Free Range on Food: All your Thanksgiving questions answered in this special 2-hour chat.

Nov 27, 2019

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Hey, folks! We're here for our marathon day-before-Thanksgiving chat to help you with any of your last-minute questions. And we have some heavy-hitters in the house ready to help: Dan Souza from Cook's Illustrated; John Becker and Megan Scott from the new "Joy of Cooking"; Toni Tipton-Martin, author of "Jubilee," subject of this Q&A by Emily Heil; Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker, author of our Baking Basics newsletter and source of this stellar Apple Cranberry Crumb Pie; Ellie "Nourish" Krieger; and of course us regulars!

We've published so many pieces recently I won't link to everything, but let me remind you of a few things:

Our Thanksgiving FAQs package -- many answers and links to answers here!

This collection of lots of our favorite T-Day recipes in different categories.

Becky's stellar piece about cooking from back-of-the-package recipes, upgraded.

We will have a special giveaway book for our favorite chatter today, too: A signed copy of Toni's "Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking"!

OK, let's do this!

Oh, wait, one more thing: If you're having trouble seeing any of our photos, please try a different browser. Safari has particular difficulty with photos, and we've been trying to find a fix to no avail.

I know, it’s probably weird but it’s how my mom made them when I was growing up. She’s now gone and I want to recreate them. They didn’t have large chunks but little small lumps that gave the mashed potatoes texture. The lumps also didn’t taste raw. I’ve tried a few different approaches with no success. Any ideas on how to get to my idea of mashed potato heaven?

Have you tried a wooden spoon? You'll get a nice mash but plenty of texture left, too.

Me too! Honestly? We use a large fork. 

Happy Thanksgiving! I always forget to put the potatoes on to cook the day of, so I was thinking of making this recipe. I would like your opinion if you think the potato skins will mostly stay in the ricer. I hate potato peels in mashed potatoes.

Happy Thanksgiving! That recipe sounds intriguing, but we are skeptical of the claim that the potatoes will be just as velvety once they're refrigerated and reheated. The starch in the potatoes will start to degrade over time, giving them a stale flavor compared with freshly cooked and mashed spuds. We always always make mashed potatoes the day of, and preferably at the last minute. We are also fans of fluffy mashed potatoes, so we prefer russets. Here's what we do: bake whole russets at the same time as the turkey, keeping in mind that medium sized russets need about 1 hour of cooking at 400F. Then, while the turkey rests, you can rice and season the potatoes. With russets, the skin stays in the ricer (though we recommend removing the skins after each pass). The skin from yukon golds should stay mostly in the ricer, but they are thinner and more delicate, so there will likely be some little bits that make their way into the mash.

This question is for Dan. Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for make ahead turkey gravy that we’ll be trying this year but in reading the comments there’s a dispute on the fat to flour ratio - a bunch say the recipe is wrong and it should be 1 to 1( they point to the cooks country recipe when commenting on the cooks illustrated recipe) the other folks say stick to the recipe and do 1/2 cup fat to 1 cup of flour (the CI recipe). The recipes seem pretty much the same except for the flour amount. So which is it? The turkey thighs are simmering ask I type...

Hi, there! Do you know the exact name of the recipe you are referencing? Want to make sure I'm looking at the right one to help you out here. Thanks, Dan

Just a quick note to say I'm thankful for the WaPo Food Gurus and this chat. I've learned so much over the years and am more confident in my culinary skills, to venture outside my comfort zone and try new foods. So Happy Thanksgiving to all. Now pass that cannabus infused gravy this way! ;-)

This really makes our day, week, month, year. Thank you so much for reading, and for cooking along with us! Amazing.

This cake was scrumptious, and I'd like to make it again for Thanksgiving! The only issue was that mine rose in the middle as it baked -- from overmixing, I'm guessing? -- and stuck to the tinfoil. The center also seemed jiggly and undercooked under the foil, so I put it back in uncovered for ten more minutes, thus overcooking the perimeter. Please help!

Sour Cream Maple Cake With Maple Buttercream Frosting

RECIPE: Sour Cream Maple Cake With Maple Buttercream Frosting

Interesting! I always had the opposite, with the cake slightly sinking in the middle. I'm not sure overmixing would be the problem. Did you use the 9-inch pan, or did you use a different size? Any chance you added too much of one of the leaveners? Did you make any other tweaks? Honestly, I'm a little stumped as to why the cake would have risen into the foil so far into the bake time.

Hi all, I'm making a pie crust that calls for roasting then grinding up hazelnuts, and since I already have an open bag of hazelnut flour I was hoping to use it instead- easier & uses up what I have. Realizing the texture will be a little different bc the recipe has it at "coarse cornmeal" consistency & the flour is finer, can I just make a 1-1 swap, or would you recommend altering quantity? Also is it worth trying to lightly toast the flour or no? Thanks!

I would use a weight rather than a volume measurement, if possible. And yes, toast the flour! Try 250 for 30 min.

What's the best way to make mashed potatoes a bit ahead and keep them edible?

In the recipe I ran last year, we included make-ahead instructions that involved reheating them over a double boiler, with a little extra milk or cream as needed. You can also keep them warm in a slower cooker, if that's an option.

Essential Mashed Potatoes

RECIPE: Essential Mashed Potatoes

Fantastic question! Mashed potatoes suffer when they cool down and then need to be reheated. (The starch firms up during the cool down and never fully softens to  its original silky state upon reheating.) So your goal is to make them and then keep them warm until serving time. Place the finished potatoes in a large bowl and place that over a pot of just barely simmering water. They will be nice for well over an hour held that way.  If you have a sous vide device, this is the perfect use for it. Set it to 135 degrees, and place the bowl in the water so that the water comes up to the level of the potatoes. 

Hi. Some friends are hosting this year, and I'm bringing the sweet potatoes. Appetizers start at 3, but dinner not until 4:30. How can I keep those potatoes warm until dinner?! For sure the oven will be busy with turkey. Thanks!

The second the turkey comes out of the oven to rest, slide those sweet potatoes right in to reheat. Ideally, the turkey should rest for 20-30 minutes, which should be enough time. You might also consider preparing them in a wider pan so they are in a thinner layer. That will help them reheat more quickly.

Hello, do you know if you can get a package of brine spices at a local store such as Giant or Harris Teeter, or do you need to go to a more upscale retailer such as Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma or Sur LE Table? Or better yet, any East “more than just salt” brine mixes you suggest? Ok with a dry brine but prefer wet. Thanks! 

Hi, there! Believe it or not, the flavor compounds in most spices are just too big to actually penetrate into a turkey (or any meat for that matter) the way salt and sugar can. I'd recommend skipping the brining spices and sticking with either just salt or salt and sugar (which will also increase juiciness and improve browning). If you want the flavor of those spices, you could steep some in your gravy and then strain them out before serving. 

Our butternut squash froze in the fridge (a flaw we’re working on). Can we still use it? Since it hadn’t been peeled etc yet is there a way to do that while it’s frozen?

Should be fine to use. I always struggle to peel butternut squash as it is, so I feel like it might be extra-tricky frozen. Usually I punch a bunch of holes in the squash with a fork and microwave for a few minutes. I find that helps with peeling, and if your squash is frozen anyway, can't hurt.

Hi- What does shortening do in cookie recipes? I do not usually have it on hand and I think of shortening as "fake" while butter is "real." Can shortening be easily substituted for butter in recipes that call for both shortening and butter? (So 100% butter). I am looking at ta recipe for cucidadi (Italian Fig Cookie) which calls for 1/2 c. shortening and 2 T butter. I also face this decision when making New Mexican biscochitos. Thank you for your help.

Shortening is 100% fat so it will make for a much more crisp cookie, which is sometime what you want from a cookie texture.  In the case of your Italian Fig Cookies it looks like you'll get the proper texture from the shortening and a hint of butter flavor from the 2 tablespoons so I would go with the shortening in this recipe.  It's not that shortening is fake - it's more that it's doing a different job that butter. Bringing the fat without the water or milk solids.  

Thanks for the idea! I bought some lovely looking rutabagas at my farmers market Sunday without knowing what to do with them. I think this is it, since they are sort of stubby like the tops of parsnips rather than round.

I loved hasselbacking everything in sight. Butternut squash were great. And rutabagas just got sweeter and more delicious. Have fun! And happy Thanksgiving.

RECIPE: Hasselback Potatoes

I can't stop singing, "We're bringing hassel-back. Them other dishes don't know how to act...."

For Cathy: these potatoes sound fabulous, but I’m having a hard time figuring out the chopsticks. If I understand this correctly, they go on the sides of the potato, perpendicular. But what keeps them from shifting around when you’re slicing? And how are they acting as a brake if they’re on the sides? What am I missing?

