#1) Check your pellet supply and restock if needed. Buy from your local Traeger dealer, or order now from our online store. Hickory, Pecan, and Apple are especially good with turkey and all the fixin's.
#2) Start shopping now for deals on Thanksgiving staples like canned pumpkin, sugar or flour, cranberry sauce or fresh cranberries (they freeze beautifully), stuffing mix, even wine and beer. You'll save money, spread the expense over several weeks, and avoid disappointment when stores run out of popular items.
#3) Before your herb garden goes kaput for the season, mix chopped fresh herbs, minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, and salt and pepper into softened butter. Use wax paper or parchment paper to roll into logs, twist the ends, then freeze. Fantastic when tucked under turkey skin before roasting. (Great for dinner rolls and potatoes, too.)
#4) We've been using what we call "a poor man's gravy separator" for years: While the cooked turkey rests, allow the drippings to cool slightly. Put a sturdy, large resealable plastic bag into a bowl and turn the top down around the rim of the bowl. Pour the drippings into the bag, and seal; the fat will rise to the top. Leave the bag in the bowl until needed, then carefully snip a small corner on the bottom of the bag and allow the drippings to pour into your gravy-making pan. Lift the snipped corner of the bag before the fat escapes, and discard the bag.
#5) Dish pile-ups on kitchen countertops are virtually unavoidable on Thanksgiving Day. We like to borrow a page from the "out of sight, out of mind" playbook: Put a few inches of soapy water in the bottom of a Rubbermaid-type plastic bin, stack dirty dishes and pots and pans in it as they accumulate, and discreetly put it in a back hallway or the garage until later. Great for dishes that need soaking, and a big help for people with limited counter space. Almost like having a butler's pantry!
#6) If people ask if they can bring something when you invite them for Thanksgiving dinner, say "Yes!". But make up a list beforehand of items to suggest: an appetizer, a vegetable, dinner rolls or breads, crudites, wine or beer, a pie, or anything they are uniquely known for that will mesh with your menu.
#7) If you find, on Thanksgiving Day, that you have miscalculated and bought a turkey that is too big to fit under your Traeger's lid, you can butterfly the bird by removing the backbone and the cartilagenous breastbone. It will then lay flat on the grill grate. (Google "spatchcocking" if you want to see an illustration.) Not only will the day be saved, but you will shorten your cooking time.
#8) Most tutorials on turkey carving would have you holding the knife parallel to the breast as you slice the white meat. We have a better way: Following the contours of the breast bone and rib cage, cut the breast halves off the bird. Then slice each breast crosswise. This method not only yields more servings, but each diner gets a nearly equal piece of white meat and skin. (This method works great with chicken, too.)
#9) If you like to serve wine with Thanksgiving dinner, here are several that generally pair well with a traditional menu: Champagne; a dry-ish Alsatian Riesling; a Rose (also dry-ish); and a Gerwurtztraminer.
#10) The USDA estimates whole-bird turkey prices could be up 8 to 10 percent this year due to higher feed costs. Start watching the circulars for good deals. Some stores will (wisely) use turkeys as "loss leaders", meaning they'll be willing to sell the turkeys below their cost to get you into their stores.
#11) Make a batch of homemade turkey stock now so you'll have it on hand for moistening stuffing or making gravy. It makes a great base for leftover turkey soup, too.
#12) Check out our just-posted "Thanksgiving Feast" tab in the recipe section of our website. All new recipes (plus a few "tried and trues") to make this the best Traeger Thanksgiving yet! http://www.traegergrills.com/recipes/thanksgiving
#13) For a turkey worthy of a magazine cover, prepare a platter before your bird comes off the Traeger. Lay down a bed of sturdy greens (kale works great, and won't wilt from the heat). Put the turkey on top. Tuck in sprigs of fresh thyme, sage, and/or parsley. Add a few whole cranberries, lady apples, kumquats, wedges of orange or whole clementines or mandarin oranges, or Seckel pears. Take a photo!
#14) Start collecting creative ideas for turkey leftovers. Here's one to add to your pile: A riff on a "Cubano", a sandwich popular in the Florida Keys and Miami. Spread mustard on the cut sides of a 6- to 8-inch sandwich roll (such as a hoagie bun). Layer sliced turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, and thin slices of dill pickle on it. Preheat your Traeger. Carefully place a cast iron skillet or a foil-covered brick on top of the sandwich to compress it. Cook until the sandwich ingredients are warm and the cheese melts.
#15) The safest and easiest way to defrost a turkey is to allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. But it takes time - about 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey. So a 20-pounder will take 5 days. Add a day if you intend to brine. (This means you should start thawing your bird THIS Saturday.)
#16) For the cook, there's not a lot of breathing room between the time the turkey comes off the Traeger and its 30-minute rest before presenting or carving. Make our "Do-Ahead Mashed Potatoes" (see Recipes, and the Thanksgiving tab) and cross one thing off your "To Do" list as much as a day in advance. And speaking of mashed potatoes, a ricer will change your mashed potato life forever. Just sayin'.
#17) After you push away from the table and before you take your traditional (and well-deserved) T-Day nap, take the time to pull the meat off the turkey carcass and refrigerate. Resealable plastic bags work well for storage. You can even separate the white and dark meat for people who are particular about their sandwiches!
#18) Put a slow cooker on the countertop while you're dispensing with T-Day leftovers. Put the turkey carcass into it, along with a quartered onion, 2 or 3 carrots, a couple of stalks of celery, a bay leaf, 2 quarts of chicken broth, and a few whole black peppercorns. Let it simmer all night, then strain out the solids and use the flavorful stock for turkey soup!
#19) It's best to thaw a frozen turkey in a roasting pan in the refrigerator, a process that takes about 1 day per every 4 pounds. If you don't have that kind of time, you can thaw the bird in its packaging in a sink full of cold water (40 degrees or less). This will take most of a day, so don't leave defrosting to the last minute!
#20) Today would be a good day to take inventory of serving platters and bowls, china, and glassware, washing any pieces that haven't been out of the cupboard since LAST Thanksgiving... Stick Post-It notes to the serving pieces to remind yourself (and anyone who's helping you on T-Day) what food you want them to hold. AND BUY THAT TURKEY IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY!
#21) This year, take lots of photos and record your menus and recipes. Print them out and start an album. Not only will you have easy access to the recipes that have worked for you, but your album will become a family heirloom. (Buy a good-quality album - not one with cheap glue that will yellow or degrade your photos and contributions. Voice of experience here.)
#22) Moving a hot, hefty turkey from the grill or roasting pan to a cutting board or platter can be a scary undertaking! One method is to insert sturdy carving forks into the turkey - one in the main cavity and the other in the neck cavity - and then carefully lift it to the board or platter which you've stationed VERY nearby. Do you have a method that works for you?