Anthony Bourdain says you’re doing Thanksgiving wrong

If there’s one meal at which family drama is on full display, it’s Thanksgiving. Expectations and emotions run high, and there are a lot of moving parts to cause friction. Even Anthony Bourdain, who is seemingly immune to the criticism of others, feels the pressure to pull off the most anticipated meal of the year. In fact, he dedicated a whole chapter to Thanksgiving in the book I co-wrote with him last year, “Appetites: A Cookbook.” There, you’ll find recipes from Tony that are capable of distracting from any and all uncomfortable conversations.

» Make it fast or make it slow: Thanksgiving turkey two ways

Below, a list of exactly what you’re doing wrong for the big day.

1. Don’t start cooking on Thanksgiving Day

Preparing your whole meal in one day- even two-is a recipe for system failure. Order your fancy farmer-raised turkey yesterday. Or, if you are going to buy a more plebian bird from a regular market, get your hands on it no later than the Monday before Thanksgiving.

2. You’re not planning well enough

Plan for three days-that’s right, three days-of full-on Thanksgiving prep. Make a list of everything that needs to get done and follow it. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, you should be organizing your supplies and tools, making sure you have enough roasting pans, mixing bowls, and storage containers, and banging out advance vegetable prep.

3. You’re not giving yourself enough time to thaw everything

Do not wait until Thanksgiving to lay out your non-perishables and frozen items. The vast majority of holiday turkeys are sold frozen, and it takes about six hours per pound to defrost in the refrigerator. No amount of prayer, salting, or hastily applied hairdryers can speed up this process if you’ve waited until Wednesday to thaw a 12-pound bird. Your microwave isn’t big enough. You can jolly it along a bit with a cold water bath, which thaws the meat at approximately 30 minutes per pound, but do not float your turkey in your bathtub.

» Weight Watchers debuts diet wine to toast the holidays

4. Don’t forget to make stock when it’s all over. It’s liquid gold for cold weather.

Stock is the underrated superhero of the Thanksgiving meal, the product that comes out of nowhere to save almost everything except your pie. You should make stock out of your Thanksgiving turkey carcass-but the use of a good, dark, gelatinous-when-refrigerated stock that you have on hand before the meal is what’s going to upgrade your stuffing and gravy. Buy about five to seven pounds of turkey wings and necks as the base for a deeply-roasted stock, or invest in a couple of quarts of the best-quality turkey stock you can find a few days (or weeks) before the holidays. Use the stock made from your Thanksgiving birds for winter soups and stews.

5. You make only one turkey? That’s hilarious.

My top Thanksgiving rule: Prepare a stunt turkey and a business turkey. My motto is “never let ‘em see you sweat.” To impress guests, roast and artfully arrange a small turkey, using any and all manner of garnishes and props, including (but not limited to): chop frills, rainbow pinwheels of skewered citrus fruit slices, maraschino cherries, curly kale, lit sparklers, and crisp, new $100 bills and/or gold leaf. While guests admire your artistry (and drink your Burgundy), carve the larger, roasted business turkey in the kitchen. The stunt turkey should be edible, of course. Use it to supplement the meal as needed, or lean on it entirely for care packages and day-after leftovers.

6. Don’t throw away the fat

Do not discard the copious amounts of grease your bird has generously provided you with; use it to boost flavor. Butter is good, but turkey fat is better for delivering quintessential flavor. Save the grease that runs off the roasted birds and use it for the gravy and as a moistening agent for your stuffing.

» 10 ways to avoid overeating during the holidays

7. Don’t try anything crazy. This is not the time for wild experimentation.

Stick with tradition on Thanksgiving. You have 364 days of the year to experiment with the cuisines of the world, your dehydrator, and your sous vide machine. Give the people what they want on Thanksgiving: the likes of buttery mashed potatoes, savory stuffing with mushrooms or chestnuts or oysters, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry relish, bacon-enhanced Brussels sprouts, creamed onions, pumpkin or apple pie with real whipped cream, and above all, a straight-ahead bronzed turkey, roasted in the oven.

8. Don’t give it all away at the end of the meal

A good turkey sandwich, enhanced with a layer of stuffing and gravy, eaten in peace after your guests have gone, is the whole point of hosting Thanksgiving in the first place. By all means, send your friends and family home with care packages-but first, make sure you’ve tucked away enough additional stuff for yourself.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

WATCH: Bill Hader's Stefon returns to 'SNL,' and fans just can't get enough
WATCH: Bill Hader's Stefon returns to 'SNL,' and fans just can't get enough

He's baaack! "Saturday Night Live" alum Bill Hader returned to the comedy show as host this week – and, much to fans' delight, revived his beloved character, New York City correspondent Stefon. Hader brought his character-breaking comedy to "Weekend Update," recommending some unusual St. Patrick's Day hot spots. >> Read...
The Roots' SXSW show canceled after bomb threat; man arrested
The Roots' SXSW show canceled after bomb threat; man arrested

Update, 2:14 a.m. CDT Sunday: Austin police have arrested a man in connection with a bomb threat that led to the cancellation of The Roots’ show Saturday at South by Southwest.  The city of Austin tweeted the following statement early Sunday: Trevor Weldon Ingram, 26, was arrested on charges of making a terroristic threat, a third-degree...
SXSW 2018: Bill Murray recites poem on street while wearing overalls, bucket hat
SXSW 2018: Bill Murray recites poem on street while wearing overalls, bucket hat

Bill Murray has arrived at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. He’s in town for multiple reasons – the premiere of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” on Saturday night, a dedication at the Belo Center for New Media at the University of Texas on Saturday afternoon and an appearance at the Long Center on Sunday night. >...
TV best bets with ‘Grey’s’ spinoff, ‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta,’ FX Paul Getty series,
TV best bets with ‘Grey’s’ spinoff, ‘Love and Hip Hop Atlanta,’ FX Paul Getty series,

STATION 19 – “Contain the Flame” – Upon the arrival of Batallion Chief Frankel, Jack begins his first shift as co-captain and continues to butt heads with Andy on leadership styles. Captain Pruitt has a difficult time following doctor’s orders and winds up back at the station to take on administrative...
Unlike Barbie, these dolls have actual thighs
Unlike Barbie, these dolls have actual thighs

Nickolay Lamm was on the hunt for a Barbie doll for his young niece when he learned a hard truth: They’re pretty much all that skinny. “I thought I’d be able to find one with realistic body proportions,” Lamm, 29, told me. “We put a man on the moon.” After Googling “realistic Barbie” and coming up empty...
More Stories