I put the chopsticks on a kitchen towel to keep them from sliding around. They are parallel to one another with the potato between them the "long" way. Slicing across the potato, the knife will hit the chopsticks before slicing all the way through. 

I'm thankful for you all, Food Gurus! No question today, but I wanted to share our family's Thanksgiving plan. Nephew's family is hosting the whole family for a potluck dinner, and his young daughters have requested that all the dishes have some kind of surprise inside to match the theme: "It's what's inside that matters." We're planning to make a version of Dorie's baked stuffed pumpkin as the veggie side we're taking.... and dessert? A cheesecake with A WHOLE PUMPKIN PIE baked inside. Hee - it could be a total disaster, or it could be awesome. Time will tell. Hope you all have a great day, whatever you're making!

Now THIS is what we love to hear on a holiday too often consumed by kitchen stress. It's a turducken in dessert form. Good luck and have fun with it! Here's another favorite stuffed recipe from Dorie: 

Fall-in-the-Air Baked Apples

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Fall-in-the-Air Baked Apples

Just wanted to thank you all and The Washington Post for being who you are. I feel like I grew up reading these chats--I'm 45 and remember reading Kim O'Donnel in my 20s as I was learning to live and cook on my own. As subscribers, we are so incredibly lucky that: 1. chats exist when you have "real" jobs 2. all content is free with a subscription, unlike NYT Cooking 3. the content is so diverse and relatable for all skill levels. You guys are truly the best.

Wow -- this is so nice! Thank you so much! Yes, we've been doing these for a really long time, and we devote a lot of staff (and freelance, and guest) power to them, so we really appreciate that you notice!

Can you use baked potatoes (in lieu of boiling) to make mashed potatoes? If so, could they be done earlier in the day and reheated?

Better yet, roast your potatoes and mash 'em! Recipe: Garlicky Roast Potato Mash

And yes, you can make them ahead. Here's what that recipe says:

Make Ahead: The potatoes and garlic can be mashed, minus their final add-ins, cooled and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. To reheat, place the mashed potatoes in a heatproof bowl; cover tightly and seat it over a pot of simmering water, stirring once they are heated through. Or you can reheat in the microwave on LOW power in 30-second increments, stirring in between. Serve in a warmed bowl.

Not exactly a baking question, but in your professional opinions - Do you think TSA will take away a pumpkin pie?

TSA permits cooked pies to be carried on.  Not, however, a rolling pin.

I saw a coupon in my local Sunday paper for Domino Golden Sugar Product which says on the package is less processed sugar. Do you have any info what this is? Is this the same as regular sugar and will act the same in a recipe? Why would it be called "product" -- does that mean they did something to it and it's not pure? Would love to know before I make a baking mistake! Thank you!

This new sugar product is just like regular white sugar, but it is somewhat less processed so it retains some of its color. As I see it, it is meant to appeal to consumers seeking less processed foods. But it is not significantly better for you health-wise than regular granulated sugar. The company says on their website that you can use it as a one-for-one replacement for regular sugar, but I am guessing it will impart a subtle brown-sugar flavor. This could be nice, or not, depending on the recipe. 

Has anyone tried them with russets? Is there a fear that the starchier spuds would fall apart? I was pleasantly surprised how fluffy the interiors of red potatoes got, but I've got russets to use up.

Are we talking quartered/chunked, not par-boiled? Shouldn't be a problem at all. Cut russets are more prone to breaking apart when cooked in liquid, but when roasted they get nice and brown/crisp.

Chunked, but you could also quarter.

RECIPE: Potato Roasties

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! I made the make ahead gravy last night and find the flavor of the vermouth is too strong in the finished gravy. (I even followed the recipe really closely!) What can I do to "fix" the gravy?

Simmering a bit can help burn off some of the alcohol, if that's the issue. Just keep in mind that some starches, such as cornstarch and potato starch, start to break down if simmered for an extended time, which will cause the gravy to thin out. But if it's just the flavor of the vermouth that is too strong, you might consider making a half batch of extra gravy (without vermouth), then combining the two batches. I don't think it's possible to have too much gravy at Thanksgiving :)

You mean this one, right? And did you use a dry vermouth? Was it fresh, or had it been kept in the refrigerator? Vermouth can go off...

RECIPE: Simple Pan Gravy

One of our Thanksgiving side dish requests was elote, my cousin is bringing the corn to cook at my house. Our area is expecting freezing temps and our grill is quite a distance from the back door, and we aren't doing a turkey or anything cooking for hours in the oven that would limit its use so I'm thinking of trying to make elote in the oven. I was thinking of first either boiling the corn on the stovetop or roasting the corn in foil to cook it, and then putting it under the broiler without foil for a few minutes to get the char. I don't have a gas range...everything is electric. What would you do? I don't have much experience in the kitchen so I appreciate insight or tips for this!

Do you have a cast-iron skillet? We recommend browning the corn all over in a heavy skillet (no pre-boiling required). Our worry is that if you broil the corn, it will likely dry out and shrivel a bit before it actually browns, though if you put the corn very close to the broiler (and keep an eye on it!) that will probably work.

I've made 2 terrible batches of mashed potatoes in the last 2 days! I am an experienced cook, but I cannot seem to master this "simple" dish. I first tried with Yukon golds, boiled in salted water, riced, then added warm butter and half & half, and ended up with tiny "pellets" in my mash. I thought I must have undercooked, so I tried again with Russets. I boiled to obliteration, riced, and they were beautifully soft and fluffy (I even squeezed some together in my hand and they were smooth). But again, by the time I stirred in warm butter and half & half, I ended up with grainy, pellety mash! What happened!? Did I let them cool too much in riced form (I was peeling/ricing as I went, and it did take a while). I know fluffy, smooth mashed potatoes exist, so where did I go wrong? I would love to master this. And if they're not going to be smooth, I'll just go back to hand mashing for rustic, chunky potatoes. Thanks for all you do, and happy Thanksgiving!

Back when I used to cook more than I do now, I prided myself on my mashed potatoes. Let me try to piece together how I prepared them:


1. Peel russets and place them in boiling water, with a little salt.

2. Cook the potatoes until you can stick a knife cleanly into them without resistance. 

3. When fully cooked, take the pot off the heat and let the potatoes sit in the water.

4. While the potatoes are cooking, place pats of really cold butter on the bottom of a large glass bowl. Enough butter to basically cover the bottom and half way up the sides. (I know, I know, but this is why the mashed potatoes are so good!)

5. Rice each potato directly into the bowl, on top of the cold pats of butter. Do not touch/stir/fold the potatoes until you have riced them all in the bowl..

6. Once the potatoes are all riced, take a spatula and gently fold the butter into the potatoes. Do not manipulate the potatoes too much. Over-stirring and over-manipulation of the spuds will break their cellular walls and release starch into the potatoes, which will make them lumpy.

7. Slowly mix in Half & Half, folding the potatoes gently, until you get the consistency you want.  Again, DO NOT OVERMIX, just enough to incorporate the cream/milk.

8. Season with salt to taste, again folding gently.


Bottom line: Potatoes are sensitive little tubers. They do not like to be agitated. The key is to use a spatula and gently fold the mashed spuds to incorporate the butter and milk. Folding is a skill, but not a difficult one.  It's basically taking a spatula and sticking it underneath the pile of mashed potatoes, then lifting that amount of potatoes and folding it over on top of the other spuds in the bowl. Repeat the technique until the ingredients are incorporated.

I like to use Yukon golds, and after boiling them and before ricing, I put them back over the stove in the pot after draining the water, and cook them, stirring, for a few minutes, to get them nice and dry. That helps them absorb the dairy and fat. And unlike Tim, I melt the butter in the milk or cream, getting the mixture hot, and pouring it onto the warm riced potatoes. Has never failed me!

Today and every week, you all are wonderful. I am reading chat and cooking for tomorrow. I know I can always trust the staff and guest advice and it makes our food=lives better for it. Happy Thanksgiving!

So, so nice to hear! Thank you so much!

I’m excited to try the tamarind and honey glazed roast turkey, but I wasn’t able to find tamarind pulp. The internet tells me that tamarind paste is tamarind pulp with the tamarind removed and can be used in its place. It doesn’t seem likely that it would be a one to one replacement. Can you tell me how much tamarind paste would be an equivalent replacement for the tamarind pulp? Thank you so much.

Pretty sure they're one and the same and you can just follow the recipe as written! In fact, I'm making the slurry as we chat :) Enjoy this glaze - it's incredible!!

Not exactly a Thanksgiving question, but it could be! I received saffron as a gift. Very excited to try it but can't decide on what. What are the best recipes to use it (being such a precious commodity). I find a lot of rice dishes, but is that really the best way to splurge on its use? (and willing to use it in a TG recipe, if that means it will make this chat.)

