Chris Santos, chef-owner, Vandal, Beauty & Essex, and The Stanton Social, New York City, N.Y.
Don’t stress! The holiday is about friends, family, and maybe football. As far as a cooking tip, don’t always go traditional. Maybe turn Thanksgiving from traditional to unique by making turkey tacos with cranberry salsa, chipotle-roasted yams, and jalapeño-cornbread stuffing. Turkey is kind of like a blank slate—it’s not the most flavorful bird, so it can easily adapt to all kinds of cuisines and cooking styles. Experiment a little.
Caitie Maharg, executive chef, The Iris Inn, Waynesboro, Va.
A turkey cooks so much better on the grill in its roasting pan covered with foil, since it has heat surrounding it. We lost power one Thanksgiving and resorted to that and have cooked it that way ever since.
Rich Vellante, executive chef, Legal Sea Foods
I have three tips. One, prepare as much food as possible ahead of time. Preparation will alleviate a lot of Thanksgiving Day chaos and frustration. Two, clean out the fridge beforehand, so you will have space to put your food. Three, don’t overcook the bird. Don’t stuff the turkey, and cook the stuffing separately.
Christophe Bonnegrace, executive chef, Yamashiro, Hollywood, Calif.
Don’t stress out! Thanksgiving is not only about the food, it’s about the loved ones getting together and being thankful to have each other. Let the food be the star, keep it simple in your cooking, and let the flavor speak for itself.
David Rodriguez, corporate executive pastry chef, Sugar Factory
Cut up the bird before cooking. By going with this method, nothing will be undercooked or overcooked. Roast the meat until the breasts are done, and then cut off the legs and thighs. The breasts can rest, and you can cook off the legs in drippings left in the pan. Have an abundance of chicken stock on hand, bubbling warm on the stove all day. Slice the turkey and put it on a platter to serve it, and then right before you go out to the table, ladle some stock over the top to warm it and give it a little moisture, too. Do the same for the stuffing.
Justin Burdett, chef-owner, Local Provisions, Asheville, N.C.
If you have the time, make your own cranberry sauce. The canned cranberry sauce works, but homemade is amazing.
Alex Harrell, chef-owner, Angeline, New Orleans, La.
I would tell most home cooks to enjoy the experience of being with family and friends. Cooking for people that you love should be fun and relaxed. Don’t stress too much about the preparation and choose a menu that allows people to help and that you feel comfortable with.
Brian Bajon, executive chef, Barcadia, New Orleans, La.
My tip to the home cook: Get everyone in the family to bring one dish so all the work, and stress, doesn’t fall solely on one person. And dinner rolls from the store don’t count as a dish, Uncle Dan!
Craig Wallen, executive chef, Le Zoo, Miami Beach, Fla.
Drink first. You have to prime the pump.
Christina Pancheri, executive chef, Miss B’s Coconut Club, San Diego, Calif.
Don’t mess up the turkey! You want a nice, moist turkey. A great tip to achieve that is to purchase a fresh turkey, and I would highly recommend brining it for 16 to 24 hours (depending on the size of the turkey) to help lock in moisture and provide your turkey with more flavor. I like to flavor my brine with vegetable stock, kosher salt, black peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, brown sugar, ginger, allspice berries, and cinnamon sticks.