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Thanksgiving Dinner Prep: How To Cook The Turkey, Where To Shop And What Side Dishes To Make

Jayson Derrick

Thanksgiving is just days away. Chances are likely you still need to buy something (or everything).

Thanksgiving is a special holiday and the turkey is the main centerpiece at the dining table, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank to host your loved ones.

Where To Buy On A Budget

Make a list of everything you think you will need to purchase and head out to the stores.

Dollar store chains are your go-to destination for everything you need at the table. Spending more than $1 on a package of 20 napkins is typical at a grocery store, but not at Dollar General Corp. (NYSE: DG). While you're at Dollar General, pick up a few pieces of decoration. Don't bother spending five times as much on real flowers — the fake ones look just as nice.

YouTube is a great source of inspiration, especially for those that are more hands-on. Here is one example of how dollar store items can be transformed into something special, especially if you get the whole family involved.

Even for those who aren't on a strict budget, saving a few bucks around the holidays is always a great thing.

See Also: Every Major Retailers' Black Friday Weekend Shopping Hours

Want To Splurge A Bit?

Retailers like J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE: JCP) and Kohl's Corporation (NYSE: KSS) are great destinations for those who want to spend a bit more, but don't want to break the bank while doing so.

A festive table can make a big difference and shows your loved ones you took an extra step to show they are appreciated. My personal favorite comes courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (NASDAQ: BBBY): a 24-pack of turkey paper plates!

Holiday hack: Leftover inventory will go on sale after Thanksgiving. No reason why your Christmas meal can't be served on the same turkey paper plates.

Turkey Cooking 101

Turkey by itself has no taste and even less so when it's overcooked and dried out. When someone says they love turkey, what they really mean is they love the delicious gravy that goes on top.

At less than 50 cents a pound across some regions of America, a turkey will never come close to passing for a prime rib roast. That doesn't mean it can't come close with a little extra effort.

Brining a turkey makes a world of difference as it involves soaking a turkey overnight in a salt-based solution. The turkey will absorb much needed extra moisture to stay juicy.

Here is the king of food himself Alton Brown explaining the process:

My personal favorite go-to brine can be bought on ATBBQ.com. Sure it ends up costing almost as much as the turkey itself, but eating a lemon thyme brined turkey is even better than it sounds.

Next, it's important to discuss food safety. A turkey is safe to eat when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above will dry out your turkey and anything less could make your guests sick. Falling well short of the target temperature drastically increases the likelihood of consuming raw poultry, which is a recipe for a bad Black Friday weekend.

It doesn't matter how you cook your turkey, whether smoking, grilling, roasting or deep frying -- the minimum temperatures remains constant.

And please don't stuff your turkey. Cook it separately to prevent the chance of raw turkey drippings falling in the stuffing and staying there.

Motivation For Thanksgiving Sides

Enough with the boring mashed potatoes and plain green beans -- here is a list of some of my favorite YouTube cooking channels and some of the side dishes I will be cooking this holiday season:

  • "Basics with Babish" Thanksgiving Sides
  • "Foodwishes.com" French Onion Green Bean Casserole
  • "Bon Appetit" Carla Makes Thanksgiving Stuffing
  • "Sam The Cooking Guy" Maple Carrots
  • ATBBQ.com Charred Cranberry Mostarda
  • Jamie Oliver Roast Potatoes Three Ways
  • Gordon Ramsay The Most Amazing Gravy

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