1) Items have no value until you use them, 2) you absolutely should use it in rice!

Jeweled Rice (Javaher Polow)

You can make a great table centerpiece with this Saffron and Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken

And of COURSE there's biryani:

Malabar Chicken Biryani

And saffron is wonderful in desserts. There's a coffee shop called Blue Bottle that makes these lovely saffron snickerdoodles; recipe here.

I was in the UAE recently and they garnished hummus with a sprinkle of saffron there---it was lovely.

Yes to popping in the oven and cover so they don't dry out.

Hi! I’m considering making the blueberry ginger clafoutis recipe you published recently - would you adjust the sugar/anything else if I went with whole cranberries instead of blueberries? I tend to like things that aren’t overly sweet anyhow. I’d also be interested with any other non-pie unconventional ideas...One guest has a corn allergy so anything cornstarch is out - do you have any ideas for what to substitute in an apple crisp? I have a bag of xantham gum if that would be helpful. I do not have a stand mixer. Thank you food section writers and editors (and production folks) for all you do to make our home cooking fun and exciting year round! I hope you have a meaningful and relaxing holiday.

Fresh cranberries are much more tart than fresh blueberries, so I would suggest tossing them in a bowl with some honey or sugar to coat them before adding them to this recipe. You may also want to cut them in half if they are large. In an apple crisp you can use flour instead of cornstarch --just use twice the amount because cornstarch has about twice the thickening power as flour.  have a lovely Thanksgiving!

HI! When pre-cooking apples for apple pie (as mentioned by Tiffany MacIssac ) should I be cooking them on the stove top or roasting them in a casserole dish? Or does it matter? Once I've done that can I just dump into the pie crust and bake for 40 minutes or so to cook the crust? I am very into the idea that I wont have apple soup in my pie.

Either technique will work though I like to cook my apples on the stovetop in a bit of butter and spices.  It's just easier to keep an eye on and stir them around a bit. The heat is also nice to help bloom the flavor of the spices! 

Please, please tell me you give weights for baking now! It would be so much easier to weight out sifted cake flour than 1cup + 2TBSP! Using my 1997 to make biscuit sponge for a Thanksgiving trifle today.

Actually, we do! We have added gram weights to the baking chapters in the 2019 edition. For reference, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour weighs 112.5g

For homemade cocktails, where might I be able to buy verjus? Do you have a preferred source/brand?

I have purchased verjus at Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland. You might want to call around to your favorite vineyards to see if they have it.

I'm planning to make Becky's rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, but trying to get things done early. Would it work to form the rolls and then refrigerate the sheet pans over night and bake the next day? If so, should they come to room temp before baking or could they go straight in the oven?

Pillowy Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

RECIPE: Pillowy Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

I *think* this would probably work, although I'd worry slightly about the dough poofing up a little too much. I made a batch of the dough and shoved it in a bowl in my fridge overnight and was surprised how much it rose. Maybe swap in regular active dry yeast to slow things down a bit?

Not a bad idea to let the dough come to room temp before baking, while the oven is preheating.

is it a good idea to have two medium size turkeys to feed ten adults?

Hi, there - Generally at Cook's Illustrated we say that a 12-14 pound turkey will feed about 10 people if served alongside all of the fixings at the holiday table. But if you've got serious turkey eaters or want lots of leftovers, two would be smart!  

The kids barbecue their turkey but want me to make mashed potatoes and a delicious gravy! They love gravy. Ideas???

We have lots of gravy recipes. Check out the roundup we have. If you're barbecuing the bird, consider roasting some parts to get drippings for gravy.


ARTICLE: Gluten-free, vegan, fast and make-ahead gravy recipes

And my gravy tip sheet.


ARTICLE: How to make a no-stress, showstopping Thanksgiving gravy

Have a look at my mashed potatoes recipes I linked to earlier in the chat.

I have small jars- 200 grams or 7 ounces more or less- of Biscoff Spread (also known as Speculoos Cookie Butter) and Nutella. I must be one of the few people on earth who do not like either one of them. I tried on toast and in oatmeal and found them just... meh. So how can I use these in other recipes? Bonus points will be awarded if they can be made into something that I can give away in the spirit of the season.

Swirl them into brownies or blondies and it'll be a great treat to give away. 

Ultimate Brownies

Brown Butter Blondies


Whyyyy did you post the feetloaf picture again last week? Couldn't you just link it and leave it be?

We serve our readers! Just like Joe's carrot dogs before it, the readers had a fever, and the only prescription was more Feetloaf!

Thank you!! The help is great and my mother is delighted that her question was answered Now I’m off to help her post the five seconds of fame to Facebook :)

The holiday recipes have looked great! I am about to make pecan pie. Should I toast/roast the pecans first?

Yes, absolutely! It will make them crunchy and it will release the oils for a deeper flavor.

Toasting definitely changes the taste of the pie making it richer

I got one of those turkey breasts from Whole Foods - it's basically the turkey intact with ribs and wings, just minus the legs/rear (i know, i know missing the best parts but ANYWAY). I'm planning on cooking it in the crock pot tomorrow. I can't find a recipe online for my specific bird situation so any advice would be greatly appreciated please!!! If all else fails, 6-8hrs on low and checking periodically with the meat thermometer works, right? (note: it's thawed already, dont worry)

Pretty sure you could mostly follow this recipe for slow cooker turkey breast from -- hey! -- America's Test Kitchen.

Turkey Breast and Gravy

RECIPE: Turkey Breast and Gravy

We're low on allspice, and our grocery store was all out yesterday. Is there any good substitution?

When describing the flavor of allspice, I always read that it's reminiscent of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. Why not just up or add those flavors to your recipe?

Any low proof ideas other than sipping vermouth all day or drinking Campari and soda?

How about a shot of whiskey chased with a quart of water? ;)

Check out Carrie's Hibiscus-Pomegranate Punch. If it seems too high-proof, you could cut it with some seltzer!


Not a question but hi to John & Megan- I was at your Smithsonian talk with Joe and though I went in expecting to be entertained while not wanting a copy of the new JoC (already owning FOUR of the previous editions thanks to handdowns from Mom & Grandma eek), hearing you talk about what is different & paging through it after changed my mind. Congrats on a hard job well done. Now I just need to figure out how to fit another cookbook on the shelf. ...

Thank you so much! We are delighted that you enjoyed our conversation with Joe. We don't have any good advice for cookbook storage--that's something we struggle with ourselves!

I almost never use the microwave - even for reheating - except for jacket potatoes. I find starting it in the microwave gives it a fluffier texture, then it goes in the oven. - Perhaps it's the microwave's moist heat / cooking from inside out. I put a large russet on for three minutes in the microwave, turn over, another three minutes then pop in a 375 oven for half an hour. I find it makes scrummy and fluffy potatoes.

Happy Thanksgiving! We have a guest coming for dinner that holds to a non-dairy diet. I usually rub the turkey in melted butter before putting it in the oven. If I only use olive oil and seasonings, will the results be just as good? Or would using Crisco shortening work better?

Should be fine! I believe I used olive oil (it was a blur, lol) when my in-laws had our Veterans Day weekend Thanksgiving.

I'm making a raspberry-cranberry cobble for Thanksgiving dinner. I want to bake it today. Can I treat it like a pie? Bake today, leave out on the counter overnight. Reheat at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes before serving? I think yes, but am unsure. Thanks!

Cobbler is more forgiving than pie, so absolutely! I actually make my pie the day of (I'm crazy and like my crust SUPER crispy), but with cobbler, it's really the topping that you need to reheat/retoast, so go ahead! Happy Thanksgiving!!

This post from DC blogger Laura Kumin has all the details on what pies need refrigeration and which ones can sit out. 

Concur with Joe's method: it's exaclty what I do and its never failed. I tend to use russets.

Trying out a new recipe for stuffing bread for Thanksgiving. The bread bakes in a dutch oven, but the recipe doesn't call for pre-heating the dutch oven, oiling it, or keeping the lid on -- all things I've seen in other dutch oven bread recipes. Think I should follow the recipe as-is, or follow the more common steps for bread baking in a dutch oven? Thanks for your advice!

This does sound . . . suspicious. Can you link to the recipe here?

Otherwise, I'd follow the typical strategy that Joy and I shared in our no-knead bread recipes, as inspired by Jim Lahey. Preheat the lidded oven. Drop in the dough (with or without parchment underneath), bake covered and then uncovered.

No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

RECIPE: No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

We’re looking to try a different turkey recipe this year , but some recipes follow the slow and steady approach, 325 to 350 until done, some cal for a high heat blast, 425 to 450 until done and some seem to combine the two in different ways. What are the advantages to the diff end approaches and what would you folks recommend? ( and yes we do use a probe thermometer but we’re still torn on dressing vs stuffing if either of those factors effect your answers?

