Tips & Techniques Thanksgiving Voltaggios' Thanksgiving Tips

A lot of cooks, especially new cooks, are very nervous about cooking turkey. What’s the best advice you can offer someone roasting their first turkey?
To get the perfect turkey there are two factors: time and temperature. It is important to keep the temperature of the oven under control with minimal intrusion during cooking except when basting. So plan other dishes accordingly. Also the time the bird cooks should be calculated by the weight of a fresh or thawed bird. An instant-read thermometer is the best purchase you can make to ensure a properly cooked turkey. – Chef Bryan Voltaggio

What can you do if the turkey is overcooked?
Pull the meat from the bone and warm slowly in the gravy and serve it in the sauce. – Chef Michael Voltaggio

Everything’s all cooked and ready to serve, but when you’re carving the turkey you notice it’s undercooked. What should you do?
The most practical way to solve this problem is to cut the turkey into four parts: two legs with thighs attached, plus two half breasts, each with a wing attached. Return the pieces to the roasting pan and continue roasting until the bird is completely cooked. – Chef Bryan Voltaggio

When it comes to mashing potatoes, what is the biggest mistake people typically make?
Everything should stay hot through the process to allow a proper emulsion and to prevent the mashed potatoes from being starchy. – Chef Michael Voltaggio

How do you make sure everything is ready to serve at the same time?
Timing is critical; using a planned schedule of cooking times helps. However, employing your friends and family into the process can make things move much smoother. Have your fellow diners help to put the finishing touches on side dishes and transfer the food to serving bowls and platters. This will help to ensure everything arrives on the table at the same time, and can also help start the dinner conversation with a feeling of unity. – Chef Bryan Voltaggio

Thanksgiving is so stressful for many people. What do you do to keep it fun?
Share the duties in the kitchen, and have the preparation of the meal be part of the festivities. It’s more like an interactive meal where everybody pitches in together. – Chef Michael Voltaggio

Even with the best of plans, kitchen disasters happen. When things start going wrong, what do you do to get control back again?
This is also where you can look to your guests for help. You never know the capabilities of others during disasters. Most important is to be sure the rest of the elements of the meal are attended to so that if you need to pack the group to head to a neighbor’s house to join their feast, at least you have something to offer. – Chef Bryan Voltaggio

For people who are time-crunched on Thanksgiving Day, what would you recommend they make ahead of time and how should they reheat it?
Cook the turkey sous vide then retherm (reheat) in a deep-fryer. You can also make the stuffing more like a bread pudding -- chill it, slice it and then panfry in butter the day of Thanksgiving. – Chef Michael Voltaggio

For people needing to take a shortcut or two and buy a premade item, what shortcut would you recommend and how can they give it a personal touch?
Stuffing is one dish that you can take a shortcut with if needed. Purchase a ready-made box stuffing, then add your own twist, such as browned sweet sausage or wild mushrooms. Pancetta and chestnuts are also a great combination and would work really well to take a ordinary stuffing to the next level. – Chef Bryan Voltaggio

For people who prepare the same dishes year after year, what’s the easiest way to add a creative twist to the meal?
It's all about the side dishes. Master the staples of the meal, then test your creativity with the starch and vegetable preparations. The possibilities are endless. – Chef Michael Voltaggio