Q: I’ve heard stoneware is great. What’s the most versatile piece of stoneware that I could use for a lot of my recipes?
A: Stoneware makes baking nearly fool-proof. Due to the equal distribution of heat, your recipes will come out evenly cooked and with little possibility of burning on the bottom. One must-have stoneware piece is a stoneware cookie sheet, available at Kohl’s and Kohls.com. It’s perfect for cookies, of course, but also works great for homemade pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and refrigerated biscuits. It’s also useful for reheating anything that needs a crispy bottom, like leftover pizza.
Q: I am a self-proclaimed apple pie queen. Each year I enter every pie contest within a day’s drive and have finished in the top several times. I’m looking for something that will give my pies that extra something that the judges can’t resist. I welcome your suggestions!
A: We can’t get enough apple pie, especially this time of year. One trick to punch up the apple flavor when making pie would be to replace some of the granulated sugar with reduced apple cider. Or you can try baking with a 10-inch stone pie plate, available at Kohl’s and Kohls.com. It turns out perfectly cooked pie crusts every time, which is a must if you’re going to win top prize! Try our apple pie recipe, which has a nice balance between sweet and tart and has been a hit with FoodNetwork.com users.
Q: I’ve tried making homemade bread but, it never fails, the center is doughy while the top is too crisp and sometimes burnt. I’ve been following the recipe. What am I doing wrong?
A: It sounds like there may be an issue with either your recipe or your oven. You should start by getting a pan that will help distribute the heat around the dough, like the stone loaf pan available at Kohl’s and Kohls.com. Next, here’s our recipe for a white bread sandwich loaf which should give you a recipe that we know makes delicious bread. And no peeking! Keep the oven door shut so that heat does not escape.
Q: My husband was laid off several months ago, so I’ve been trying to find new meal ideas that I can make at home to save money, but keep still keep some of the fun of dining out. Do you have any fun, dine-in ideas for dinner?
A: How about a pizza party? Create a pizza decorating bar with a small bowl of everyone’s favorite sauces, ingredients and cheese. Let each member of the family decorate their own pie or a section of a larger pie. Preheat a 15-inch round pizza stone, available at Kohl’s or Kohls.com, and your family will be enjoying fresh, perfectly cooked pizza in no time!
Q: One of my cousins is getting married next month and I want to get her something practical that won’t take up a ton of space in her tiny apartment’s kitchen. Any suggestions?
A: When starting out in a new kitchen, every cook needs a set of mixing bowls and a great all purpose knife. They may not be the most exciting kitchen tools, but they are realistic and your cousin will get years of use out of them. A set of four ceramic mixing bowls, only available at Kohl’s and Kohls.com, will nest together and take up very little space in her pantry. And every time she makes pancakes for her loved ones, she’ll think of your thoughtful gift!
Q: I really want to make a rice and sausage stuffing, maybe with peas and carrots, but I'm not sure how to orchestrate it so that the rice isn't overcooked or undercooked. Do you have any suggestions?
A: The key to rice stuffing is providing it with sufficient moisture once it’s inside the bird, so it doesn’t dry out or become gluey. Your best bet is to cook the rice separately, then toss it with your already-cooked stuffing ingredients, then stuff the turkey and cook as usual. Try this recipe from Food Network Kitchens, which should make enough to fill a good-sized turkey, (Cornish Game Hens with wild Rice Stuffing), or this recipe from Emeril, which you’ll want to double in size, as it’s intended for a turkey breast roulade: Turkey Breast Roulade with Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing.
Q: This Thanksgiving I want to make my own gravy and not resort to the canned variety. How do you make "real" gravy?
A: Once you’ve got your turkey roasted, and it’s out of the pan and resting on a platter, pour the pan drippings into a measuring cup. Add 1/2 cup of the drippings back to the pan. Place the roasting pan directly over a medium heat burner (that is, if you used a metal roasting pan. If you used a disposable foil pan, do this in a saucepan instead). Scatter 1/2 cup flour evenly over the pan drippings and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the flour browns slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk hot broth into the flour mixture. Bring gravy to a boil, then adjust the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes. Then season, skim the excess fat off the top of the gravy, and serve. If you have lumps, use either an immersion blender to blend them in, or strain your gravy through a colander.
Q: It seems no matter what recipe I follow for lemon meringue pie, the meringue starts to weep and shrink and it makes the pie crust wet. Can you help me?
A: The easiest way to prevent weeping is to make and fill the pies the night before, but top with the meringue and bake the day of serving. The meringue will stay crisper and lighter if it is not exposed to the overnight moisture in the fridge. Don't cover the pie after it comes out of the oven and keep it in the coolest, driest place in the house.