Hi - I would recommend the high and then low approach. Starting around 425 degrees for the first 45 minutes or so starts rendering fat from the skin and getting browning started while the meat below the surface is still cold and therefore not likely to overcook. Then, turning the heat down to around 325 degrees let's the bird cook through more gently so you get evenly cooked, juicy meat. 

After years of making a whole turkey, this year I have a 9 pound breast to serve at our small gathering. I would prefer to roast in the oven. Any advice for making it juicy and flavorful? Can I stuff it or do I have to make the stuffing on the side? Thanks very much and Happy Thanksgiving!

Here ya go! 

Extremely Slow Roasted Turkey Breast

Not sure how you would stuff a turkey breast? 

I understand this squash is supposed to make an excellent pie. I've roasted and pureed some in advance for Thanksgiving and would like to substitute this for pumpkin in my pie this year. I usually follow the Joy of Cooking (Tenth printing 1978) recipe. Should I make any adjustments?

We're not sure about the term "crookneck squash," as we usually associate that with summer squash (the yellow variety), which will definitely not work in pie as it contains too much water. However, if the variety you're talking about is a winter squash with orange flesh, it should be fine to use! Our only caveat is that you should strain off any excess liquid (freshly roasted and pureed squash tends to contain more moisture than canned pumpkin). We like to line a strainer with a thin kitchen towel (such as flour sack towel), then allow the squash to drain over a bowl for an hour, stirring the puree occasionally. Otherwise, you shouldn't need to make any adjustments to the recipe.

Nervous about over-salting the bird. I have an oil, spice rub from a well-known kitchenware store (william sonoma). Maybe skip or make my own spice mixture?

Hi - Kosher birds are generally nicely seasoned throughout, but for my money a little extra salt on the skin is nice. If you want to play it safe, you could certainly skip all salt on the outside and then serve the sliced meat with some flaky sea salt at the table for folks to adjust if needed.  

I saw a video of a Buddhist monk on how to be happy. He said: If you want to be happy, be grateful. If you can't be grateful this moment, there will be another moment, and another moment... ----------------- That I get, but please don't make everyone around the table tell what they are grateful for. That's just awkward. But I am grateful for all the recipes and help you provide. Thanks!

We're grateful for you!

Hello - I am making pecan pie and was wondering if there is a way to get a pecan pie that tastes traditional, but does not use corn syrup? Thanks!

I substitute maple syrup for the corn syrup. Works like a charm!

I'm planning to make Joe's mushroom wellington for Thanksgiving. To keep it vegan I will use something other than cream to brush on the pastry but don't want to buy soy creamer, which I don't otherwise use. What exactly is the purpose of brushing on the cream/cream substitute? Will any creamy-ishliquid work? I always have oat milk (the barista blend so somewhat thicker than plain oat milk) in the house and was hoping to use that but wasn't sure if it is lacking in some needed property. Thanks and happy thanksgiving.

It just helps with browning and adds a little sheen. I think you'd be fine with the oat milk!

RECIPE: Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Pecan and Chestnut Wellington

Thanksgiving dessert in my household has, for decades, been a last minute though. Frankly, it's underwhelming (store bought apple pie and stale cookies with ice cream). What easy-to-make dessert would you suggest that could be made the night before that might inspire my family's sweet tooth?

Becky's Sour Cream Maple Cake With Maple Buttercream Frosting is a one-bowl bake and it's SO good!

Help! Vegetarian here who hasn’t cooked meat for human consumption since 1980. I bought the smallest turkey breast I could find, as I have only one guest, and a puppy to delight in leftovers. I’m using the Post’s slow roast recipe for the breast, but as I was going over my notes and timing, I realized that I have no clue how much to reduce the slow roast time to fit a 3.78 lb breast as opposed to the recipe’s 7- 9 lb breast. Please help — I am truly out of my league! And a very happy Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving to all who make Free Range a Must Do on my weekly calendar. You teach, entertain and inspire me and sometimes convince me to (gulp) challenge myself. And I am certainly thankful for each and every one of you!

Plan on 15 to 20 minutes per pound for the turkey breast but PLEASE use a thermometer to test for doneness. The breast will be fully cooked and not dry at 165°F.

Hello - I have my crust made, but was wondering if there is any way to avoid having my top crust cave in when my apples cook down? I am planning on using granny smith and honey crisp apples. Also, should I use corn starch or flour to thicken the liquid? if so, which one gives the best results? Thanks!

If you cook your filling ahead of time, the top crust will not cave in. Tiffany MacIsaac shows you how here. I always use flour in apple pies, but in all other pies I use cornstarch. The only reason I use flour is that's what my mother did! Haha! Consequently, I am not able to tell you which is better or why. 

Yup, this recipe I tested a few years ago is like Tiffany's strategy, too, which involves cooking the apples in a saucepan on the stove top. To throw another option in the mix, this one from Jenna at Whisked! uses Instant ClearJel.

Cranberry Apple Lattice Pie

RECIPE: Cranberry Apple Lattice Pie

A few years ago, stuffing became a real problem if you stuffed the turkey with it. At least that's what I heard. But there are no ingredients in my stuffing that would be an issue-bread, celery, onions, spices, broth, butter. What's the right answer and why can't I stuff a turkey with this traditional bread stuffing?

Hi - You are correct that none of the ingredients in your stuffing are an issue. It's actually the turkey itself that makes stuffing tricky. When you put the stuffing in the raw bird it absorbs liquid from the turkey. Once that happens you need to cook the stuffing to the same food safe temperature at the meat itself--so 160 degrees. That's definitely doable, but what normally happens is while you wait for the very center of the stuffing to hit 160 degrees, the exterior portions of the turkey end up climbing well over that temperature, turning them dry and unpleasant to eat. Making stuffing outside of the bird (dressing) eliminates the issue.

How long do I cook a stuffed 10 - 12 lb. turkey. I like the idea mentioned in the article to cook it at 425 degrees with no brining.

Hi - I would recommend starting at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes, then turning the oven down to 325 and cooking until the center of the stuffing hits 160 degrees. That will likely take about 2 hours longer. 

Hello Food section staff! I know you have answered this many times, but somehow I find myself at a loss as it is my first time making some Thanksgiving classics -- I am making stuffing (this Post recipe) and mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallow. Planning to bake the stuffing at home in the morning and maybe warm up slight in the oven once we arrive at our hosts (there will be a free oven). Planning to bake the sweet potatoes when we arrive. Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Any alternatives to using the oven there?

My family and I have had pretty good experiences making the sweet potato casserole in advance, minus the marshmallows, and then just reheating in the microwave. Pop on the marshmallows, broil for just a minute or so and you're done.


Bruce's Yam Mallow Casserole With Pineapple and Cinnamon

I plan on trying Toni's Chile-Rubbed Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving. What are some other unique dishes that showcase the African-American experience that I can try?

Well, we published a slew of them alongside the turkey! The whiskey-laced pecan pie, the orange-maple sweet potato salad, and the no-knead icebox rolls! You can also pick up Toni's book, Jubilee, if you want to go down the rich, storied rabbit hole of African American cooking -- it's very much worth owning!

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: One of our favorite side dishes is long-slow simmered collard greens cooked in vegetable broth with lots of aromatic vegetables.

I have an old family recipe for pecan pie that I make every year for Thanksgiving and every year I "overcook" it. The filling is light Karo syrup, eggs, sugar, brown butter and obviously pecans. The instructions from this recipe say cook at 325 until the center is set but every time I do that the edges turn into overcooked, hard caramel-toffee. Is my definition of "set" incorrect? should the center still be jiggly?

I have seen this instruction in many pumpkin pie recipes and it makes me crazy! The pie will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven, so look for the first 2 to 3 inches from the crust to be set and the center to be still jiggly. 

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: "Set" for me definitely means a little jiggly. You might even think it looks slightly uncooked, but the custard should firm up as it cools.

A friend just delivered a dressed wild turkey that weighs about 13lbs. Do you have any recipes for a wild turkey that doesn't come ina bottle? I am guessing since they are leaner than domestic turkey that cooking times are different etc. The bird is local and from his farm just down the road.

Ooooh this is a good question! Wild turkeys are leaner and have more leg meat than domestic breeds, and the dark meat will be darker than the typical store-bought turkey. High-heat roasting is never recommended, as wild birds tend to dry out faster. Cooking method depends on the age of the bird, which can be determined by measuring the length of the beard (a 3-year-old turkey will have a beard that is 8 inches long or greater; younger birds have shorter beards--maybe the person you got the turkey from can tell you about the beard length). We recommend slow-roasting (350-375F) for younger turkeys (A baking bag comes in handy), and smoking or braising for older birds.

I bought one for the first time in decades. How do you safely peel one?

