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Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

There is something very special about Thanksgiving, families and friends get together for a satisfying big meal, enjoyable company and in all that, tradition is being gradually built to create life long memories.

But it does take a lot to plan that satisfying big meal – whether you decide to stick to what is traditional or get adventurous in your kitchen and create a new, gourmet style feast.

If this year is the first year you are hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner, we have put together a basic (but delicious) traditional menu, complete with easy to make recipes.

In this year’s 2017 update we’ve also added how to cook your turkey including some very important tips that can prevent Thanksgiving Day disasters, like ensuring your Turkey is completely thawed if it was frozen and giving it enough time to thaw properly.

The Menu:

This menu is guaranteed to satisfy your dinner guests and there is something very special about sticking to a traditional Thanksgiving menu. Our menu includes everything needed to put together a delightful, traditional meal that is sure to satisfy even the most discerning of your loved ones.

  • How to Roast a Turkey
  • Basic Bread Stuffing
  • Turkey Gravy
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

How to Roast a Turkey

It’s very important to be sure to let your turkey completely thaw before cooking. Ideally if you can pre-order your Turkey then you’ll be able to pick it up before the holiday and avoid the freezing/thawing.

If it was frozen when you bought it, the turkey will thaw within a few days in the fridge, a good rule of thumb is allowing 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey.

For quicker thawing, place the turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes until it’s thawed.

If you’re a bit nervous about roasting your Turkey, fear not, keep in mind it’s very similar to roasting a large chicken. The same rules and methods apply. A couple of quick tips to keep in mind:

  1. Roasting a Turkey is easy, the two most important things are ensuring an even temperature throughout the bird during roasting and allowing the Turkey to rest properly before carving.
  2. There are literally hundreds of variations of roasting Turkey. This is intended to be the simplest way to ensure you get that traditional Turkey, if you’re an expert feel free to modify this recipe to your liking. If you’re a first timer Turkey roaster, this recipe will allow the beautiful meat of the Turkey to speak for itself.
  3. Give yourself enough time to properly roast your Turkey. The most important thing you can do to ensure a successful Thanksgiving meal is planning and timing.
    1. Prepare the week before Thanksgiving and ensure you have all of your ingredients and equipment on hand.
    2. Give your bird plenty of time to thaw.
    3. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare the meal. If you’re worried about timing your meal, we recommend starting earlier in the day (noon) then tenting and keeping your meal on very low heat just enough to keep things warm. You can always corral the troops for a slightly earlier meal, leaving more tryptophan induced nap time available for all.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Turkey (Any Size)
  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth, Vegetable broth or water.
  • 1 Cup unsalted butter, melted for basting.
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Equipment:

  • Roasting Pan or a Roasting Dish
  • Roasting Rack
  • Turkey baster, brush or ladle.
  • Instant Read Cooking Thermometer
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven, remove any racks above it, and heat to 450°F.
    1. If your turkey is straight out of the package, rub it with some salt and pepper before putting it in the oven.
    2. If you’ve prepared your stuffing, now is the time to fill your Turkey with the recipe below.
  2. Prepare the turkey for roasting. 30 minutes to 1 hour before roasting, take the turkey out of the refrigerator.
    1. Remove any packaging and the bag of giblets (check in the body cavity and in the neck cavity).
    2. Set the turkey breast-side up on a roasting rack and let it sit while the oven preheats. This takes the chill off the meat, which helps the meat cook faster and more evenly. It also gives the skin time to dry out, which promotes browning and crisping.
    3. Note: Your turkey will likely still feel cool to the touch after sitting at room temperature — that’s fine and you can continue on with roasting.
  3. Add liquid to the roasting pan. When ready to roast, pour the broth or water into a roasting pan.
  4. Place the turkey in the oven and turn down the heat. Place the turkey in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 350°F. It’s always preferable to roast turkeys breast-side up.
  5. Roast the turkey. A good rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 13 minutes per pound.
    1. Our 16-pound turkey was estimated to cook in about 3 1/2 hours.
    2. Some factors like brining the bird (if you’ve chosen to do that), cooking with an empty (un-stuffed) cavity, and leaving the legs un-trussed will contribute to much faster cooking.
    3. Plan on the 13-minute-per-pound rule, but start checking the temperature of your turkey about halfway through the scheduled cooking time to gauge how fast it’s cooking.
  6. Baste the turkey every 45 minutes. Every 45 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven and baste the entire turkey.
    1. To baste, tilt the pan and use a turkey baster or spoon to scoop up the pan liquids and drizzle them on top of the turkey.
    2. Basting with pan juices cools the surface of the turkey and slows down cooking, which in turn keeps the breast meat cooking at close to the same rate as the legs and thighs.
  7. In the last 45 minutes or so of cooking, you can also baste the turkey with melted butter or oil.
    1. This technique helps crisp up the skin and turn it a beautiful deep golden brown.
    2. If your turkey is getting too browned, shield the breast meat loosely with aluminum foil toward the end of cooking.
  8. Check the turkey’s temperature. This is one of the most important parts of the entire process, you should begin checking the turkey’s temperature about halfway through the estimated cooking time.
    1. Check the temperature in 3 places: the breast, outer thigh, and inside thigh (see photos above). In every case, the meat should be at least 165°F when the turkey has finished cooking.
    2. If any place is under that temperature, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Shield the breast meat with foil if needed to keep it from overcooking.
  9. Rest the turkey before carving. Grab one side of the roasting rack with an oven mitt and tilt the whole pan so the liquids inside the turkey cavity run out into the pan. (These juices are used to make the gravy.) Then, lift the whole turkey (still on the rack) and transfer it to a cutting board. Tent the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This gives time for the meat to firm up and the juices to be re-absorbed into the muscle tissue, making the turkey easier to slice and taste juicier.

