T-Day with The83k: You can do ALL OF THE THINGS — a how-to round-up

First things first, though – buy some plastic wrap to cover your phone/tablet/computer in the kitchen. Not kidding.

Whether you’re hosting for the first time or a veteran of dozens of dinners, holiday entertaining — especially Thanksgiving — can be overwhelming. Thankfully, we live in an age where any idiot can type “HOW DO STOP MY DISHWASHER FROM BEING ON FIRE” into their Googlematics and learn what kind of fire extinguisher/spell works best.

Hopefully, you won’t need to employ aguamenti. But we could always use a reminder/refresher on the best practices for Thanksgiving.

With that in mind — enjoy the following round-up of Thanksgiving how-tos.

  • How to dry brine a turkey: tubs of salted and sugary water have given way to dry-brining — a more effective and less fussy way to season your bird and help ensure a juicy main dish.

  • How to truss a turkey: even if you’re using a v-shaped roasting rack, trussing your bird is the best way to keep your turkey cooking evenly. Make sure you’re using proper butcher’s twine (don’t use thread or thin plastic utility rope, dummies.)

  • How to check your turkey’s temperature: grab an instant-read thermometer and stick it into the thickest part of the thigh, just underneath the drumstick (see the photo in the link.) Make sure the sensor of your thermometer isn’t submerged in whatever pan drippings/juices/basting liquid you’re using when checking (usually avoidable if you’re using a proper roasting rack.)

  • How to carve your turkey: this is just one of many ways to carve your bird; I’d recommend watching multiple videos and seeing what method suits you best — no matter what style you prefer, you’ll need a bird that’s rested so you can handle it and the right equipment — ideally, you want a carving board, a chef’s knife, paper towels, a platter, a boning knife and tongs handy.

  • How to decant your wine: if you’re serving wine with Thanksgiving dinner, decanting’s an easy step that will make many wines more aromatic and brighter on the palate. If you’re serious about wine, you probably already know what you’re doing re: decanting, but if not, this is a good introduction to the practice.

  • Thanksgiving tools: making sure the kitchen you’re using has everything you need to cook the biggest meal of the year ahead of time is one thing a lot of home cooks neglect, especially when cooking at a friend’s or relative’s home, where you don’t know exactly what’s there or what you may need to bring with you. Don’t wait until the day before to inventory/shop. Get that shit NOW.

  • How to fold a napkin: you can do better than a simple book fold. Here are three simple ways to up your place-setting game.

  • How to plan a Thanksgiving potluck/be a good guest at a Thanksgiving potluck: I’ve helped host a SLEW of friendsgiving potlucks, and they are a blast — but they take a little planning and coordination. One thing you DEFINITELY NEED TO DO, potluck invitees, is MAKE THE THING you said you were going to make. Chances are the dinner is planned with what you made in mind. Don’t change your mind just because you feel like it, or if you do, tell your host AS SOON AS IS POSSIBLE. And ASAP does not mean the day before.

  • How to make pie crust: you probably already have an ideal recipe for this, but I’m including these two, just in case; pies seem to be requisite at most Thanksgivings, regardless of whether they’re homemade or store-bought — if you’re so inclined, I think you’re capable of doing better than the perfectly serviceable but boring Mariano’s pumpkin pie.

  • How to avoid politics at Thanksgiving: even during one of the most brutal and bloody wars of all time, the two warring sides chilled out during the Christmas armistice of 1914. I’m not saying you shouldn’t call out your racist uncle who wears his MAGA hat to the T-Day table, but should you choose to keep Thanksgiving dinner politics-free, there’s strategies to try.

  • And then, because, juuuust in case: How to put out a kitchen fire, and how to unclog a sink with a garbage disposal. I’m including that last link, thanks to The83k buddy Fitz, who sent this in:

    Making Thanksgiving dinner for the family -- dressed and ready to go and had just finished slicing a whole bunch of cabbage (can't recall why we were making cabbage at Thanksgiving, but this was like 15 years ago). Decided to push all the cabbage trimmings into the garbage disposal and turn it on and, of course, the kitchen sink clogged. And family is going to be here in less than 30 minutes!

    I get a brilliant idea that I can just use the plunger to unclog the sink--which now has 2-3" of water in it--so I line it up right over the drain and give it a huge heave-ho, thus forcing the entire contents of the sink up and out of the sink and onto myself, the kitchen window, the ceiling, the cabinets, and anything else in a 5 foot radius.

    Wound up eventually unclogging the drain by fishing out the bulk of the cabbage manually and then applying drano for the rest while I cleaned myself and the kitchen up for the next 45 minutes.

    Thanks, Fitz.

More Thanksgiving recipes and tips to come, friends. Here’s our non-oven-roasted turkey advice, Part 1 of our side dish recommendations, and three different mashed potato recipes, from easy to bougie.

— Theo.

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