Thanksgiving at Home

Parents share their cooking tips, recipes, decoration ideas & more for making a fun and festive Thanksgiving Dinner at home...

Thanksgiving Turkey


Image courtesy of Walk-In Cookbook


In this section:

Cooking Tips

Decorating Ideas


More ideas on PSP & beyond




Turkey Mystery:

For those interested, you flip the turkey to prevent the breast from getting too dry and/or overcooked. Cooking the turkey upside down at first protects the breast from the heat and also allows the juices from the dark meat to saturate the white meat.  To avoid flipping, several people have recommended brining the turkey (an arduous but apparently worthwhile process). You can also get a prebrined turkey from Whole Foods.  Brining is a wonderful way to attain the juiciest turkey while adding flavor. We recommend brining the turkey overnight in a covered non-porous container - fully immersed. The primary reason brining works well is because the salt and water bath locks the water inside the meat during soaking creating a barrier during the cooking process, thus preventing the juices from escaping. Defrost your frozen turkey first! We recommend this brine for an aromatic and moist turkey:

1 cup salt (per each 2 gallons of water)
1 cup sugar (per each 2 gallons of water) 4 oranges (cut in half and juice)
8 whole allspice pellets
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh sage

Dissolve sugar and salt to desired water amount. Add the orange halves, juice, whole spices, and fresh herbs. Immerse washed turkey, cover and refrigerate overnight. Do not rinse turkey after removing from the brine."

Someone sent me tips on flipping a big bird, like using a big barbeque fork, a paper bag, and oven mits (and a crane, perhaps?).

This all seems very sensible to me. I'm rethinking my vow not to flip, and considering using carrots and celery in the roasting pan instead of rack."


The Reynold's Turkey Bag:

I just want to make sure everyone is aware of the greatest invention available for very little money in any supermarket...the Reynolds Turkey Bag, it cost about $2 (and you get two, so it's good for 2 thanksgivings or you can cook 2 turkeys and give one to charity!)  I have used it forever and it never failed: juicy delicious perfect turkey, in no time, no supervision required, no butter needed, no additional dressing (except your favorite spices, or just salt and pepper) All you need to do is put the turkey in the bag, then in the oven and set the timer. If you have an oven that turns itself off with a timer, you can just go to sleep and the morning after the turkey will greet you, ready.

The bag even prevents the oven from getting dirty, it's really a life saver...

This is one of the things I am most grateful of :-)!!!!!
Cheaper and easier than any take out!


Sweet Potato Pudding:

"You cannot go wrong with sweet potato pudding. and yes, i definitely mean the kind with marshmallows. This recipe seems about right, only put miniature marshmallows on top of the brown sugar/pecan part. If you make it in a deep dish, anyone too cool for the marshmallows can just eat the sweet potato part."


Roasted Root Vegetables:

"I make this Ottolenghi Roasted Root Vegetables with a Caper Vinegrette recipe every year as a main dish for the Vegetarians & as the side for the Meat Eaters.  This is the only dish where there are never any leftovers - everyone loves it! The colors of the ingredients also make for a very festive meal."


Ginger Cookies:

"One is that I make up a big batch of my favorite ginger cookie dough and then get all the kids involved in forming dough balls to bake after dinner.  (They can also be baked in advance but are so good warm out of the oven that that's how we have to have them, preferably dipped in the big bowl of whipped cream I make for the pies.  However I do recommend rolling the dough balls in advance and they can just be kept in a bowl of sugar in the fridge during the meal.) Recipe attached."




"Having the kids help with decorating is a way to get them involved.  You might get some clear contact paper, have them collect leaves outside (weather permitting), and make placemats for the tables. Depending on age they can also help with the napkin folding (check YouTube for tons of videos on napkin folding)- there may be something easy enough for your kiddos."


"Something I've always meant to do but never got my act together--have a special tablecloth for Thanksgiving only, and provide fabric markers (or just sharpies) for all the guests to sign every time you host. Wishing I'd heard of it before my family started dying off."




"We started a tradition in my family about 30 years ago where we have a family auction at Thanksgiving. Everyone brings at least 1 thing to auction off and my cousin is the auctioneer. Most of the stuff is silly but that makes it that much more fun. At the end we decide on a charity and donate the money. Each year people try to compete for the most fun items. Some favorites were a Bernie Madoff company shirt and, more recently, a box of Ho-Hos just after Hostess announced they were going under."


"When i was growing up, my family always headed out to a park or a yard to play soccer after we had finished eating thanksgiving dinner. I am not athletic and am the youngest in my family by 5 years, but I always looked forward to getting out of doors and running around with my cousins and aunts and uncles.  Sadly, as everyone has gotten older this tradition has been put aside. I hope to revive it as my kids get older."


"The other is that we play a big all ages game of charades, with kid clues and adult clues, and also attempting - to the extent possible - to keep siblings and spouses on opposite teams. We usually have between 20-24 people so two teams of 10-12 with two or three rounds per player depending on how much time/energy we have.  It's always so much fun and a great way to work off all the sugar energy from the pies and cookies!"


"My husband and i try to have lunch together on one of the days leading up to thanksgiving--sort of some couple-time calm before the familial storm.  We usually go to the GC oyster bar, so are hoping the brooklyn outpost opens in time for us to bring the tradition closer to home."



Get more tips in The Park Slope Parents Cookbook


Get inspiration from:

All Recipes Thanksgiving Recipes

The Food Network

Southern Living

Food & Wine


Further Reading about Thanksgiving in New York:

Catering & Food Delivery Ideas

The Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade & Balloon