The menu's planned. The groceries are bought. Guests are arriving in a few hours...and the mashed potatoes are cold and the gravy's lumpy. Let the test kitchen help with any last-minute challenges that might come up on the big day.
First off, always rely on an instant-read thermometer to ascertain doneness when roasting poultry. In the case of turkey, look for 165 degrees in the thickest portion of the breast and 170 to 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. And just because a slice of turkey has a pinkish tint doesn't necessarily mean it’s underdone. Here's why.
To prevent the legs from splaying open, which could make them cook unevenly, we tuck them into the pocket of skin at the tail end. Not all turkeys have such a pocket. If yours doesn’t, tie the ankles together with kitchen twine. There’s no need to fuss with trussing.
Yes. Thirty minutes or so gives it time to reabsorb the juices; otherwise they’ll dribble out when you slice, and the meat will be dry. Once your bird's rested, follow these steps to carve it like a pro.
Despite what you’ve been told, basting does nothing to moisten dry breast meat. The liquid simply runs off the turkey, at the same time turning the skin chewy and leathery. Basting also requires that you incessantly open and close the oven, which means you won’t be sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner anytime soon.
The turkey's cavities contain the neck, heart, gizzard (part of the bird's stomach), and liver. Although it might look scary, conquer your fears—the heart, neck, and gizzard are flavor powerhouses that can greatly enhance gravy, like our Giblet Pan Gravy. We brown, then sweat and discard them to extract meaty flavor. The liver, however, has a potent, unpleasant flavor that can ruin a good gravy: Do not use it.
To keep gravy easy to pour and warm at the table—as well as easy to pour—use an insulated coffee carafe. It cuts down on spills and keeps gravy hot throughout the meal. You can also use a fondue pot. The heat from the candle or burner keeps the gravy warm and at the proper consistency.
There's no reason to let flour compromise your gravy's smooth, velvety texture. All it takes to get it back is three tools you already have in your kitchen (blender, saucepan, and fine-mesh strainer), and this technique.
We’d heard that the broth added to a roux must be cold or the gravy will turn out lumpy. To test the truth in this, we made three gravies, one with gently simmering broth, one with room-temperature broth, and one with cold broth. Adding the warm broth shaved a few minutes off the cooking time, but there was no discernible difference in quality. We did, however, learn a couple other keys to a silky gravy.
The equipment you use to mash your potatoes will have a big effect on their texture. An electric mixer is a real no-no, unless you like gluey potatoes. A masher is okay, as long as you don’t mind some lumps. Our preferred method produces almost perfect potatoes, with just the occasional lump.
Free up some of those precious few last minutes (and some valuable stovetop space) by making your mashed potatoes a couple of hours ahead of time and keeping them warm in a slow cooker on the low setting. Just adjust the consistency with hot cream or milk as needed before serving.
The solution is easy: Simply place a dishtowel between the pan and the lid. The towel absorbs the excess moisture created by the steam, preventing it from condensing on the pot lid and dripping down into the potatoes.
Sometimes how you prep a vegetable is as important as how you cook it. For a large carrot (over 1 inch in diameter), halve it crosswise, then quarter each section lengthwise to create a total of 8 pieces. For medium and small carrots, use these techniques.
Some recipes recommend cooking the sprouts whole, others halved, and many others with an “X” scored into the sprouts’ stem end. We tested them using two cooking methods: sautéing and boiling in salted water. The whole sprouts flunked. They took nearly 15 minutes to cook, and by the time the core was tender, the exterior was army green, mushy, and sulfurous. The halved sprouts not only cooked faster (in 6 to 8 minutes) and more evenly, but the exposed interiors soaked up seasoning much more easily. So did X mark the spot? Not so much. While the scored sprouts cooked slightly faster than the whole sprouts, the exterior overcooked before the inside was done.
There's no question that cutting, peeling, and seeding a winter squash can be a bit intimidating. We wondered if we could use use packages of peeled and sliced squash now available in the market not only for our risotto, but also for other squash dishes. In a word, no. Here's why.
We tried reviving limp broccoli by soaking florets and whole heads overnight in three different liquids: plain water, sugar water, and salt water. The sugar, we thought, might provide food that would revive the vegetable, while the salt might work like a brine, adding moisture and seasoning. The next day, we examined the broccoli raw and then pan-roasted it. In both the cooked and raw states, there was a clear winner.
Few things are more frustrating than having a rolled dough stick to the work surface. In the test kitchen, we have a multi-purpose tool that we use to slide underneath the sticky edges. And the best part is that our favorite model is only $8.
For pies and pastries, it's all about color. A well-browned crust is more flavorful than a blond one, and it won't be doughy in the middle. We bake all pies in glass pie plates so we can examine the bottom of the crust to determine doneness. When working with puff pastry or other flaky doughs, lift up the bottom of individual pieces and look for even browning.
A cheesecake is done when the center just barely jiggles. Since this can be difficult to judge, try this tip.