• Matt Lummus

First Time Turkey Maker? You Got This.

Updated: 6 days ago

Thanksgiving probably looks different to a lot of you this year and maybe you are finding yourself making turkey for the first time. There is a lot of pressure being the person` who has to make the turkey, so this is the perfect time to start practicing while you have a small crowd! For the last 8 years, I've spent Thanksgiving in NYC away from my family and have been in charge of the turkey for my Friendsgivings, so I've had plenty of practice. I was definitely intimidated at first but after doing it once it really wasn't that bad!

There are plenty of wild ways to prep your turkey from deep-fried to brined in beer, but my favorite no-fail way has been to dry brine the turkey a few days in advance. I'll let the professionals over at kitchn explain it to you in more depth, but it's just a mix of salt and herbs rubbed under the skin and set in the fridge for a few days *uncovered* to get that beautiful crispy skin and juicy meat! Just don't forget to give yourself enough time to defrost first, because there's nothing worse than waiting until the last minute and realizing your turkey is frozen solid. After the 3 days of brining in the fridge, I usually follow the instructions on the turkey wrapping with how to roast in the oven and cover with foil for the last little bit.


If you don't have a roasting rack, I always buy a disposable pan at the grocery store and crunch aluminum foil to put under the turkey to keep it from resting on the bottom of the pan. I learned that trick from Butterball and I always use their instructions on roasting. It's really not as hard as everyone makes it out to be! Plus don't forget to save the drippings to make gravy for your mashed potatoes.

Top tips if it's your first time making the turkey

  • Give yourself time to defrost

  • Don't forget to remove the giblets and the neck (they hide those inside the turkey so you'll have to dig them out...gross)

  • Dry Brine 3 days in advance making sure to get under the skin

  • Get a disposable tray at the grocery store & follow cooking instructions on packaging

  • Make sure you get one big enough to have leftovers

The turkey is great and all, but my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal are the side dishes, the most important being the mashed potatoes! No one makes them better than my grandma who only uses milk and butter, but somehow I have never managed to get them as fluffy and delicious as hers, so I've accumulated a few of my favorite mashed potato recipes as well as some other favorite Thanksgiving staples that I hope you will enjoy.

Alton Brown's Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Super easy for all of you garlic mashed potato lovers! It really doesn't get easier than this, but make sure you don't skimp out on the grated parmesan! Get a good chunk of fresh parmesan (or we even used Pecorino) and not the pre-grated Kraft kind.

NYT Creamy Double-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

A little more involved but worth the extra work if you want to feel fancy! Take or leave the garlic chips, but they are a nice touch. If you don't have a NYT subscription and can manage to peep the recipe, just be sure to save it before it gets blocked behind the paywall.

Mashed Potato Casserole

A classic in the Lummus house! My mom has been making these for years and they are easy and delicious because cream cheese makes everything better. These are a great option if you want to make them the night before and store in the fridge.

  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softned

  • 1 cup cour cream

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

  • 2 teaspoons salt

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheight

-Cook potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and mash

-Beat cream cheese until smooth

-Add cream cheese to potatoes and remaining ingredients

-Beat until just mixed

-Spoon into 2 quart casserole

-Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated


*Can be refrigerated overnight and baked before serving*

Hash Brown Casserole

Mashed potatoes reign supreme, but Hash Brown Casserole comes in a close second with holiday potatoes. My uncle started making these years ago and they make an appearance at every family gathering where I stuff myself with seconds and thirds until I am in a food coma.

  • 1 bag Ore-Ida frozen hash browns

  • 1 stick butter

  • 1 can cream of chicken soup

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

  • 16 oz sour cream

  • 2 tbsb melted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed corn flakes (not frosted...ew)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheight.

-Combine butter and soup in a small pan. Heat until melted.

-In large bowl combine potatoes, salt, cheese and sour cream.

-Gently add in soup mixture.

-Mix and pour into 3 wuart greased casserole. Bake 45 minutes.

-Combine 2 tbsp melted butter and crushed flakes. Sprinkle over potatoes and bake another 15 minutes.

Squash Casserole

For years I wouldn't eat anything but mashed potatoes and turkey but my palate eventually matured and I ventured into squash as an acceptable addition. I love this squash casserole because it has water chestnuts and the extra crunch is very satisfying!


  • 8 oz Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing

  • 1 stick melted butter

  • 1 small onion

  • 3 cups cooked mashed squash

  • 1 can cream of celery soup

  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts

  • 8 oz sour cream

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheight

-Combine stuffing and butter and put in bottom of dish, saving a small amount for the top.

-Boil squash with onion for 30 minutes.

-Drain and mash squash in colander to get liquid out.

-Mix squash with soup, chestnuts, and sour cream.

-Pour over stuffing mixture and sprinkle with extra stuffing.

-Bake 30 minutes

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Pumpkin pie is always my favorite fall dessert, but a few years ago my friend Robyn introduced me to pumpkin pie with GINGERSNAP CRUST(!) and I have never been able to go back. It makes such a difference and without fail, it is always impressive to your guests. A lot of times I'll just use the recipe on the back of the can for the filling, but this Alton Brown recipe is my new favorite because it includes the gingersnap crust and a delicious filling.

Granny Smith Apple Pie

No one knows how to make an apple pie better than Southern Living and you'll never need another apple pie recipe after this one. Something about roasting the apples in the oven before adding them to the pie crust really makes a difference. A+

Okay young grasshoppers, go forth and slay your Thanksgiving meals! Don't let those turkeys intimidate you and be sure to send me pics of all your beautiful spreads ✌🏻

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