Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke Food Stylist: Rishon Hanners
After several years of pandemic-related breakups, this Thanksgiving promises to be epic for get-togethers. Perhaps you are now thinking about the preparation.
But if you’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner — and most of us have, of course — then you know how frustrating it can be to prep it in advance when supermarkets mostly showcase seasonal produce.
But there are some elements that you can decide on now and then buy related products.
In fact, “I think one of the most important steps in pre-planning your Thanksgiving meal is menu planning. Precisely deciding what to serve, selecting recipes, organizing prep lists and shopping lists can save your kitchen a lot of time and frustration,” says Alex Herrell, Executive Chef at Virgin Hotels New Orleans Saves time and possibly money as well.”
Think about how you’re going to cook your turkey this year: Fry? Smoking? Or the good old-fashioned roast? While most markets don’t stock birds until a few weeks before the big day, you can even get some practice at it — if you decide to try a new method — by ordering a whole turkey or turkey breast ahead of time.
Even if you don’t want or need a sample, Pitmaster Erica Blaire Roby, winner of Season 2 of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl,” says, “Now’s the time to pre-order your turkey or get waitlisted at your favorite farm if you can.” Peace of mind knowing you won’t be playing Thanksgiving Ninja against all the other last minute shoppers in the poultry aisle!”
You can also order an inherited or free-range bird from a variety of mail order or delivery services to save yourself the extra trip to a store, farm, or butcher.
In addition to the main protein, here’s what to buy now to get ahead.
Every year you look at these YouTube videos of people frying beautiful golden skinned turkeys and you think: Wow, that looks delicious!
Or maybe you watch the disaster videos where the whole thing bursts into flames and think Wow, that looks dangerous! Either way, you’re tempted to do it this year because hey, roast turkey is hands down the most tender bird you’ve ever had.
If you don’t have one, now is the time to order a turkey fryer kit. It consists of a burner with a gas indicator, a large pot and some essential accessories such as a poultry stand, a pull-out hook, a glove to prevent burns, an injector for marinating, a fryer, a medical thermometer and more.
Don’t skimp; Choose the best version of this kit and put it together well before the big day. You will need to test the hose for the gas connection to make sure there are no leaks. You should also make sure you understand the instructions.
If you have one, get it out of the garage or shed, clean it up, and test the connections. You want to make sure it’s okay.
Wild Fork Executive Chef Jacqueline Kleis also recommends exploring your outdoor cooking area to make sure it’s suitable for frying. “Plan the open space and stable floor where you will place the fryer. Those YouTube videos? They are mostly user error for various reasons, but one of them is unstable ground. Another is overflowing oil.
Finally, get the oil you need now — most fryers prefer peanut oil — before there’s a run on it. Roby suggests keeping some extra on hand just in case. “You should buy your cooking fuel/heat sources ahead of time and have extra in case of unforeseen events – eg spilled oil, broken fryer parts,” she says. “This also gives you an early idea of what your prep station and cooking day will require.”
If you don’t use them, you can keep them until next year. “I usually buy my Thanksgiving decorations and miscellaneous supplies the week after Thanksgiving (because most are discounted) and store them until next year!” Roby admits.
Like a deep fryer: “Get your barbecue smoker now,” Roby recommends. “You want time to practice and spice up the inside before the big day!
You don’t necessarily need to get a pellet smoker as there are many types on the market. But whatever you buy, make sure you’re using the right type of fuel: pellets, wood chips, or charcoal. You might also want to buy smoked salts or a rub. If you make a rub beforehand, store it in the freezer for freshness.
Again, for safety reasons, Kreis recommends exploring your outdoor cooking space for the best possible placement of a smoker. And she also suggests buying an incense burner if you don’t already have one, along with a large, heavy fork, carving knife, and thermometer. Try using a thermocouple thermometer with immersion probes to get the best reading of both the internal temperature of the poultry and the temperature of the smoker. Many of these are smart thermometers that connect to your phone so you can scan and adjust them from the comfort of your living room or kitchen.
If you decide to go the traditional route, Kleis advises getting “a frying pan at least three inches deep with a removable rack.” Here are the measurements she recommends per pound:
8-10 pounds (small) 10″ x 14″ x 3″
12-14 pounds (medium 16″ x 10″ x 3″
14 lbs and over (Large) 18″ x 12″ x 4″
Also, test your thermometer to make sure it’s working. (Use the ice test. Put ice in a glass of water, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then insert it into the thermometer. It should read 32°F. If it doesn’t, the thermometer won’t show the temperatures correctly.)
If not, invest in a new one, along with heavy-duty aluminum foil to cover the top of the bird. You will also need a baster and ingredients for bashing, such as: b broth.
At this point, you can also buy all the packaged, bottled, or canned goods you know you need for the gravy, filling, and sides, from bone broth to your favorite brand’s croutons to jellied cranberry sauce. And of course the fried onions and cream of mushroom soup for the green bean casserole, because you know, no matter how you cook your turkey, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.