20 Tips for Better Thanksgiving Turkey

Here are our best tips for Thanksgiving cooking, including how to achieve a crispier-skinned bird, fluffier pumpkin pie, and richer gravy, as well as step-by-step guidance on trussing your turkey and carving it tableside.

Crispier-Skinned Turkey

Crispier-Skinned Turkey
For a turkey with skin that's crisp and flavorful, keep a small saucepan of melted butter, whole peppercorns, sherry vinegar, and dried sage and thyme on the stove, and use a basting brush to slather the infused butter all over the turkey as it roasts, every 30 minutes or so. See How to Roast the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey »Todd Coleman

More Flavorful Meat

seasonings
If you're brining your turkey, dried herbs are a better bet than fresh ones for seasoning the brine solution. Drying concentrates the flavor; after penetrating the meat along with the brine, the herbs will bloom in the heat of the oven, releasing their fragrant oils to flavor the meat. See a recipe for Brined and Roasted Turkey »Todd Coleman

Sweeter, Richer Gravy

pot of turkey gravy
Fortified wines like sherry, port, and madeira contain not only more alcohol but also more sugar than unfortified wines do. Adding a few tablespoons of any of the above to a gravy at the end of cooking will accentuate the richness and sweetness of the caramelized pan juices and other ingredients. See a recipe for Turkey Pan Gravy »Todd Coleman

VIDEO: How to Make Turkey Roulade

Turkey Roulade
Every Thanksgiving, it seems like there's never enough white meat to go around. The problem is easily solved by buying an extra turkey breast from the butcher, pounding it out thin, filling it with stuffing, and tying it into a roulade to be roasted in addition to the turkey. And if you're cooking for a smaller crowd, a roulade makes a great substitute for a whole turkey. See How to Make a Turkey Roulade »Anna Stockwell

A Guide to Buying Turkey

roast turkey
Whether you're not sure what kind of turkey to buy or you have a specific plan, our guidelines will tell you what to look for--and why--in a conventional, natural, or heritage turkey. See our Guide to Buying Turkey »Todd Coleman

Individual Portions

rolling turkey breast
In lieu of cooking a whole bird, individual turkey roulades are an elegant and delicious alternative. Pound turkey cutlets to ⅛"-¼" thickness and season with salt and pepper. The filling can be anything from a traditional stuffing to a fresh herb pesto; lay it on the third of the cutlet nearest you and roll like a burrito. Then secure the roulade with toothpicks and pan-fry.Todd Coleman

All-Natural Roasting Rack

roasting rack of vegetables
A mirepoix of chopped carrot, onion, and celery lining the bottom of the roasting pan not only enhances the flavor of turkey as it cooks, it also acts as a roasting rack, elevating the bird so heat can circulate under it, for even browning all over. After roasting under the turkey and becoming infused with pan juices, the mirepoix can be added to the gravy to boost its flavor, too. See a recipe for Crisp Apple-Scented Roast Turkey with Cider-Calvados Gravy »Todd Coleman

Perfectly Cooked Turkey

Perfectly Cooked Turkey
White meat cooks faster than dark meat does, and breaking down a whole turkey into breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings before cooking lets you give each part the treatment it deserves. Begin by seasoning and pan searing the turkey pieces skin-side down, then roast them skin-side up in the oven, removing individual pieces once they're cooked. See a recipe for Roast Turkey with Root Vegetables and Gravy »Todd Coleman

How to Truss a Turkey

Trussing a turkey
Follow this trusty step-by-step technique for threading and trussing your turkey in the classic French manner. See our instructions for How to Truss a Turkey »Christopher Hirsheimer

VIDEO: How to Carve a Turkey

carving a turkey
Don't worry about hacking up your turkey in front of your Thanksgiving guests! See our simple technique for carving a beautiful bird, right at the table. See How to Carve a Turkey in our video »Todd Coleman

How to Grill a Turkey

grilling a turkey
Grilling a whole turkey is a great method for freeing up oven space for side dishes, and it yields a smoky flavor and crisp skin. Grilling works the best with a bird that has been soaked in a brine solution overnight. See the instructions for How to Grill a Turkey »Barbara Ries

VIDEO: How to Make Quick Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped potatoes are always a crowd-pleaser, but the delicately creamy sauce can take an awfully long time to come together in the oven--and even then, the potatoes might not cook through evenly. Here's a trick that shaves 30 minutes off of a traditional scalloped potato preparation and ensures that the potatoes cook to a beautifully even softness, without compromising the tiniest bit of flavor. See How to Make Quick Scalloped Potatoes »Vanessa Rees

Day-Before Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes
Peeling, boiling, and mashing potatoes is something you can get out of the way the day before the big feast, leaving your hands and your stove top free for other tasks. Simply pass the boiled potatoes through a ricer directly into a Ziploc bag and refrigerate. Then, just before serving time, heat your cream and butter in a saucepan, fold in the prepared potatoes, and season to taste. See a recipe for Sage Mashed Potatoes »Todd Coleman

VIDEO: How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds

garlic cloves
Planning a big meal often means peeling a ton of garlic cloves (and potentially getting stuck with their hard-to-eliminate odor). See an amazing trick for peeling an entire head of garlic in less than 10 seconds, no knife or acrid fingernails required. See How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds »Saveur

VIDEO: Two Easy Ways to Cut Carrots

carrots
These two simple, appliance-free ways to cut carrots will yield even, aesthetically pleasing pieces, guaranteeing reduced prep time and minimum waste. See Two Easy Ways to Cut Carrots »Todd Coleman

VIDEO: How to Knead Dough

kneading dough
A warm, homemade loaf of bread can be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table, but it can be an intimidating endeavor. The key to an even and beautiful loaf is proper kneading, and it's easier than you might think. We've outlined the best foolproof kneading technique for easily making gorgeous loaves at home in this quick video. Watch the video for How to Knead Dough »Saveur

Fluffier Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie
There are those who would say it's just not Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie--and those who can't abide the pie's dense texture. A simple way to keep all of your guests happy: Fold two whipped egg whites into the filling for an airier, souffle-like consistency. See a recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie »Todd Coleman

How to Crimp Crusts

Gluten-free pie crust
Crimped pie edges aren't just pleasing to the eye; they prevent single pie crusts from slumping, and they seal in juicy fillings in double-crust pies. Here's how to crimp correctly »Laura Sant

Making a Pie Crust

Making a Pie Crust
For novice bakers, a light, flaky pie crust can seem like an elusive grail, but following a few simple principles can make this goal easier to achieve. First and foremost: cold ingredients--especially cold, hardened butter-- are the secret to a flaky, toothsome crust. See the step-by-step guide to perfect pie crusts »
See 8 Great Pie Tips »
André Baranowski

How to Weave a Lattice

how to weave a lattice top pie
A lattice top, which adds visual interest to a pie, partially protects the filling, while the gaps in the weave allow steam to escape as the filling cooks. It's a simple process, but our visual guide makes it even easier, so you can focus on the turkey. See How to Weave a Lattice »Penny De Los Santos