Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I love Fall and how the leaves change color, from the golden yellows to the rich red hues. As a native Michiganian, we welcomed Fall and were transfixed by how the entire landscape transformed. We used to visit the apple orchard and drink fresh cider and enjoy warm donuts. My dad would crank up the fireplace and we loved sitting in front of it until our faces turned hot.
Living in Texas now, I really miss the gorgeous colors of the leaves in the Midwest. Although the weather is chilly this week, the trees here are still mostly green. Change happens slowly here, but it is inevitable.
When I lived in Chicago after I got married, my husband’s family was really big on Thanksgiving dinners. It was my first introduction to turkey and the expansive fall menu, and I loved it. I hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners over the years and wanted to share my tips and information needed to prepare for a big turkey feast. I have also included tips on turkey making. The first time I made turkey, I watched tons of YouTube videos and combed through dozens of articles. I also consulted some experts and will be sharing some advice with you below. I hope you will be inspired to make your own turkey this year!
Create and Finalize the Guest List
The first step in hosting a Thanksgiving party is creating a guest list. How many families will be attending? How many children are there? I usually count older kids (10+) as an adult and have three younger kids equal one adult serving. Send out an invitation via Evite or Facebook to make your life easier. Make sure to include an RSVP date.
Make a Thanksgiving Menu
The fun part! I personally think it is too much to handle for the host to cook the turkey and all the sides (unless it is being catered). Whenever I have hosted a Thanksgiving party, I usually have families pick a side from a pre-determined menu using Signup Genius or have people sign up via email.
As far as the menus goes, make sure to include:
- Green beans
- Mashed Potatoes
- Cranberry Sauce
- Rice casserole
We will be featuring different Thanksgiving menus on the blog soon for more inspiration, so look out for that!
How many Turkeys will I Need?
The rule of thumb is to figure 1 lb of turkey per adult guest.
Use this handy calculator to know how large of a turkey you need. If you have 30 adult guests and don’t want leftovers, then you would need turkeys that equal 30 lb., or two 15 lb. birds.
Where do I get my Halal Turkey from?
Turkeys are normally sold frozen and wrapped. I usually purchase a whole turkey from my local halal meat store. The turkeys I’ve bought in the past are pre-brined so they turn out nice and juicy with flavor already built in.
If you can get a fresh halal turkey, then hats off to you!
What Tools will I need to make a Turkey?
If you are feeling adventurous and would like to bake your own turkey, then you should purchase the following items well in advance:
- Large roasting pan with rack
- Kitchen twine
- Meat thermometer
- Carving set
- Turkey lifter
- Heavy duty aluminum foil
- Carving set
- Turkey platter
How and When to Defrost a Turkey
I place my frozen turkey in the fridge three days before my party to defrost. It can even take up to four days depending on the size of the bird. The rule is to allow one day of thawing in the refrigerator for every 4 lbs. of turkey.
You can buy your turkey ahead of time, stick it in the freezer, and take out to defrost 3-4 days before the party.
Sometimes, even though you put the turkey to defrost a few days in advance, it may still be rock hard frozen inside. This happened to me once, the remedy is to give it a cold water bath, changing out the water every 30 minutes until fully defrosted.
To Stuff or Not to Stuff
I don’t put the stuffing inside my turkey, but I do fill my turkey with roughly chopped onions, lemon, and fresh herbs. I make my stuffing in a separate dish. It is recommended to cook the stuffing separately for optimum safety and uniform doneness.
How Long to Cook the Turkey
For 12-14 lb. size birds, I usually allot 4 hours oven time. A roasted turkey is ready when the temperature reading of the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165°F. A meat thermometer comes in real handy to make sure the turkey is fully cooked. Here’s a chart that tells you how long the turkey needs to cook for based on the weight of the bird:
I get grossed out pretty easily, so it was important for me to know what was involved when cleaning out and marinating a turkey for the first time. Usually, a neck comes out from the inside cavity as well as the giblets (edible internal parts such as the gizzard, heart and liver). I always have my husband reach inside and remove any weird stuff! He also helps me loosen the skin and rub the marinade underneath the skin as well as inside the turkey cavity.
If you have ANY questions regarding the T-day party or the process of making a turkey, please ask below in the comments!