Let the plotting and planning begin. Whether you are hosting a sit down meal for 30 or a small gathering, there is something very special about Thanksgiving dinner. For us, our menu doesn’t change to much from year to year. Some years we have a huge group while other years there are just a handful of us. The plotting and planning is the same.
Plan your menu: Do you have traditional dishes that must appear on the Thanksgiving table? Track down those recipes and start your shopping list.
Shop early: There are a lot of staples that can be purchased well in advance, many of which are already showing up in the grocery store ads. If you have your menu and shopping list in place you can take advantage of sales and spread the cost over several weeks.
Make a timetable: If you are planning on buying a frozen turkey, you need to allow 1 day for each 5 pounds + one day. A 15 pound bird will need 4 days to completely defrost. If you will be brining your turkey, you need to allow 24 hours for brining, plus another 12 hours for the bird to drip dry. More on brining later.
Guest list: How many are you cooking for? For our family this is sometimes difficult to pin down. We always seem to end up with more people than expected. There is always enough food but we have run short on chairs and table space. I now keep an extra folding table and folding chairs in the garage ready to be pressed into use. If you don’t want to buy extra chairs consider borrowing a card table and chairs from a neighbor who will be going away for the day.
Pick your bird: Do you want leftovers? (We LOVE leftover turkey) If you plan on 1 pound of turkey per person you should have plenty leftover – otherwise plan on about 3/4 pound per person. If you are cooking for a lot of people, consider doing two smaller turkeys side by side. They will cook faster, be more moist and actually provide you with more meat than one huge bird.
Fresh or Frozen: Even ‘fresh’ turkeys have been super chilled so they will need a day or two in your home refrigerator. If you are planning on brining your turkey I would suggest purchasing one that has not been injected with ‘solution’ these are often referred to as ‘pre-basted’. I don’t suggest brining a ‘pre-basted’ turkey. Kosher turkeys are already pre-salted and seasoned, again I don’t suggest brining a Kosher turkey. Then there is are fresh ‘All Natural’ turkeys. This is what I look for if I am going to brine.
In the Trusted Resource guide I have added a link regarding brining. If you would like to understand the science behind brining and why it works to make your turkey moist and flavorful, you may want to check it out. There is also a link to time and temperature charts for roasting your turkey.