Thanksgiving 911: Expert Chefs Answer Your Last-Minute Holiday Dinner Questions

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Thanksgiving dinner is just a few hours away, and many people are already in the kitchen preparing their holiday feasts.

It's a huge undertaking, and you may have questions about how to make the all-important meal perfect in every way.

"Good Morning America" has put together a panel of experts to answer all your questions.

Sara Moulton, "GMA"'s food editor; Amanda Freitag, a contestant on the Food Network's "Next Iron Chef: Redemption"; and Sunny Anderson, host of the Food Network's "Homemade in America," all appeared on "GMA" this Thanksgiving morning to share their expertise, tips and recipes, and they answered your most pressing questions about the turkey, sides and dessert.


Q: How can I reduce the Thanksgiving cooking stress?

A: One way to de-stress on Thanksgiving is to start making the gravy for the turkey in the morning. Make the roux (stir together butter, flour and stock,) then when the turkey is done, pour in the drippings. Voila!

Click HERE for more recipes for Thanksgiving main dishes, sides and desserts.

Q: Should I wash the turkey?

A: No! Washing the turkey will spread bacteria all over the kitchen. Any bacteria that may be on the turkey will be killed through the cooking process.

Q: How can I cook the turkey faster?

A: There are three ways to get a quicker turkey. Below are the three methods explained:

1. Crank up the heat. [Note: Your oven must be VERY CLEAN. Use a heavy roasting pan with high sides, large enough for the turkey so that it does not touch the sides of the pan. If the top skin seems to be getting too dark, slip a doubled piece of aluminum foil on top of it. Don't move the turkey. Use an oven mitt to protect your hand. Remove the foil with the same oven mitt 10 minutes before the turkey comes out. This recipe serves 10 to 15 (see chart below for times on other sizes of turkey).]

One 15-pound turkey, room temperature, use giblets and neck for gravy, liver for stuffing, 1 cup water, turkey or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 500 F. Position the rack that is going to hold the turkey on the second level from the bottom of the oven.

Pat the turkey dry. Sprinkle the outside with pepper. If stuffing, stuff the cavity, securing the opening with metal skewers. Do not truss.

Put the turkey in a large, deep roasting pan, breast side up. Put in the oven legs-first. Cook until the leg joint near the backbone wiggles easily, about 2 hours. Remove the turkey to a large platter. Let sit 20 minutes before carving.

Pour off grease from roasting pan and put pan on top of the stove. Deglaze the pan with water or stock, scraping up the brown bits. Simmer until reduced by half. Serve on the side in a sauce boat or add to giblet gravy. - Adapted from "Roasting: A Simple Art," by Barbara Kafka


Weight Stuffed Unstuffed

9-10 pounds 1 ¾ hours 1 ¼ hours

12 pounds 1 hour 50 minutes 1 hour 20 minutes

15 pounds 2 ½ hours 2 hours

20 pounds 3 ½ hours 3 hours

2. Just cook a turkey breast (or two for a larger crowd)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Brush with butter, season with salt and pepper and roast a 4 1/2-5 pound turkey for 1 1/4- 1 1/2 hours or until a thermometer when inserted into the breast registers 155 F.* Transfer the breast to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 20 minutes before carving.

3. Flatten the turkey (also called spatchcocked turkey)

One 6 to 8 pound turkey (see Sara Moulton's notes below for cooking a larger turkey) 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed a few branches sage or thyme ½ cup butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Using a sharp knife or poultry shears remove the turkey's backbone (reserving it for stock if desired). Turn the turkey over, and press on it very hard to flatten the breast; dislocate the thigh joint where it meets the torso.

Put the bird, breast side up, in a large roasting pan. The wings should partially cover the breast, and the legs should protrude a bit. Tuck the garlic and herbs under the bird's skin and in the nooks of the wings and legs; smear with the butter and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast for 20 minutes, undisturbed. If the turkey is browning too quickly, reduce the oven temperature to 400 F; beginning to check it after 55 minutes of total cooking; it's done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 155F.

Let rest for 20 minutes before carving. (The government recommends cooking a turkey to an internal temperature of 165 F.) - Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe that appeared in the New York Times Magazine on Nov. 18.

Sara Moulton's notes:

I cooked a 12-pound turkey following Mark Bittman's method above in order to determine the time on a larger bird. Here is what I found:

When flattening the turkey, it helps to break the wishbone and make a long cut in the underside of the breast bone in order to be able to properly press down and flatten the breast.

I cooked my turkey at 450 F for 20 minutes, then I turned down the oven to 400 F for an additional 1 hour and 30 minutes.


Q: How can I make a green bean casserole with a twist?

A: Use fresh shallots instead of French's fried onions, and instead of cream of mushroom soup, use cream and a variety of mushrooms.

Q: I'll be a guest in someone's home for Thanksgiving. What's a good dish to make that travels well?

A: You can take anything that can be baked in a casserole dish. Some good ones are mac 'n' cheese with truffles, or a great stuffing.


Q: What's the secret to a great pie crust?

A: Use cold ingredients - cold butter, cold milk, even cold flour. It'll make the pie crust flakier. Also, par-bake your pie crust so it's partially cooked before you put the wet ingredients into it.

RELATED: 5 Thanksgiving Apps That Help With Your Holiday Meal

Q: My oven is in use all day long. Do you have a recipe that doesn't require baking?

A: A fruit fool is one dessert that doesn't require baking. It's basically fruit in syrup, folded into whipped cream.


Click HERE to see the recipe for Amanda's Favorite Stuffing

Click HERE to see the recipe for Sunny's Mini Pecan Pumpkin Pie

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