5 Things Alton Brown Taught Me About Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner
His Thanksgiving classes on the Food Network Kitchen app are full of genius info.
In this series, we're showing off some of the coolest recipes, tips and tricks we've learned from chefs in the all-new Food Network Kitchen app.
I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for about 10 years now, so I’ve got a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of Turkey Day prep. I make my lists and check them twice, I let the turkey come to room temp before moving it to the oven, I mash potatoes in the hot pan in which they cooked, and I always add extra flour to the apple pie filling so it’s not runny. These things work and I stand by them all.
But that doesn’t mean I have all the answers! I love few things more than learning from culinary professionals, so as I was watching Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving classes on the Food Network Kitchen app, I found myself jotting down little notes. His classes are chock-full of genius how-tos and little-known secrets, things that will not only streamline the work you’re set to do on Thanksgiving but that will also introduce new flavors into your holiday traditions.
These are among my favorite learnings from Alton:
1. You can prep the hardest elements in advance.
The last thing you want to do on Thanksgiving morning is roll out pie dough, activate yeast for rolls and worry about gravy. But you really, really want homemade pie dough, rolls and gravy. Alton’s gotchu. For the pie, he suggests rolling out and freezing the dough up to two months in advance and then baking it when you need it. You can even bake it ahead of time too, he says; just keep the crust in and covered with pie pans so it doesn’t get soggy. As for the rolls, Alton opts for “suspended animation,” which lets you par-bake them, then freeze. When you’re ready to eat, simply pop them back in the oven so they cook up to a beautiful brown. For the gravy, make a concentrated stock base up to two weeks before and stash it in the fridge; when you’re ready to eat, whisk that with butter and flour to finish.
2. There’s always room for more bacon.
To up your usual Brussels sprout game, it’s all about the bacon. Not only does Alton roast these tiny veggies with crispy, salty bacon, but he uses the rendered fat to coat the Brussels too. More really is more.
3. Start carving the turkey starts before roasting.
If you want to master the turkey carve — without accidently carving yourself in the process! — you’ll have to do a bit of poultry surgery, Alton admits, and it’s gotta happen before everything else. He props up the raw turkey in a big pot and gets to work on cutting out the wish bone. By removing that little piece, your life will be so much easier later on. When the bird is roasted and rested, you can easily guide your knife over the turkey breasts to remove them completely, since the wish bone is no longer in the way.
4. Pre-soak the potatoes before boiling.
Potatoes are full of starch and that’s a good thing. But when making his whipped potatoes, Alton really wants to get as much surface starch off his spuds as possible. So before boiling them, he lets them chill in cold water for at least 30 minutes. At that point, you’ll see how a bunch of white starch has fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Getting rid of that starch ultimately helps yield a fluffier finished product.
5. There’s only one way to deep-fry a turkey, and it’s Alton’s way.
“This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only way for you to safely fry a turkey to perfection,” Alton declares. He’s talking about his Turkey Derrick 1.0, a ladder-pulley rig that lets you lower the bird into a vat of oil — slowly and, this is important, from a distance. It’s the gold-standard of turkey frying, which I’ll admit I’ve never attempted. (But if I were to do this, you bet I’d be at my local hardware store buying a giant ladder and some cord to make this possible.) His method has the bird cooking for less than an hour, and it turns out golden brown, crispy and, yes, fried to perfection.
Whether you’re new to cooking Thanksgiving dinner or you’ve been cooking it for decades, Alton’s collection of Thanksgiving videos are must-watches. He’s got tons of recipe ideas, step-by-step tips and, of course, hilarious nuggets of food science that only Alton can deliver.