That outer skin is really tough. Use a paring knife and do so carefully.

I'm on my third edition of the Joy of Cooking; I bought the last one when John Becker and Megan Scott spoke at the Smithsonian recently. They were great! It was fascinating to hear how they put together such a voluminous work (all that recipe testing!). Now, as I prepare the pies and other baked goods for tomorrow's feast, where am I turning? You guessed it!

Thank you so much for your support! We're so happy to be part of your Thanksgiving feast!

Hello to my favorite chat hosts! I'm making the herbed challah stuffing (original version with maple sausage, onion, celery, apples) but don't need 2 9x13 pans worth. I went ahead and made the full amount because I wanted to try making stuffing waffles. Do you think I should bake the stuffing before putting it in the waffle iron, or just put it in the iron un-baked? I could bake it today while my rosemary sourdough bread is baking off... Thank you!

I actually don't think you have to bake it. This recipe from Serious Eats anyway uses unbaked stuffing.

I read about the method for doing a turkey for 15 minutes at high heat, then turning the oven down to practically bathwater temp and cooking for hours. I would like to do that, but I am getting a fresh turkey breast. Any hints? Love this opportunity - I've had to google some of the items I'd not heard of!

We  had a recipe for this! Check it out.

Extremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast

RECIPE: Extremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast

I am determined to make these rolls at my son's apartment in San Francisco. I don't have a mixer with paddles. Could I use a combination of regular beaters and hand mixing? If so, how would you recommend that do this? I have never made any type of yeast bread.

Sure! If you pop down into the comments in that post, a few readers did just that. Would start with the hand mixer and then use it to just start incorporating the second addition of flour and then switch to kneading by hand on the counter. You want the dough to be pretty smooth and cohesive and a bit springy at that point.

Thanks for your interest! I've heard from quite a number of people who never baked bread until they made these rolls. It is so amazing to hear.

We spatchcocked the turkey last night, and discovered it is just a little too big for the largest pan we have—the legs will hang off the side. Any reason not to cut the turkey in half along the breastbone and roast it in two separate pans? (Except for aesthetics, obviously, but given that we already spatchcocked—if that is a verb—that’s clearly not our highest priority.)

No reason at all! In fact, just make it easier on yourself and roast it anyway you want! It'll be delicious, and no one cares if it's not a showpiece. It will still get carved up and devoured, right? So long as it tastes good, who cares? :)

I'm bringing a broccoli kale radicchio slaw to Thanksgiving dinner and was thinking of making a sriracha mayo dressing. Now I'm thinking I might want to avoid the mayo, since I don't know how long it is going to be sitting out. Any tips on a good dressing if I omit mayo? I want spicy and sour dressing to cut through the richness of the other foods, but not a sweet dressing. If I omit the sriracha (not sure I want the orange tinge), should I include jalapeno to the dressing for spice?

I like to use plain yogurt instead of mayo (people have issues with mayonnaise!) Or I'll combine yogurt and sour cream or creme fraiche. Adding a little mustard and a splash of vinegar will emulate the tang of mayo. If the sriracha color worries you, you can add jalapeno or consider pickled jalapeno (for the zing of vinegar.) 

You could also do a vinaigrette style dressing with oil and rice vinegar and/or lime juice. Maybe even some fresh grated ginger? With the deep color of the vegetables I don't think the color of the Sriracha would even show with a vinaigrette dressing.

Do I bring the spatula down the sides and up the middle or down the center and up the sides or does that not matter at all?

Does not matter which direction/order!

Do you baste the turkey? Do you tent it? How long should I roast a 17# stuffed bird?

Hi - No need to baste, it will only slow cooking and decrease skin browning and crisping. And you don't want to tent during resting, which will moisten and soften the skin. The bird will stay plenty hot for over an hour with no tent. For that size bird 425 degrees for an hour (breast-side down), flip, 325 degrees until breast hits 160 degrees, about 2 hours longer. 

A month ago, I made your recipe for Turkey Kebabs with Tahini Sauce. It was delicious, and I have a lot of tahini left over, so I'm planning to make the tahini sauce to drizzle over roasted broccoli sprinkled with za'atar. No turkey kebabs, I'm roasting a whole turkey tomorrow.

Thanks for reporting back!

Turkey Kebabs With Tahini Sauce

RECIPE: Turkey Kebabs With Tahini Sauce

I want to bake a whole turkey breast and two thighs. What temp, and how long for a 6# breast?

My rule of thumb for turkey is 15 to 20 minutes a pound, started high (425) and finished lower (350) but heritage birds can cook more quickly, so really it's all guesswork until you get a thermometer! Cook until a thermometer plunged into the center of the breast registers 165. For the thighs, I usually cook to 170-175.

I am baking a pie for Thanksgiving! The pie calls for a prebaked crust. I made the dough last night. Can I roll out the dough tonight and bake it and put the filling in in the morning? Or should I wait until the morning to bake my crust? Will it be stale-ish/less good if I bake it tonight? And if I do, how should I store it once it cools? Is just covering with foil fine? I am very nervous about this crust and would love to bake tonight to not only save me time tomorrow, but to give me time to go out and buy a prebaked crust if mine turns out not good.

You can absolutely bake it tonight and fill it tomorrow. Once cool, cover and leave it on the counter overnight. 

Or if you have a mischievous cat, like I do, you leave it overnight inside the closed microwave.


One year, our then about six year old nephew kept wanting everyone to go around the table saying what they were grateful for. After several rounds, my husband piped up 'Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video ... .'

Love this!

do you recommend roasting an 18# turkey breast side down for the initial roasting time?

Hi - Roasting breast side down for a portion of the cook time is helpful as it protects the breast from overcooking and also gives the dark meat (which needs to get to a higher temperature in order to tenderize) more exposure to the direct heat of the oven. But at some point you need to flip the bird over or you wont get any browning on that side. I would go 1 hour breast side down at 425 degrees, then flip, reduce oven to 325 degrees and go until breast hits 160 degrees. 

Many (26?) years ago I made a cranberry sauce with mustard and horseradish. I loved it (no one else in my family likes cranberry sauce but I make it very year anyway). I'd like to recreate that recipe because I can't find the one I used. I've googled it and come up with recipes for cranberry sauce jezebel but those recipes also have lots of other stuff--jams, brown sugar, etc. Can you advise me on how to recreate what I remember was a pretty simple recipe (i.e., cranberries, water, sugar and then the mustard and horseradish)? Thanks.

No idea since we haven't tasted it! Powdered mustard? Dry mustard? Fresh horseradish? Jarred horseradish? Too many variables for us to know what you remember. I'd cook the cranberries, water and sugar and then start adding your ingredients to taste until you like the flavor.

you guys are the best, thank you! It's almost like having my great-grandma around again to answer the questions herself! :)

So happy to help!

A friend gifted us a half gallon (really) of maple syrup. As a household of two, one of whom doesn't eat pancakes and other bready breakfast foods, this is quite a commitment, not to mention how much real estate it will take up in the refrigerator if I ever open it. What can I do with it?

The best dessert I have ever made with that much maple syrup is a Quebecois specialty called pouding chomeur. We haven't published it in the Post, but I made the recipe from the "Au Pied de Cochon" cookbook that Lottie and Doof have here. It's so indulgent -- basically a batter that you bake in a mixture of equal parts maple syrup and heavy cream. It becomes like the best bread pudding ever. Better, really. And the recipe takes 2 cups of maple syrup!

I saw bagged Romaine lettuce hearts for sale at the supermarket yesterday. As hopefully everyone knows, we're supposed to avoid Romaine from Salinas, California because of an e-coli outbreak. The info printed on the lettuce bags said the lettuce was from Salinas --- but stickers had been added to say it was from elsewhere -- Wish I'd snapped a photo, only remember it was a state other than California. Since this is a big supermarket chain (name if you want it), I assume the stickers are correct -- but it does bother me that, if the stickers are correct, the bag the lettuce comes in gives incorrect info. I chose not to buy it.

Can I prebake my (from scratch) pie crust the night before, since my recipe calls for a prebaked crust? If so, how do I store it overnight so that it stays fresh?

Yes, you can prebake the night before (or 2 days ahead!) and cover it. Store on the counter overnight. Fill and bake tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: Cool completely, then slide the crust into a plastic bag and partially close or tent with wax paper. Store on the counter top.

Dan, it’ make ahead gravy in CI and make ahead gravy for a crowd in Cc

Ah, thank you! Stick with the amounts in the CI recipe. The two recipes are similar, but the CI one actually makes more finished gravy and that is why the additional flour is needed. Hope that helps! (I bet your kitchen smells really good right now.) 

