thanksgiving dinner but he failed to mention to us that he was not found of the holiday bird. Image the surprise when we sat down to a giant ham. I have no problem with pork, but the bird needs to show up at the dinner table on Thanksgiving. That evening it was very hard to give thanks to our turkey hating friend. Whatever you do, do not make Thanksgiving dinner your time to buck tradition, do that on Groundhog Day.

Buy your turkey, fresh is better but I have talked to enough people who tell me that if you plan on placing the turkey in a brine for a couple of days that a quality frozen turkey works just as well. (Truthfully, your fresh turkey may have been frozen anyway, sorry to break the news)



The Brine:

Here are a few brines to help you float your bird for a few days. The benefits of a properly brined turkey reside in a bit more moisture, assuming you do not overcook the turkey and the added salt flavor that makes people believe that you are a really good cook. First How To Brine A Turkey


The cooking process is actually simple if you think about setting your temperature and then allowing your turkey to cook for the right amount of time. Simple, right?   Use this temperature calculator and conversion charts:

Rule of thumb is 10 -15 minutes per pound of turkey at 350 degrees. That number varies based on if you stuff your turkey and the efficiency of your over. Always use a meat thermometer and start checking much earlier just in case you have a quick cooking bird. You can always cook more but you can’t go back from a dried up shriveled turkey. (Believe me, I know)

Calculators  and Conversion Tables

These times are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven.

 Weight of Bird  Roasting Time (Unstuffed)  Roasting Time (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours 4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours 5 to 5-1/2 hours
24 to 29 pounds  4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours


Cook the turkey until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but will promote even browning.

The only true test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin.

  • The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone.
  • If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing; it should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).
  • When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving.

A Few Ideas on Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey:

Wait, you want something other than turkey?


Food Network Turley Tips

94 Thanksgiving Recipes




Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Recipe

We have friends who have children who still will not eat anything other than mac and cheese. So, naturally, I make fancy mac cheese and these kids either love it and their parents cannot believe that they can eat vegetables or they hate it and soon they are at the grown-up table actually devouring turkey, stuffing , nd vegetables. Imagine that? This mac and cheese is all grown up and you will have to reserve some for a day 2 leftover binge.

Brussels Spots with Guanciale

Yes, Guanciale is a morsel of god’s candy. Snack on it, store some away for later and definitely incorporate it into your Thanksgiving meal. This is the jewel of the pork jowl , (cheek) that when cured is delightfully salty, fatty and savory all at once. Combine that with Brussels sprouts and the veggies will fly off the table at Thanksgiving.

Roasted Vegetables Recipe

Put a little char on some veggies and they are magical. Just try and keep a few on the table.


How do we pair wine with turkey? First, remember to drink what you love. If you love a giant bold red wine don’t be afraid to do what you want on Thanksgiving Day. If you like a sweet German Riesling with your prime rib go for it.  However, we have a couple of suggestions that might help you decide on what to offer your guests.

These 3 wines will be a sure hit this Thanksgiving:

  • Pinot Noir: Everybody loves the fruit forward wine and it stands up well to a meal that will be filled with and an array of flavor profiles. The best part of Pinot Noir is that it is readily available at many price points and make for a good wine for guests.
  • Riesling: With so much happening at the dinner table you want a white wine that will help you vanquish the competing flavors. High acidity does that and if you find a wine with a little sweet bite your white wine loving friends should be ok even if they’ll bring over their favorite Chardonnay.
  • If you need an inexpensive wine that also lends a little exotic flavor to your non-wine drinking friends introduce a Spanish wine with loads of fruit. Garnacha is such a common grape that they probably have tasted it but they most likely will not know that. Also, because it is widely available it is easier on the budget when you want to pen a few bottles for guests.