Thanksgiving is about reflecting on the things we are thankful for and expressing our gratitude. But, let’s face it, it’s also about the food. Thanksgiving dinner is an elaborate feast that brings family and friends together. It often leads to the loosening of belts and food coma naps. Preparing Thanksgiving is not for the faint of heart. Gathering ingredients, picking the perfect Thanksgiving recipes, preparing and cooking can take hours or even days. Classic Thanksgiving recipes are rooted in tradition, but every Thanksgiving cook and family has their own unique preferences. This article will provide you with everything you need to put together a delicious Thanksgiving feast. Use these classic Thanksgiving recipes for appetizers, side dishes, and turkey and don’t be scared to add your own touch.
Whipping up a Thanksgiving meal takes a long time. To keep your guests from getting “hangry” make sure to put some appetizers out for them to snack on while you cook.
Charcuterie boards have been trending on social media this year, and for good reason—they are both beautiful and delicious. Charcuteries boards are crowd pleasers and a great option for a pre-Thanksgiving snack because they can be grazed on for hours and replenished easily as items run low. Oven racks and stove space are precious during Thanksgiving prep, so it’s smart to serve an appetizer that doesn’t require cooking. If you’re feeling festive and creative, try making a charcuterie board in the shape of a turkey or cornucopia.
Charcuterie Board Ingredients
For a delicious and balanced snack spread, include items from the following categories along with an assortment of crackers and sliced bread.
- Cheese: Put together an assortment of hard cheeses such as parmesan or asiago, firm cheeses such as cheddar or gruyere, and soft cheeses such as brie or burrata.
- Meat: Cured Meats including salami, prosciutto, and chorizo are among the classics. Add a wide range of flavors and a unique twist that your guests have never seen before by adding beef jerky to your charcuterie board.
- Fruits & Nuts: Cashews, almonds, and pistachios add a salty crunch to the board. In contrast, dried and fresh fruits such as berries, raisins, and figs add sweetness and tang.
- Condiments & Garnishes: Jellies, mustards, olives, and pickles complements the core ingredients listed above.
Tips for Cooking a Thanksgiving Feast
Thanksgiving should be one of the best meals that you and your loved ones enjoy all year. Whether you’re cooking the entire meal or only a dish or two, it can feel like a lot of pressure. Follow these tips and tricks to leave your loved ones feeling “fat and happy”.
Teamwork makes the Dream Work
If you have too many tasks on your plate, the quality of your dishes will suffer. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of family and friends to help you get the job done. Share the workload by asking someone to bring a dish, especially if it’s one that you’re nervous about making. People with no cooking skills can also help by chopping, stirring, or cleaning up behind you.
Don’t be Stingy with the Seasoning
Is there anything worse than bland food? The answer is yes—slaving away in the kitchen to later realize that your finished products lack flavor. Incorporate a variety of seasonings, herbs, spice mixes, and marinades in your recipes to ensure that your dishes are packed with flavor. Keep in mind that you are cooking more dishes and serving more people than you are used to, so make sure that you are stocked up on everything you need to make a flavorful Thanksgiving feast. Additionally, don’t be afraid to stray away from recipes and make the dish yours by adding different seasonings or your favorite spice mix.
Use Premade Spice Mixes & Marinades
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner can feel like a juggling act. Marinades and spices are a crucial part of putting together a delicious meal, but there is no need to make your own. Save time by using spice mixes and premade marinades. Choose a versatile marinade to flavor the turkey and add to stove dishes and sauces. Spice mixes eliminate the need to measure out different seasonings, they combine various ingredients in a balanced way. Customize recipes to your family’s taste with spicy, zesty, or umami spice mixes.
Create a shopping list and make sure to go shopping a few days before Thanksgiving. Grocery stores are insanely crowded around Thanksgiving and items you need might go out of stock if you wait too long. Allow for ample time to prepare, marinate, and cook each dish to perfection. If you’re cooking an entire meal, it’s not a bad idea to make a schedule to ensure that everything is ready on time. If oven space is a concern, make sure to put dishes that cook at the same temperature in at the same time.
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
A Thanksgiving feast includes a plethora of sides, and everyone has their favorite. Many of these side dishes are only enjoyed once a year during Thanksgiving, so it’s important to get them right. Whether you’re cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner or in charge of bringing one item to a potluck style feast, these classic recipes will send your family and friends back for seconds.
Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving classic, loved by pretty much everyone (including picky eaters). Whether you top them with gravy or enjoy them plain, mashed potatoes are a simple and delicious side dish.
Ingredients: Potatoes (Preferably Russet or Yukon Golds), salt, pepper, seasonings of choice, butter, milk, optional ingredients: cream cheese, shredded cheese, chives
Instructions: 1) Wash and dry your potatoes 2) If you prefer your mashed potatoes without skin, peel potatoes 3) Cut into even chunks, roughly 1-inch thick 4) Add potatoes to large pot, cover with water, add a dash of salt 5) Turn stove on high until water comes to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender enough to pierce with a fork 6) Drain and dry potatoes 7) Mash by hand with a masher for a chunkier consistency or use a mixer for a smoother consistency 8) Add as much butter as your heart desires and milk for a creamier texture 9) Season with salt, pepper, and other spices to taste 10) Optional: add shredded cheese, cream cheese, and/or top with finely chopped chives.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole is one of those dishes that is specific to Thanksgiving. Some people love it, some people hate it, but nonetheless it is a staple to any Thanksgiving spread.