I made a tester pecan pie on Monday and will be re-making today. I think I got it just about right, but the filling (3/4 cup golden syrup, 1 cup brown sugar, 6 tbsp brown butter, 3 eggs + salt/vanilla/bourbon) seemed a little grainy from the brown sugar. The recipe called for me to cook the filling for 2 minutes on the stove, and I wonder if I should try to cook it to the point where the brown sugar crystals melt? Would that avoid the graininess? Also, I got two big cracks down the top that weren't very pretty -- should I have baked for a shorter time?

I would definitely cook the filling longer to dissolve the sugar entirely. As for those cracks, that's usually a sign that the pie has cooked at too high a temperature. Try cooking at a lower temp and until jiggly, not firm. It will continue to cook and then firm up as it cools.

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: Or, try mixing the ingredients together without cooking on the stove. The pie bakes a little longer, 55 to 60 minutes.

I can't believe you explained stuffing safety without linking to the West Wing Butterball hotline! 


Submitting late so not sure if you have already answered this. Is the current best practice to take the turkey out of the plastic packaging to thaw? I have always thawed in the plastic but like to keep up with science! Thanks for helping us all out with these chats!

Hi - I would thaw in the packaging, which will catch the water and juices and prevent them from running all over your fridge. It IS beneficial to salt the thawed bird thoroughly and then let it sit uncovered in the fridge for a least a day. That will help dry the skin, leading to better browning and crisping. 

Is it okay to clean them up today - including cutting in half - an not roast until tomorrow?


I've read that the reason cakes rise in the middle is that the oven is too hot: The cake cooks faster on the outside and pushes the middle upward.

Could be! Worth checking the oven temp, for sure.

That's accurate! If the oven is too hot the edges set very early in the bake time. The interior heats more slowly and will continue to rise before it too sets, giving you a dome. 

One year, my MIL was unhappy with her mash (I thought they were fine). My FIL stepped in, and used the electrical whisker. I mentioned - you know, using that makes it more starchy. He fixed me with a steely eye and said 'my mother used to do them this way, and they were delicious'. I quickly stepped away from that conversation. PS my inlaws are lovely people.

I'm cooking the potatoes today. Will put in flatter kind of dish to speed reheating. If the topping is butter, pecan, flower, brown sugar - should I wait to put it on right before oven or will it matter? Thanks so much for always taking questions. Happy Thanksgiving!

I think I'd rather wait to put it on so it doesn't get soggy. You could even put together the crumble topping and refrigerate it separately until you're ready to bake.

I'm going to add my thanks to the Food Crew, and confess right here that I do NOT like turkey. I'll cook it, but won't eat it. Each year I campaign for a chicken, and get booed.

You're not alone!

How to peel white potatoes today and not cook until tomorrow. I can't remember - it may have been two or three year ago. Please tell me again. Thanks.

Hi - You can peel potatoes ahead as long as you store them covered in water to prevent them from oxidizing to brown and black. 

I always use all butter and mine have a tender crust. Plus, everyone loves mine.

They might get a bit brown where you've cut them in half - but don't let that worry you. Roast in cast iron pan - makes em crispier

I will be preparing traditional butter and cream mashed potatoes at home prior to transporting these to a nearby relatives home due to limited stove & oven availability. How long will my prepared mashed potatoes keep?

It's best practice, for food safety, not to keep any food at temps between 40-140F for more than 2 hours. Depending on how long it will be between when you prepare the potatoes and when they are served, you might consider keeping them in a covered dish inside a small cooler with some plastic bottles filled with very hot water (or if you have an actual hot water bottle, you could set the potato dish on top of that inside a cooler).

We live in the country and there's a large flock of turkeys living down the road. My neighbor hunts them, but the breast is the only part they consider edible. If it's a living-wild turkey, the legs are very, very, extremely tough. They use them! BTW, you know birds are descended from reptiles when you see a wild turkey. We're also in maple syrup country. We go through many half gallons of the stuff every year. However, I wouldn't eat the candy for many decades after our great aunt who lived in Vermont gave us a large box of it.

mashed potatoes will turn out creamy and delicious no matter what if you add an entire package of Philadelphia cream cheese and a stick of butter. just fyi

Can I do the whole thing in the slow cooker? It would be great to have the stove space. I see a lot of recipes online that use stock as the liquid and I don't want that flavor. Can I use water? Milk? I have the potatoes. Now I need the help. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

You sure can, and use milk. Here's a great primer from our friends at The Kitchn.

This year we will be making WAPO's Fluffy Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie with gingersnap crust (November 2015) for dessert. The recipe says that the pie can be baked on day in advance, but won't that allow the gingersnap crust to get soggy? Would day-of baking (i.e., tomorrow) be better? Also, a second pumpkin dessert question for anyone: for many years we made the Silver Palate's Ginger Pumpkin Mousse, using pasteurized eggs and it was always terrific. However, the last three times we tried the mousse never solidified. The recipe includes gelatin and fresh ginger, and one folds in whipped cream. Anyone know if there has been a change in pasteurized eggs that is preventing the firming up of the mousse?

Fresh ginger contains enzymes that break down protein (called proteases), which would absolutely affect the gelatin's ability to set properly. However, that does not explain why you were able to make the mousse successfully for many years. As far as we are aware, there is nothing about pasteurized eggs that would affect the set of the mousse.

And about the buttermilk pie: Since you blind bake the gingersnap crust first, it firms up enough that it should resist sogginess.

RECIPE: Fluffy Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie

I'm making the pumpkin pies again this year, but I still have flashbacks to homemade pie crust troubles. What is your easiest fool proof method. many thanks for all your help!!

This is my go-to, never fail, easy and foolproof pie crust.

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: The key to success is making sure all the ingredients are cold. Chop the fat into small pieces and sprinkle it over the flour, use ice water, then mix together with a pastry blender. Handle it as little as possible. My foolproof recipe is in Jubilee!

we are doing a half turkey breast with cornbread dressing tomorrow. The half breast is 2 lbs and if my math is right, I should cook it and the dressing for the same amount of time. At Christmas, when I cook the company gift turkey in a bag, I open the bag to let the juices run into the dressing at about 45 minutes from done. My question: I want to put the raw turkey on top of the raw dressing and cook them together in one 9 x 13 inch pan. Is this a good plan?

You can absolutely bake the turkey breast on top of the dressing, although there won't be much in the way of drippings from the breast to flavor the dressing. The most important thing is to check the temperature of the breast and make sure it doesn't go over 165F. The internal temp of the stuffing should also reach 165F. The turkey and dressing may not reach this temp at the same time, so be prepared to take one out of the oven and leave the other in for longer.

We are going to sous vide a boneless turkey breast but different recipes call for taking the skin on or leaving off? Do you have any advice as to which method is best? Some recipes say leaving it on will get slimy.

Nice! You definitely want to leave the skin on and then crisp it up in a skillet after the sous vide cook. It's true that it will emerge from the bag completely soft and limp. But then you just need to pat it dry with paper towels and crisp in a well oiled skillet until golden. 

Can I get some ideas for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving ? We may do it on Sunday instead of Thursday so I do have time to prep.

The great thing about Thanksgiving is that all the sides are really easy to keep vegetarian, and then if you want something as a centerpiece, we have lots of ideas for you, but at the top of the list is the dish I made for this year: Pumpkin, Walnut and Sage Crostata.

More ideas are here!



Can things like baking powder and cornstarch go bad? We have some of each that have "best by" dates from 2014, and I say we should replace them, my husband thinks they're still good. I should note, he's the one who uses them in things like fruitcake, etc. My take is, they're cheap enough to replace, and with how much he's spending on fruitcake ingredients for 25 loaves of it, this is but mere cents. (everything he's made this year with the "old" stuff has turned out fine).

Cornstarch is fine, but baking powder will absolutely lose its leavening power over time. Fruitcake isn't all that leavened, so he might not have noticed!

I find maple syrup is a great sweetener for Asian style sauces - it's better than brown sugar cause you don't have to worry about dissolving the crystals

If the chat isn't about to end -- I'd love to hear about chatters' experiences celebrating Thanksgiving in other countries, where ... it's not Thanksgiving. My experience was with fellow expats in Mexico, where luckily turkey is very easy to find (and where it may even have orginated) and is called guajolote "gua-ho-LOW-tay" which is fun to say. But back then, cranberries weren't to be found. Luckily, mole sauce is a wonderful substitute for cranberries and gravy!

We're going until 2 p.m. today! So thanks for this. Chatters, any stories for us?

If you are making our beloved New Mexican biscochitos [state cookie NM], please remember that the traditional shortening is lard. It is also put to good use worldwide for pastries. 30% less saturated fat than butter! Mostly oleic acid, an EFA named for the olive. Thank you Mr. Yonan & all for another tour-de -force as always. Gobble gobble!

