Give Now

Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Thanksgiving Q&A: Keep Calm And Cook On

We asked our Twitter followers what worries them most about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Judith Dern of Allrecipes is here to calm our nerves.

It’s the biggest meal of the year and it’s right around the corner — Thanksgiving!

We put a call out on our Twitter feed for questions and concerns about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. What we learned is you’re worried about a variety of issues, from having enough food to making sure everyone is satisfied with the meal.

Never fear! We presented your concerns to Judith Dern, senior communications manager at Allrecipes. With her tips, you’re sure to be this year’s Thanksgiving Hero. “If you have really good food and you invite the right people, they’re your adoring fans forever,” says Dern.

Will I have enough food to satisfy all my guests?

Get out your calculator! For a turkey, figure about 1 1/4 pounds of meat per person. If you want some leftovers (and who doesn’t), allocate 1 1/2 pounds per person. With these calculations, a 15-pound turkey will feed about 12 guests.

In terms of mashed potatoes, the standard serving size is about 2/3 cup per person — but that’s a little stingy! Why not be generous and allow one cup per guest. Then work backwards to determine how many potatoes to use. One pound of potatoes yields about 2 cups of mashed potatoes, so for 12 guests, you’ll need 6 pounds of potatoes.

How do I make sure everyone is happy with the meal?

The subtext here seems to be, how do you please your vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free guests? Let’s face it, says Dern, that’s a tough task at any meal! “There are so many dietary restrictions it can concern and disorient even the most experienced cook,” she says.

First things first, before you plan your menu, ask your guests about their dietary needs. You can plan a couple dishes to satisfy the picky eaters.

“But if it’s something that’s really concerning someone, they should go the extra mile and not expect the host to,” says Dern. That’s right — it’s okay to put some of the burden on your guests. And if you are someone with dietary restrictions, offer to bring a dish or two. Your host will be grateful!

Speaking of relying on your guests for help with the meal…

How do I cook a great meal without breaking the bank?

Yes, it is entirely appropriate to request your guests bring a dish to share.

But when you think about the size of the meal and the number of mouths you’re feeding, Thanksgiving isn’t that much more expensive than other special meals. If you stick to the basics – turkey, mashed potatoes, a vegetable dish, gravy and cranberry sauce — it shouldn’t be a budget buster.

How can I add a new wrinkle to my family’s traditional dishes?

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and that’s okay! Take an old favorite, the green bean casserole. It’s not the most glamorous dish on the table — made with canned mushroom soup and topped with crispy onions — but it’s consistently one of the dishes Dern says people just can’t do without.

Consider adding new flavors to enliven traditional dishes. For instance, some white cheddar cheese and a healthy dollop of sour cream will create a rich taste for your mashed potatoes. (It will also help smooth out the lumps.)

Or, consider adding a new vegetable side dish to the menu. When cooked well, Brussels sprouts are delicious. Try this recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts with apple slices.

More: Keep an eye on our website over the next ten days for more Thanksgiving tips about making gravy, cooking the perfect turkey and salvaging an undercooked pie crust.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Earth Eats:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Search Earth Eats

Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Flickr

Harvest Public Media