Ingredients: 3-5 Sweet Potatoes, brown sugar, salt, butter, milk, eggs, optional toppings: mini marshmallows, pecans
Instructions: 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees 2) Follow instructions above to prepare mashed sweet potatoes to your liking 2) Combine mashed potatoes, ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, dash of kosher salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, ½ cup milk in a mixing bowl 3) add mixture to greased casserole dish 4) Prepare the topping—combine 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and half a stick of cold butter cut into 1-in cubes 5) Sprinkle mixture on top and add any optional toppings that you desire 6) Bake for 40 minutes
Tip: Incorporate savory seasonings to balance out the sweetness.
There are two types of cranberry sauce, homemade and canned. There is an ongoing debate about which is better, and every family has their preference. If canned cranberry sauce is your preference all you have to do is put it on a dish. If you prefer the homemade version, use the following recipe for homemade cranberry sauce.
Ingredients: Fresh cranberries, sugar, orange juice, optional ingredients: orange zest, raisings, cinnamon, nutmeg
Instructions: 1) Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup orange juice in a pan over medium heat 2) Add cranberries and continue to stir until the cranberries burst, this should take 10-12 minutes 3) Add spices and additional ingredients mentioned above if desired 4) Set aside to cool before serving (sauce will thicken as it cools)
Green Bean Casserole
It’s always good to have something green on the table, green bean casserole is a delicious way to eat your veggies. Green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving classic that is easy to prepare.
Ingredients: Green beans (4 cans or one bag), cream of mushroom soup, a bag of fried onions
Instructions: 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees 2) Add green beans to a greased casserole dish (if you’re using canned, drain them first) 3) Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and stir until well combined 4) Add desired seasonings 5) Top with a layer of fried onions 6) Bake for 45 minutes
Collard greens are a popular southern dish and a welcome addition to a Thanksgiving spread. They are simple to make and highly customizable. Adding your favorite seasonings, bacon, or even finely sliced jerky will take your collard greens to the next level. If you like spice, try adding cajun seasonings or red pepper flakes.
Ingredients: 1 Bunch of collard greens, chicken broth, onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Instructions: 1) Remove the leaves from the stems 2) Cook chopped bacon if desired 3) Add olive oil to a large pot and sauté onion and minced garlic until onions are translucent on medium head 4) Add collard greens to the pot and cover with chicken broth 5) Add salt, pepper, a dash of vinegar or lemon juice, your favorite dressing or marinade, and your preferred seasonings 6) Simmer on low heat for 90 minutes
It’s time for the main event, the star of the show, the Thanksgiving turkey! Cooking a full turkey is no simple task and the stakes are high with the whole family depending on the bird to satisfy their holiday hunger. Turkey is delicious, moist, flavorful, and tender when cooked well. However, turkey can easily turn out dry and bland if you cut corners during preparation.
How to Brine a Turkey
Salt tenderizes the turkey by breaking down tough protein strands in the meat. Brining the turkey also helps the meat absorb flavor and retain moisture. You’ll need a pot, or even a bucket, that’s large enough to fit the turkey. Cover the turkey completely with water and add a generous amount of kosher salt, at least 2 cups. Leave your turkey in the brine for 24 hours in the refrigerator or a cooler if it won’t fit.
Season and Butter the Turkey
Take your turkey out of the refrigerator, remove the giblets, dry it off, and allow it to sit for an hour. Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a pan and put celery and an onion chopped in large pieces inside the turkey. Fill the bottom of the pan 1-2 inches high with chicken or vegetable broth, the broth should not touch the bottom of the turkey. You can also add seasonings and marinades to the liquid at the bottom of the pan. Melt 1/2 to 1 cup of butter depending on the size of your turkey and brush it evenly over the top of the skin and under the skin. Create a mixture of herbs and spices of your choice and rub the mixture all over the turkey. Classic recipes are flavored with herbs including parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. But don’t be afraid to try something out of the box such as a cajun spice mix or lemon pepper.
How to Cook a Turkey
Loosely cover the turkey with tin foil, this will keep the flavors of the broth mixture, onions, and celery locked in while still allowing it to cook properly. Put the turkey in a 450 degree oven, cooking time will vary based on the size of your turkey. A small turkey can take as little as 3 hours while a large turkey could take over 5. The key to finding the sweet spot is checking the temperature periodically with a meat thermometer until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Take the turkey out of the oven every 30 minutes and baste the entire bird with the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Basting keeps the bird juicy and the fats that drip into the bottom of the pan make the skin crispy.
Serving the Turkey
When your turkey is finished cooking, take it out of the oven, remove the tin foil, and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. This allows for the juices and flavor that soaked into the exterior from the seasoning and basting to soak all the way through the turkey. Now you’re ready to carve and enjoy!
Spice Up Your Thanksgiving with the Flavors of Crockett Creek
At Crockett Creek we have mastered the art of creating flavorful and tender jerky. Now, you can bring our delicious flavors into your kitchen with Crockett Creek Blazin’ Cajun Spice Mix and Original Marinade. There’s no need for guess work or complicated recipes when you use our products. Blazin’ Cajun Spice Mix will give your dishes a burst of Cajun flavor, and don’t worry, it’s not spicy. It can be used to season both vegetables and meat, including turkey. Crockett Creek’s original marinade can be added to the brine or the drippings in the bottom of the pan to enhance the flavor of your turkey. Our carefully crafted recipe is made from all-natural herbs and spices and packs a smoky, sweet, salty flavor that is guaranteed to impress everyone at the dinner table.
Click here to buy Blazin’ Cajun Spice Mix and Crockett Creek Original Marinade and to shop our wide selection of jerky.