Every year it’s something new at your holiday gathering, but by now, we’ve just about heard them all. We field many of the same questions year after year, so if you’re wondering the same things as Thanksgiving creeps closer, trust us, you’re not alone.
Consider this guide your resource for the answers to your most pressing Thanksgiving questions.
And if we don’t cover it here, we’ll be on hand Wednesday, Nov. 23, for a special two-hour live Voraciously cooking Q&A to answer all your last-minute Thanksgiving questions. Join staff writers Becky Krystal, Aaron Hutcherson, the rest of the Voraciously team and special guest Joy “The Baker” Wilson as we whisk you through your final prep before the feast. Submit a question now, then join us on Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. ET. We’re also available via Instagram, Twitter and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our most important piece of advice: Don’t stress out! You are fully capable of making an incredible Thanksgiving meal, no matter the size of your gathering or the size of your oven. You’ve got this.
How much turkey per person?
The Agriculture Department suggests 1 pound of turkey per person. We’ve previously suggested about 1½ pounds for each diner to allow for leftovers. One of our staple resources is the “Chef’s Book of Formulas, Yields & Sizes” by Arno Schmidt. The book says a 22-pound turkey will yield 12 pounds of roasted meat, including scraps, which equates to 22 servings — lining up perfectly with USDA guidance. “Chef’s Book” also suggests you can stretch that 22-pound bird to 40 servings “on a buffet when served with other meats and salads.”
How to brine a turkey?
Brining can help turkey stay moist and tasty. A wet brine results in uniformly moist and seasoned meat, but requires a lot of fridge real estate and can be slightly unwieldy. A dry brine involves rubbing the bird with salt and should deliver extra crisp skin. Read about how to brine both ways here. (You can also achieve a moist, flavorful turkey without brining at all.)
What to do if your Thanksgiving turkey is still frozen?
Find everything you need to know about thawing a frozen turkey here. But: Did you know you can put a frozen-solid bird in the oven, and in less than twice the time it would take to cook a fresh one, have a perfectly delicious roasted bird? It’s true! Roast turkey doesn’t get any simpler than this, so take heart, last-minute cooks. You’ll even be rewarded with lots of crisp skin and plenty of pan juices that will help season the meat after it has been sliced. Get the foolproof recipe here.
How long does raw turkey last in the fridge?
A raw, fresh turkey should be stored for no longer than two days in the refrigerator. In theory, a frozen turkey can last indefinitely. But for the best quality, use it within a year. Especially this year, consider reserving your turkey early — like, now. When you pick up the bird depends on whether you’re going with fresh or frozen.
What about turkey alternatives?
We’ve got so many great options. Like a crisp-skinned Puerto Rican pernil pork roast, or a rich Porcini Beef Pot Roast. Or lean into the autumn vegetable bounty with Lentil and Pecan-Stuffed Acorn Squash; a Pumpkin, Walnut and Sage Crostata; or a regal Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington. Get 15 centerpiece-worthy turkey alternative recipes here.
What to make for Thanksgiving for two?
Not everyone is traveling to or hosting a big gathering, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a full array of holiday flavors on the table. Anna Rodriguez shared a scaled down Thanksgiving menu with multiple options for every course that covers all the bases and won’t waste food. Start with Roasted Fall Fruit With Balsamic-Ginger Glaze or Triple Onion Dip, and for the main course, go with a saucy Stovetop Roasted Turkey Breast or Phyllo Galette With Butternut Squash, Feta and Olives. Get the full menu and tips here.
What if I need a cocktail?
How about three? Try our recipes for Cranberry-Ginger Punch, Thanksgiving Daiquiri and Crimson Crane. Or go classic, with a Negroni, or another one of the seven essential cocktails every drinker should know how to make. Better yet, give our new cocktail generator a shake to find just the right drink to suit your tastes, including nonalcoholic options. Get more cocktail ideas here.
What are the best sweet potato recipes?
Sweet potato lovers, we have you covered. How about a classic streusel-topped casserole, cubed in a bright and zesty salad, roasted whole or revved up with cinnamon and pineapple for a little something extra. Or go savory with Sweet Potato Puree With Roasted Garlic. We won’t even ask where you stand on the marshmallow debate. We’ll just give you the option: With or without.
How do I make a perfect pie crust?
A great pie crust makes all the difference. A few pointers: Keep things cool. Use a light touch. Rotate the crust 90 degrees periodically as you’re rolling it. And if something does go wrong, just roll with it. Find all of Aaron’s Hutcherson’s pie crust tips here. And watch his step-by-step guide below.
Check out Joy Wilson’s Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie recipe (pictured above) here, or get all your favorite pie flavors on one plate with Daniela Galarza’s Two-Bite Thanksgiving Tassies, featuring a single crust that can be filled with pumpkin, pecan, apple crumble, cranberry, chocolate, lemon or buttermilk chess filling and baked together for a cornucopia of mini pies. Note: You’ll need is a mini muffin tin. Or, go all in on pumpkin and pecan pie flavors with Daniela’s mix-and-match pie and sauce recipes: Silky Pumpkin Pie, Brown Butter Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Mousse, Pecan Butterscotch Sauce.
What are some Thanksgiving desserts that are not pie?
Our most popular Thanksgiving dessert recipe of 2021 was in fact not a pie, and it required no baking. Becky Krystal’s No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake was a runaway hit with readers. How about a Sour Cream Maple Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting? Or Pumpkin Creme Brulees? Find a bevy of festive dessert options here.
What Thanksgiving dishes can I make ahead?
Almost everything. Really.
- Cranberry sauce. Most cranberry relishes and sauces can be refrigerated for up to a week.
- Gravy. You can make your gravy (or most of it, minus the drippings) a couple of days early.
- Bread. Bake your bread or rolls a day or two in advance; wrap in foil and warm in the oven before serving. You can also bake several days in advance and freeze — just set your bread out to defrost at room temperature on Wednesday.
- Pies and other desserts. Most pies can be made two or more days in advance. Or make a cake or cookies.
- Turkey. If you’re brining, start brining the day before.
- Stuffing. Advance work depends on the recipe. You can completely make the stuffing in advance, bake it, refrigerate and reheat the cooked stuffing before serving. Or, you can prepare the stuffing up until the point of adding the liquid, refrigerate the separate components and then bake it together on Thursday.
- Sides. Shred radicchio and slice radishes for a slaw, or roast some squash for a hearty salad; blanch or steam green beans or Brussels sprouts. Think about elements that can be prepped or finished ahead of time, then do it!
What to do with turkey leftovers?
For some of us, this is really the best part of Thanksgiving. After you’ve sent home some of the extras with your friends and family, the options are endless. Start the day with a Southwest-Style Turkey Hash, Pumpkin Cranberry Waffles or Dorie Greenspan’s Turkey-and-Cranberry Sriracha Strata. Step up the turkey sandwich game with Ann Maloney’s Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Po’ Boy, and use up leftover turkey and broth in a quick, flavorful Turkey Tortilla Soup. Find more of our favorite Thanksgiving leftovers recipe ideas here.