Relax and embrace the horror.
Accept the fact that you’ll get at least something wrong when preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
The turkey will be too big. Or too small. Or too frozen. There won’t be enough mashed potatoes, or maybe you’ll forget to salt them. Maybe you’ll have rivers of gravy, but only enough stuffing for two people. Which is just as well, because you probably won’t remember what temperature the stuffing is supposed to be cooked to anyway.
We can’t solve all of those problems for you, but we can give you a cheat sheet to help you avoid at least a few blunders. We’ve done some of the most common Thanksgiving math for you. Now you can focus on more important things, such as who will sit next to your obnoxious uncle or how to deflect your mother-in-law’s unwanted housekeeping advice.
Because this is Thanksgiving, all serving estimates are generous to allow for plenty of seconds and leftovers.
For turkeys less than 16 pounds, estimate 1 pound per serving (this accounts for bone weight). For larger birds, a bit less is fine; they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio. But if your goal is to have very ample leftovers, aim for 11/2 pounds per person no matter how big the turkey is.
* For 8 people, buy a 12-pound turkey
* For 10 people, buy a 15-pound turkey
* For 12 people, buy an 18-pound turkey
* For 14 people, buy a 20-pound turkey
THE BIG THAW
The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. You’ll need about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. For speedier thawing, put the turkey in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and plan for about 30 minutes per pound.
A good brine uses kosher salt and sugar in a 1-to-1 ratio, and usually no more than 1 cup of each. Feel free to add any other seasonings. Brines typically are made by heating the salt, sugar and seasonings with a bit of water until dissolved. This mixture then is diluted with additional cold water (volume will vary depending on the size of your bird) and ice. Be certain the brine is completely cooled before adding the turkey.