If you're up for a little more work, a cooked meringue will remain stable longer than the basic, uncooked meringue. It's also safer if the pie will be out at room temperature for any length of time. There are two types of cooked meringues - Swiss and Italian. For the Swiss, the whites and sugar are heated in a double boiler until the sugar dissolves, then the meringue is beaten to firm peaks. The Italian meringue is the most stable of all meringues. Sugar is cooked to the soft ball stage and then added to the whites a little at a time, beating constantly until firm peaks form.
Q: Why does my meatloaf always crack while cooking?
A: Meatloaf usually cracks when the outside has cooked much more quickly than the inside. When meat cooks, the proteins contract and bind together; when it doesn’t cook evenly, the outer proteins tighten up, leaving cracks in the top of your meatloaf. There are a couple fixes for this. First, you can try lowering the heat of your oven; you can also try baking a free-form meatloaf, so you don’t have to contend with the radiant heat being transmitted from the pan; or, you can try placing a pan of water on the rack underneath where you’re baking your meatloaf, so the oven is filled with gentler, moist heat (not unlike using a water bath for cooking cheesecake).
Q: I would like to know if a person decides to purchase an extra turkey on sale for cooking at a later date, how long can it be frozen before being considered spoiled?
A: According to the USDA, frozen foods can remain good (that is, not spoiled) indefinitely – but after a while, their textures start to suffer. Whole poultry can last a good long while if it’s been packaged well; you can probably hold on to a bird – again, if it’s been stored well – for up to a year. To err on the side of caution, though, we usually recommend not storing whole uncooked poultry for longer than 3 months.
Q: When I make cornbread dressing, I always use eggs. My husband never uses eggs. Which way is the correct way?
A: Both ways are right, it just depends on how you like your dressing. Using eggs makes it creamier and custardier, and more like a savory bread pudding; leaving them out showcases the cornbread flavor, meaning that it’s critical to have excellent cornbread. When you’re using eggs, make sure to bake your dressing in a lower-than-usual oven so that the eggs don’t scramble – or temper them with a bit of the hot stuffing before tossing it all together just to be on the safe side.
Q: When I am unable to make it home for the holiday, I cook for myself at home. Coming from a big family, I always have leftovers for days (if not weeks), as it is hard to prepare for just one. What suggestions do you have for cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal for one person?
A: When you’re cooking for one, unfortunately it’s not as easy as finding the world’s smallest turkey and going from there. While you can certainly scale down recipes for side dishes, you may have to find fixes for one person. Try roasting a turkey breast – this Food Network Kitchens recipe for a classic – Roast Turkey Breast with Gravy, or this Sunny recipe for a new spin on things (Roasted Turkey Breast with Peach Rosemary Glaze).
For sides like casserole and stuffing, it’s a little trickier. For stuffing, try baking your stuffing in a muffin tin like in this Rachael recipe (Apple and Onion Stuffin Muffins), which’ll give you individual portions that can easily be frozen and rethawed; for sweet potatoes, try Ellie’s recipe for simply roasting them with honey (Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes).
Q: I've fixed my turkey the same way for over 27 years (yup, my entire married life!) - oven roasted. I acquired a barbeque a couple of years ago and have taken over my summer cooking with it. I'm looking for a new challenge this year - cooking out of season - and want to brave barbecuing a turkey but have NO CLUE how to even start. I don't have a rotisserie unit on my grill nor do I think there would be enough clearance for a turkey to twirl in my grill.
A: You can certainly cook a turkey outside on the grill; it just needs a little attention. When you set up your grill, you’ll need to make sure that you have two “zones” going, one for direct heat and one for indirect heat. (Learn more about indirect grilling here.) Once you’ve got that, you can brown the turkey over the direct side, then shift it over to the indirect side, rotating it occasionally, until it cooks through – usually about 5 hours, so definitely make sure you have enough charcoal (or propane)!
You can grill your turkey whole (like in this Bobby recipe) or butterflied (like this Food Networks Kitchens recipe), but it’s honestly easiest to start out by grilling a turkey in parts, like Cat does in this video.
Q: The most difficult issue when cooking for our large family on Thanksgiving, is getting all the food ready at one time, and having everything fresh and hot. The timing of the dishes are an issue. Any pointers?
A: Serving hot foods hot is one of the hardest things to do when making a large-scale feast. There are a few ways to make sure everything you have is up to temperature – the first, and big, one, is to have a game plan for the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Check out this planning guide for a basic guideline, and adapt as needed to the specific recipes you’re planning on.
Then, take advantage of the time the turkey is resting (so your oven is free, and you’ve got a decent amount of counter space available) to go on a reheating blitz. The residual heat from the oven can be put to use warming dressings and casseroles; the microwave if you have one can handle vegetables, and the stovetop’s perfect for sauces. For more-delicate foods like mashed potatoes, transfer them to a bowl and set that above a pot of steaming water so that the potatoes can heat through without scorching on the bottom.
Once dinner is on the table, put pies into the turned-off oven so that they heat through just enough that they’ll be perfectly warm when topped with ice cream.