Thanksgiving might be the most anticipated, and stressful, meal of the year so why not take a tip or two from the pros. School of Culinary Arts chefs Rene Jungo, Jason Marsh and Brenda Nimmo give their sage advice on what to do– and not to do— to make your Thanksgiving meal as tasty and stress free as possible.
How big a turkey should I get?
I would say six ounces per person depending on how many sides will be offered. — Chef Jason Marsh
For smaller gatherings I roast and slice a bone-in turkey breast. Or think about serving baked ham. It’s much less stressful and offers more variety — Chef Brenda Nimmo
Roast or fry the turkey?
Just roast it the good old-fashioned way. When it’s done, let it rest for 20 minutes, breast down, then carve. — Chef Rene Jungo
I prefer roasting. You’re able to control the flavor and temperature better than frying. — Chef Jason Marsh
To brine or not to brine?
Brining is excellent but be careful to read the label on the turkey. If it says 10 percent solution added for flavor, it has already been brined and will become too salty if you brine. —Chef Jason Marsh
How can I ‘wow’ up traditional sides?
For bread stuffing, use different types of bread like sourdough or a dark rye. Turn your green bean casserole into a three bean casserole. — Chef Jason Marsh
Here is a new family favorite of mine; try adding a little orange zest in the candied sweet potato dish, and instead of marshmallow use a crumble topping of pecans, brown sugar, melted butter and a little flour. Bake in the oven to brown and crisp up the top. — Chef Brenda Nimmo
What are some new side dishes our family can try this year?
In my family, we keep our Thanksgiving fairly traditional. It is a meal to honor the recipes of our grandma, nana, and aunties— all the women that created the wonderful food memories our childhood. If you are an adventurous cook, I might suggest attempting only one new recipe. If it receives rave reviews, then start a new tradition. My family will not hold back their opinions, so I don’t try to shake it up too much. — Chef Brenda Nimmo
What kind of prep work can I do beforehand to make the day of Thanksgiving easier?
From a chef’s perspective preparation is everything. Begin planning several weeks ahead. Make the guest list, plan the menu, check that you have platters, serving utensils, chafing dishes, china, and enough silverware. Shop the week before. Set the table the night before. — Chef Brenda Nimmo
Prepare everything you can other wise it becomes a fire drill and that is no fun. — Chef Rene Jungo
Are there some cooking shortcuts I can take when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal?
Do not try to do everything. Assign guest to bring things that may be helpful on the big day. Tea, bag of ice, desserts to share, or simple side dishes. Invite someone over to assist with the prep. Share a bottle of wine and enjoy the process. Also, drag that summer ice chest or cooler out of the garage to hold your side dishes. Heat and cover your dishes and keep them for a few hours in the insulated cooler. Minus the ice, of course, it should retain enough heat to allow for much-needed oven space. — Chef Brenda Nimmo
What do I do with all these leftovers?
Use the meats for sandwiches or a casserole dish — Chef Rene Jungo
Turkey and homemade noodles or turkey lasagna — Chef Jason Marsh
When I shop for the groceries, I always buy take home containers. We feast all day; so much that I am ready to divide it all up and send the leftovers home with my guests. —Chef Brenda Nimmo