Thanksgiving’s not Thanksgiving if it doesn’t have an awesome turkey. You can make as many magnificent sweet potato side dishes and pumpkin pie desserts as you like, but if your bird isn’t up to scratch, you might as well tell everyone to go home. When done right, turkey is a triumphant dinner table centrepiece. When it goes wrong, it’s a sorry looking disaster.
Thankfully, with one of the most stressful cooking days of the year fast approaching, celebrity chefs are lining up to save the day. With hundreds of years of accumulated turkey-cooking experience between them, these famous faces have a raft of nifty ways to turn your turkey into something worth talking about. Time to sit up and pay attention.
1. Gordon Ramsay
When it comes to turkey, for Chef Ramsay, simple is better. You can overcomplicate until you’re blue in the face, but ultimately it all boils down to classic flavour combinations, cooked well. Ramsay’s recipe revolves around lemon and parsley, “with a savoury butter under the skin to keep the breast meat moist and flavourful”.
2. Bryan Voltaggio
If you do fancy doing something a little different this year, Bryan Voltaggio’s turkey butchery technique maybe the one for you. In his book “Home”, he explains that “The drumsticks are smoked and then roasted for maximum tenderness and flavor. The thighs and wing flats are braised with a white mirepoix until they are so tender and juicy they practically melt in your mouth. Finally, the breasts are injected with a flavorful marinade made with mayonnaise”.
3. Nigella Lawson
For Britain’s queen of home cooking, the key to a well-cooked turkey is all in the prep. Her top tip to any would-be turkey cooks is to make sure that the bird is brined for at least 24 hours before it goes in the oven. She explains that “not only does [the brine] tenderize and add subtle spiciness, but it makes carving the turkey incredibly much easier.” Once you’ve tried it, you won’t go back.
4. Jamie Oliver
No one, it seems, does Christmas quite like the Naked Chef. Admittedly, his turkey recipe is designed for late December, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for Thanksgiving. Oliver’s key ingredient is the mixture of spiced cranberry, bacon and walnut stuffing - which is a perfect match for everything else on the Thanksgiving menu.
5. David Burke
Be warned, anyone following this Thanksgiving recipe is going to need to suspend their disbelief. Maverick chef David Burke’s 1982 technique is the perfect solution if your oven happens to break on the big day. It involves - wait for it - the dishwasher. Apparently, seasoned breasts can be cooked in three full cycles. Just don’t put a tablet in with it.
6. Kenji Lopez-Alt
A slightly more orthodox approach to turkey cookery comes from maverick New Yorker J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. According to Chef Kenji, the easiest way to idiot-proof Thanksgiving dinner is to butterfly your bird, season it well and spread it out over a roasting rack. Just like a chicken, butterflying reduces the cook-time and makes the whole meal that much easier to judge.
7. Rachel Ray
Just like with fried chicken, if there’s one ingredient guaranteed to take your turkey to the next level, it’s buttermilk. According to Rachel Ray, a simple marinade of buttermilk, hot sauce, salt and pepper can send your centrepiece into the stratosphere - guaranteeing a moist finish and crispy crunchy skin. It might not be rocket science, but it sure is tasty.
It’s easy to see why many homecooks find cooking at Thanksgiving about the most stressful activity you can do. Fortunately, these top tips should make the whole exercise slightly easier than you might expect.