The problem is not everyone has access to good lard, so you have to make do with whatever's available.

And you're welcome!

I’m making a Dutch Apple Pie and didn’t buy more AP flour — aargh! I have just enough for the crust and the apple mixture, but can I substitute bread flour or cake flour (have plenty of both) for the crumble topping? Thanks!

Yes you can! I would use cake flour, since you have it.

Hi, Recently saw a tip for keeping mashed potatoes warm on thanksgiving day by putting them in a crockpot once they are mashed. Would like to try this because mashing potatoes is always a last-minute, messy catastrophe. What is your advice? Thanks. KS

You can definitely keep them warm in a slow cooker, but you will likely need to add a little more liquid (milk or cream) to keep them from sticking to the slow cooker and browning.

Last night, I made a recipe (seen in the NY Times) similar to your Potato Roasties: cut the potatoes into large chunks, parboil, then toss is melted butter and Parmesan cheese, and roast for 30 minutes, flipping them halfway through. They were very good. I used unpeeled purple potatoes.

I do a make ahead mashed potato recipe from the Pioneer Woman that’s sinful but it’s because of the amount of cream cheese, butter and half and half - so another vote for cream cheese!

I just want to say that I'm making Joy the Baker's sweet potato pie today, and it has never let me down. I have an awful headache, so I'm baking the sweet potatoes instead of boiling to avoid dealing with peeling and stove-minding.

I'm sorry about your headache! Ugh. Baking the sweet potatoes is a good way to go and you can scoop out the insides! Happy Baking the rest of the way. 

This one is fantastic.

Thank you!

Ah, okay, that helps. In this case, it looks like you're using the Dutch oven more like a cake pan instead of as a bread oven. Since she describes it as a soft, tender bread, she's clearly not going for the crispy crust effect you get with the Lahey method. Seems like you're good to go then.

Just wanted to give a shout out to the WaPo recipe for cranberry sauce -- I made it this past weekend for Friendsgiving and it was a big hit, and such an easy recipe. Also a nice accompaniment to the mulled wine that people brought.

Hooray! Becky kept it simple with that one: Five ingredients and 20 minutes on the stove top. It's a breeze, but the citrus zest and dry red wine give it great depth on a crowded plate.

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

RECIPE: Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

I'm a huge fan of that recipe, too -- have been making it virtually every year for the last, well, 15!

Thank you for the cookbook, it’s just what we wanted after reading through The Jemima Code (eye candy, and I am covetous of your collection). I already have several vegetable recipes marked for trial.

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: You are so very welcome. I hope you enjoy reading, cooking and tasting our history!

Please advise. I made a cheesecake, the instructions for which said to bake for 90 minutes at 325 in a water bath. I did this, and continued baking for 5 additional minutes as I thought the middle was still too wiggly. After 5 minutes, I turned off the oven and let sit for 30 min. in the oven, then took out to cool. It was still fairly wiggly, the outer edge was a tiny bit brown. I couldn't stop worrying, so eventually I googled how to check if a cheesecake is done, and the internet advised taking the temperature, which should be 150. The cake had been cooling outside the oven for almost an hour at that point and the temp was 141. Do you think it's okay to eat? The recipe called for 6 eggs, which I think might be adding to the wiggliness, although when I took the temperature it was no longer wiggly but still seemed awfully airy, which I think it's supposed to be. Thank you in advance.

I'm afraid at this point you have to trust and hope. If it cooked to 150, it will set up. If it didn't, you won't know until you unmold it. If it's set, it's safe to eat. If not, sadly, it is not safe. Do put the cake in the refrigerator to completely cool (several hours.) Hopefully at that point it will be set and you can stop worrying.

I bet, since it was 141 after an hour, that it got there!

I am bringing mashed potatoes to a Thanksgiving dinner that is 1.5 hrs away. How much mashed potatoes should be made per guest and what is a good way to either keep them warm in transit or reheat them upon arrival?

We recommend 1 pound of potatoes per 3 guests. Transport them in a covered dish, wrapped in a towel, in a small cooler with some plastic bottles (like soda bottles) filled with very hot water. It is easier to keep mashed potatoes warm than it is to reheat them. If you have to reheat them, put them in a covered dish and reheat for 30 minutes in a warm (300F) oven.

For those wondering about low and slow vs. high then low: this method has never done me wrong. 

Sometimes this can be a problem due to their differing melting points. I ended up with a crust with holes in it when I used butter and refined coconut oil.

Refined coconut oil and shortening are actually very different, especially when it comes to melting point. The Spectrum organic shortening is very nice in a pie crust (50/50 with butter is my preference.) Shortening will keep pie crusts fresher, crispier, and flakier longer than an all butter crust.

This question is for Joy Wilson. Do you have any recommendations for good vegetarian Thanksgiving mains? (My husband and one of my daughters are vegetarian.). Happy Thanksgiving, Joy -- you are the best!!

I think a stuffed pumpkin or stuffed squash makes a stunner of a thanksgiving main.  I don't have a specific recipe but scoop the insides of a pumpkin out, saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Crumble in stale brioche. Add fresh herbs and veggie stock. Add shredded gruyere cheese and scoop it all into a pumpkin.  Bake until the pumpkin is soft.  What do you think about that?  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! 

I've done a lot of this, having lived overseas in non-military, non-foreign service, part of the European home country cultures. Getting the turkey became so much easier as turkey became more widely used...even my local Delhaize in Belgium had turkeys in late November! At the beginning, I would import white corn meal for the dressing and even now, white cornmeal is hard to find outside the US South. One year, my local butcher missed the time on my order (I'd ordered for Wednesday) so he delivered it on Thursday with complementary sausages--to cook the bird in the traditional English manner. That was the year I spent an hour pulling pin feathers because the bird had so many. When we lived in Hertfordshire, the turkey farm was 10 miles down the road, so we always had fresh ones. I also had an award winning butcher who was interested in how I roasted it. (But not at Christmas-I got a turkey for Christmas 1999 and waited in the block long line to pick up the preordered and paid for turkey in an assembly line with so many others that the butcher had no time for chit chat.) Then, there was the time the Scottish butcher couldn't believe a 21 year old would attempt to roast a turkey, so got me a fully cooked one--which I refused and he replaced with a deep frozen one on the Wednesday. I still have the timetable we used for evening Thanksgiving dinner because everyone went to work and school on that day.

So great! You've made the European-Thanksgiving rounds!

My pecan pie is in the oven (the vegan one featured on WaPo). We didn't have bourbon and what I thought was whiskey was actually brandy. Whoops. Will it be sort-of ok?

RECIPE: Bourbon Pecan Pie

More than sort-of okay! Brandy will make a lovely pecan pie. Just tell your guests you decided to put a French spin on this southern classic. 

That actually sounds superb! We are now considering making the same "mistake" this year ;)

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: The pie will be terrific!


I *accidentally* used applejack last year, which was terrific.

I have seen the answers for the day ahead, and all state the potatoes be roasted, riced and then reheated the next day with additional dairy. Is it OK to simply cook/roast the potatoes the night ahead and then rice tomorrow and add the milk and butter? By the way your chat is the top reason I extended my online Washington Post subscription for another year. I have tried recipes I would not have normally.

Yep, I don't see why that wouldn't work. You could reheat by adding super-hot milk and butter to the cold riced potatoes, and I think that would work fine!

And glad to have you among our subscribers!

A small amount of maple syrup in your coffee up instead of sugar is delicious!

Of course! (But the OP has a LARGE AMOUNT.)

My husband especially liked your German Potato Salad (it's sweet!). I saw it's adapted from a David Hagadorn recipe. I always enjoyed his contributions, and hope he is well. If you're in touch, please say hello from Piney. Anyway, it will be on our post-Thanksgiving table.

This is such a good one! Thanks for mentioning it. And will definitely pass along a hello to David!

RECIPE: German Potato Salad

As in years past, my favorite Thanksgiving cartoon, by Peter C Vey, originally in The New Yorker.

So amazing. Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Did a couple test batches of gluten free gravy last and still really struggling. Tried one with a roux of AP GF flour and the mouthfeel was totally off. Tried another with a slurry of potatoe starch and it’s still super thin. Any suggestions??

Hi - You are on the right track with using an AP GF flour, but we've found that brand makes a big difference for gravy. Those that are based on bean starch produce some funny textures. We had good results with King Arthur's GF Flour blend. Here is our recipe for gluten-free gravy.

Just to reinforce your earlier response: For a small family that doesn't care for dark meat, I regularly de-bone a whole turkey breast and lay it flat over the stuffing in a 9x13 pan. It works great. Make the stuffing more moist than you normally would before you put it in the pan - more like dressing. Make sure to butter the skin, too.

