NewsNational News


Thanksgiving on your own this year? Cooking tips and where to find help

Posted at 8:32 AM, Nov 16, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic safety measures have more Americans spending the traditionally family-and-food centric holiday of Thanksgiving in smaller groups or alone.

If this is your first time attempting the big meal on your own, here are some basics and places to get help and advice.

First figure out how much meat you’ll need, before you buy whatever turkey is left at the grocery store. Consider roughly one pound per person, this accounts for bone weight when buying the turkey. If you like a lot of leftovers, consider 1.5 pounds per person.

If it’s just you and maybe one or two others, consider buying just a turkey breast. They are usually a few to several pounds each and are all white meat.

You could also opt for a whole chicken instead; they are smaller but still give you the full bird experience with light and dark meat, legs, and a wishbone to snap.

Before moving on, you should probably consider if you are comfortable cooking a turkey (or chicken) from raw. If not, that’s ok. Plenty of restaurants and grocery stores have done the cooking for you and will gladly deliver or have you pick up Thanksgiving meals for any size group.

Once you have the right amount of meat, keep it frozen until a few days before you want to cook it, and then move it to the fridge to thaw.

For what comes next, there are so many options for preparing and cooking a turkey, it’s hard to pick one way. While most agree the stuffing should not actually be stuffed inside the raw turkey, there are other questions - Foil on or off? Grill, oven or crockpot? Brine or no brine? Oil or butter?

For help, step-by-step instructions, and ideas, here are some helpful links:

10 Tips for cooking the perfect turkey from the Food Network

Betty Crocker: How to cook a turkey

How to cook a turkey, from the New York Times

Pillsbury claims to have ano-fail method

And of course, there is the Butterball Hotline. A Thanksgiving tradition for first-time chefs across the country for almost four decades.

The hotline has been answering chef’s questions since 1981. There is likely no turkey question they haven’t been asked before.

Butterball offers turkey tips and tricks over the phone, by text message, live online chat, email and even through Amazon Alexa. And yes, they are helpful no matter what brand of turkey (or chicken) you are cooking.

After all this work for the main dish, consider enjoying pre-packaged or heat-and-serve side dishes at Thanksgiving.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to make sides, here are some helpful links:

85 classic Thanksgiving side dishes from Delish - including sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cranberries, and homemade cornbread.

Best Thanksgiving side dishes from Good Housekeeping - including glazed carrots, buttermilk biscuits, squash soup, and rosemary rolls.

Best of all, some of them can be made ahead and heated on Thanksgiving.

Leaving you more time to explain to your extended family how to unmute themselves on your family Zoom call. (FYI, Zoom is lifting its 40-minute limit on free calls on Thanksgiving.)