Basic Bread Stuffing

Traditional Turkey Stuffing

Ingredients:

Enough for an 8 to 10-pound turkey.

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 4 cups bread cubes
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • turkey or chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Sauté onion and celery in the butter until softened.
  2. Combine onion mixture with bread, pepper, eggs, salt, sage and poultry seasoning in large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in broth until well moistened.
  4. Stuff the inside of your turkey and close off the opening
  5. Or, bake in a greased covered shallow casserole at 325° for about 35 to 45 minutes.
  6. Take the cover off the last 5 minutes to brown.

Basic Turkey Gravy

Ingredients:

  • Pan drippings
  • Flour
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Pour the turkey or chicken pan drippings into a 2 cup measuring cup and skim the fat off.
  2. Put about 1/4 cup of the fat into a saucepan and stir in 1/4 cup of flour (all purpose).
  3. Add enough water to the drippings (throw the rest of the fat away) to make 2 cups of liquid.
  4. Pour the 2 cups of liquid into the flour/fat mixture.
  5. Cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbling.
  6. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of gravy.

Mashed Potatoes


Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds potatoes
  • water to cover
  • salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into large pieces.
  2. Cover and cook in boiling salted water for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are tender.
  3. Drain potatoes.
  4. Put potatoes through a ricer or mash in a large mixing bowl until no lumps remain.
  5. Add milk in small amounts, beating after each addition, until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Add butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper, beating until mashed potatoes are light and fluffy.

Glazed Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces baby carrots
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • dash salt
  • pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the baby carrots with remaining ingredients.
  2. Stir to blend ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling (uncovered) for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until carrots are tender and the liquid has evaporated.

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 -1/4 cups pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9-inch)

Directions:

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and flour in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add eggs; mix well.
  3. Add evaporated milk, water, and vanilla; mix well.
  4. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan.
  5. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake about 35 minutes longer, or until centre is set.

If you are interested in putting together a more advanced gourmet Thanksgiving feast, you will find complete menu and recipes here: Gourmet Thanksgiving Dinner Menu and Recipes


To go along with your traditional Thanksgiving menu – don’t forget to set up your table!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these recipes and that they helped you make a good old fashioned Thanksgiving dinner. Please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences, your input is always welcome and very much appreciated!

About the author

Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

8 comments
Best Thanksgiving Recipes | Mama Knows - November 13, 2012

[…] Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu […]

Reply
Lynda - November 5, 2012

This will be my first year hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for my husband and his family. I am very excited and nervous! I have a lot of people coming and if something goes wrong I will just die! I am thankful that I have found your website as I have never made my own gravy before but I am looking forward to it!

Reply
    Hanna Trafford - November 12, 2012

    Good luck Lynda! I know you will do a great job – because you are looking forward to treating your family to a special Thanksgiving dinner! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need anything!

    Reply
Change of Address: 40 Blogs All About Thanksgiving - November 4, 2010

[…] Mama Knows http://www.mama-knows.com/recipes/traditional-thanksgiving-dinner-menu.html -this blog features traditional menu and recipes for a Thanksgiving dinner. Related Posts :Why […]

Reply
Megan - October 22, 2010

Hello!

This is my first year hosting Thanksgiving! I came acrossed your website and Im glad I did.. Im have a Pre-Thanksgiving to try everything out first..

Thank you so much!!

Reply
    Hanna Trafford - October 22, 2010

    Thanks Megan and I am so very glad that my posts are of help to you. I am sure your Thanksgiving will be great and if there is anything you need or have any questions I could help with, please send a message, I will be happy to help! And if you let me know how your Thanksgiving went, I will much appreciate it!

    Reply
Dede - October 8, 2010

Your stuffing is very similar to mine. Was thinking about adding pork sausage this year! I am not the best gravy maker so thanks for the recipe!!!

Reply
    Hanna Trafford - October 9, 2010

    Glad you found the information of help – I hope your gravy turns out perfect and if you find the time, please let me know!

    Reply
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