I make a veg version of 'stuffed merliton'. I boil the chayote squash until a little underdone and scoup out the flesh and saute with the 'holy trinity' mushrooms, breadcrumbs/panko/ stale bread bits and any seasonings you like. Stuff and put in medium oven until warmed through and brown (for details check oven temp / time for traditional stuffed merlilton). It's a real crowd pleaser and can be made in advance and just popped in the oven at the end.

Sounds so good!

Just a few minutes ago on NPR the host was talking to his mother who mentioned this exact recipe--maybe check their site--they archive all of the transcripts I believe.

Should I be brave enough to try with twenty people? Thank you for the suggestion!


I always make mine with 1:1 with chickpea flour. I find it works perfectly in a roux. Things to watch out for: it has a lower burning point, it has a slight nutty flavor.

It makes a great hand lotion. Really.

Good for your hair, too!

Help, please! This year I’m cooking dinner for two so I decided to buy a duck. But, everyone has a different recipe! Cook on high, flipping the bird 2x (Martha), boiling the roasting (Ina), low then high, high then low. What do you recommend? Thank you!!!

Duck is the best! We just published a fabulous recipe for roast duck with cherry sauce in the November/December issue of Cook's Illustrated. Here is our recipe. The key is to braise the duck in a Dutch oven in just enough water to come halfway up the bird. That bring the tough dark meat up in temperature while keeping the breast meat cool. Then you can go into a hot oven to finish the roasting. 

Our guests love Stove Top stuffing, which of course is incredibly easy to make. But everyone's bringing different sides that need to be prepared right before we eat, so the oven area is going to be crowded. Can we make the Stove Top stuffing ahead of time (we bought 6 boxes this year) -- say a couple of hours before the guests arrive? What's the best way to heat it back up?

You can definitely bake it ahead of time, but you'll need to reheat it in the oven. Maybe try baking it as close as possible to the time your guests will arrive, then cover it with foil and keep it warm in a small cooler while everyone else reheats their side dishes. Or maybe one of the side dishes could be reheated in the microwave so you can have some oven space?

All this stress over mashed potatoes. Don't be afraid of instant mashed potatoes, they're really quite tasty.

No shame! 

For several years in a row, I have cut up the turkey before roasting it. I cut off the wings, legs & thighs, and the back and spread them out in several roasting pans. This way, I take each of the pieces out of the oven when they are done, nothing gets overcooked.

Can I use chicken bone broth (from a box) rather than regular chicken stock (in a box) to add to my homemade gravy? Should bone broth be added in the same amount and will it mix with gravy roux, etc. any differently? Thank you for your help?

Yeah, should be fine. Just pay attention to whether or not it has salt and adjust accordingly.

Easiest thing in the world. As I keep telling my husband: "90% of any job is having the right tools." In this case: a potato masher. I've always used the kind with the wire zig-zags myself. (Years ago, a cousin of mine had a major fight with his wife at my house because he was so ecstatic over the homemade, slightly lumpy texture of my potatoes (just like our grandmother and my mother used to make)—as opposed to his wife's blender-smooth potatoes. So yeah, this is a serious issue!)

I submit goose is the best! (Especially if someone else is cooking it.)

Oh, duck, duck, goose, what difference does it make? (Sorry.)

Any way to fix ganache where the grease is all separating? this happens every few years so it's happening for Thanksgiving!

It's hard to save ganache once it has broken, but there are a couple things you can do to prevent it from breaking in the first place. Make sure you're not overheating the chocolate. Bring the cream to a simmer, then pour it over the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Let it sit for a few minutes, then gently stir in a circular motion with a spatula until smooth. Also make sure the chocolate you're using isn't too high in cacao solids. While a nice chocolate with a high cacao solids percentage tastes amazing, it has less cocoa butter in it than lower percentage chocolate, making it more prone to breaking. We recommend using a chocolate that contains between 60-70% cacao solids.

Can I sub high quality stick margarine in rolls For butter? Need to be dairy free.

This depends a bit on the recipe, but in general yes, you can!

So can I sub King Syrup even though they use different ingredients?

Sorry if I missed it -- is this for a particular recipe? If you can't find Lyle's (I love the stuff so much I sometimes... eat it with a spoon), I'd much sooner reach for honey.

I'd like to add pomegranate seeds to a farro-arugula salad. Will the seeds stain the farro and other ingredients?

Not if you toss it gently so the seeds don't break!

No, it was Tom Hall and his mom talked about cranberry sauce with horseradish and mustard. I think the Stamburg recipe has a lot more stuff in it.

Ah, got it -- thanks! Too busy w/Thanksgiving to listen!

You can make it in the microwave!!! (It's my favorite.)

Making a sweet potato custard that calls for a 9" round x 2" high cake pan, and just realized mine are all 1.5" max, or I can use a 10". Realizing recipes vary, is it better to use the right base and maybe have filling leftover, or should I adapt cooking time for the larger size to have height room? If it was a cake or bread I'd feel more comfortable adapting but I don't make many custard-type pies so am unsure about the rise level.

Honestly, I think you could go either way here. No matter which you pick, you'll probably have to tweak the time. Just because having leftover filling is more annoying, I'd go with the 10 inch, which will probably bake for a shorter amount of time. Just be sure to leave yourself enough room for the custard to rise. If you have enough headspace in the pan, you should be good to go.

If you need any more insight, here's a piece I did.

pan sizes

ARTICLE: How to swap baking pan sizes without ruining your recipe

Thank you WAPO foodies -- both those who work for WAPO and those other readers who share wisdom, recipes, and answers to burning food questions (pun intended).

You are so welcome! We love it, as I hope you can tell. And thanks to you for reading!

I've seen it at Giant, Wegman's, and World Market

I get mine at Harris Teeter, too.

What to bring?

I always think a nice selection of cheeses is a good thing to bring -- along with good crackers. Some pickles, jam, relish for a cheese tray?

I also dream of the day someone volunteers to come shuck fresh oysters as an appetizer, which I think would be just perfect before the huge indulgence.

which I learned from, uh, Joy of Cooking, 1964 edition. Mix 1 tsp baking powder in 1/3 cup hot water. If it's still viable, it will "bubble up enthusiastically."


My aunt really wants to try the WaPo pillowy pull apart dinner rolls. Is it crazy to attempt these if I've never made bread? They seem intimidating. And is 1% milk ok instead of whole milk (the store was out). Thanks!

No! Like I said, I've heard from a bunch of first-time bread makers who had success with these rolls. 1 percent milk should be just fine. Thank you!

My overseas oven didn't regulate, so even though I set it for "medium" it kept getting hotter -- and we ended up with unintentional turkey jerky! Couldn't cut it with a knife! Lovely guests made appreciative "mmmm, yum!" noises anyway.

Thanks, all, for the great chat today -- thanks for the great q's, and many thanks to our guests Dan, John, Megan, Cathy, Toni and Joy for help with all the a's!

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about other recipes from "Jubilee" that showcase African-American cooking, well, this was an easy decision: You'll get a signed copy of "Jubilee" from Toni! Send your mailing info to, and she'll make the arrangements.

Until next time, happy cooking, happy eating, and ... HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables," "Serve Yourself" and the upcoming "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
Carrie is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018).
Tim Carman
Tim is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining for Weekend.
Olga Massov
Olga is a food editor at The Post.
Kari Sonde
Kari is the food editorial aide.
Ellie Krieger
Ellie Krieger writes a healthful-eating column for Local Living and a weekly Nourish recipe for Food. She is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. Her most recent cookbook is "You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals."
Dan Souza
Dan Souza is editor in chief of Cook’s Illustrated. He’s an on-screen test cook and science expert for America’s Test Kitchen and the host of the popular YouTube series What's Eating Dan? He is also a regular contributor to the public radio program The Splendid Table. Dan has contributed content to a dozen America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, including the New York Times best seller The Science of Good Cooking and Cook’s Science.
John Becker and Megan Scott
John Becker is the great grandson of the original Joy of Cooking author Irma Rombauer. John has turned exclusively to matters culinary, ensuring that Joy will continue to meet the high standards expected by its readership. Megan Scott is the newest member of the Joy clan. She has worked for the cookbook since 2010, when she and John met. She has been a cheesemaker's apprentice, a baker and an assistant pastry chef.
Matt Brooks
Matt Brooks is an assignment editor for Food and the editor of Voraciously at The Washington Post.
Joy Wilson
Joy Wilson is a self-taught turned professional baker, food photographer, and three-time cookbook author. She is the author of Voraciously's Baking Basics newsletter series.
Emily Heil
Emily is a staff food writer at The Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Toni Tipton-Martin
Toni Tipton-Martin is an award-winning food and nutrition journalist using cultural heritage and cooking for social change. Her most recent book is "Jubilee," a collection showcasing the wide, varied breadth of African-American cooking.
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