Tips for a Stress-free Thanksgiving Dinner
This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to enjoy a small gathering with my family for our favourite holiday. Like millions of other Canadians, we skipped the traditional feast last year, so I’m excited to bring back the classics we love so much: whole roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans with toasted almonds, and apple pie!
If you’re also craving a turkey dinner but not sure where to start, here are three common questions I hear around Thanksgiving:
“Is it difficult to cook a whole turkey?”
It’s easier than you might think! Prepping a turkey can be as simple as sprinkling on garlic, salt and pepper. Add a little wine or broth to the roasting pan, place it in an oven preheated to 350F, and roast until the thickest part of the inner thigh reaches 180F for a stuffed turkey or 170F for an unstuffed turkey. (For approximate roasting times, see the Canadian Turkey timetable.) The best part – aside from the delicious, nourishing roasted turkey, of course – is that while the main course cooks, you can enjoy time with your family, make some easy side dishes and relax.
“I’m having a small gathering. Isn’t a whole turkey too much?”
You can buy turkeys as small as eight to 10 pounds. If you don’t see one in the poultry section, ask your butcher or the meat manager at the grocery store. Or try what I do: buy and roast a larger turkey, then freeze some of the leftovers for meals later and use the rest for quick, nourishing meals like sandwiches, salads, and soups. If you want something even smaller, try a turkey breast or a small turkey roast.
“What’s your favourite whole turkey recipe?”
I have so many favourites, I can’t pick just one! Canadian Turkey has a whole bunch of whole turkey recipes to choose from, featuring traditional and internationally inspired flavours. There’s bound to be a recipe that’s just right for you! For a little inspiration, let’s see which type of turkey lover you are.
- Gotta have stuffing. If you like lots of stuffing with your roasted turkey, try Roast Turkey with Artichoke and Asiago Dressing – it’s made with Italian ciabatta bread.
- Traditional, with a twist. Try the flavourful Burnt Orange Glazed Roast Turkey, a citrus-y take on a classic. (This is what I’m making this year)
- Brine all the way! If you’re the person who likes to get started a day or two ahead of the big meal, Garlic Brown Sugar Dry Brine Turkey is for you. For delicious results, you can start brining the turkey up to three days in advance.
- Spatchcock is super. A “flattened” turkey cooks evenly and quickly and is especially terrific for grilling. Try this Spatchcock Lemon Rosemary Turkey recipe for a delicious smoked flavour.
Whichever recipe you choose, here’s how to make Thanksgiving turkey dinner prep easy and give yourself plenty of time to visit with your family:
- Make your sides ahead.
Choose simple side dishes you can prep a day or two in advance, keep in the fridge and warm up easily. Mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables – like sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and squash – are always popular. Tip: When reheating mashed potatoes, add a little more milk or butter for moisture.
- Buy one or two pre-made items.
Give yourself a break and buy one or two of your menu items. Love apple pie or apple crisp but not a big baker? Pick one up from a local bakery. Want a squash soup but have no inclination to make it? Your grocery store may have delicious options. I’m not a fan of making stuffing, so I order a tray of ready-to-heat stuffing from a shop in my neighbourhood. The stuffing is a family favourite, and buying it saves me an hour or more of trying to create something similar. You can also buy pre-basted and stuffed turkeys – check out the selection at your grocery store or butcher.
- Make it a family (or friend) affair.
Here’s another great time-saver: share the cooking! Invite your family members or friends to make their favourite side dishes so you can focus on the turkey. Assign a salad, one or two vegetable sides and a dessert. Team Thanksgiving for the win!
Wishing you, your family and friends a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving,