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Thanksgiving Dinner 101

by Katie Pebley, People & Places editor


Start defrosting your turkeys, folks. Thanksgiving is just around the corner! For many students with no family on O‘ahu, this holiday can be a big letdown. You are left with two options: to whine and complain of how wonderful your mom’s cooking is back on the mainland, or you can take some responsibility and cook your own Thanksgiving dinner. For those thinking, “I wouldn’t even know where to start,” the answer is simple; invite people over and assign who’s bringing what.

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The basic essentials for a Thanksgiving feast are the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Added bonuses (if there’s enough people bringing food) are dinner rolls, green bean casserole, and yams. From there, let the cooking begin.

The most important element of Thanksgiving dinner is, of course, the turkey. Whoever is hosting the party is usually the one in charge of the bird, since it has to roast for several hours. The more people you have coming over, the bigger your turkey has to be. Plan on at least a pound for each person invited, and another five pounds if you want leftovers. So, for 10 people, have a 10-15 pound turkey. Your vegetarian friends can pick up some turkey-flavored tofu on the way over. Yummy!

Start shopping for your dinner extravaganza at least a few days in advance. Any supermarket should do. To defrost your turkey, put it in the fridge a few days before Thanksgiving. Don’t try to defrost the turkey by laying it out on the counter Thursday morning, unless you’re trying to food poison your guests.

Before sticking the turkey in the oven, these are some simple instructions to follow:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. Take the turkey out of its plastic wrapper (you’d be surprised what novice cooks do).
3. Wash your turkey with cold water and dry it off with paper towels.
4. Here comes the fun part (ask your vegetarian friends to help). Pull the turkey neck from the body cavity and remove the giblets from the neck area.
5. Rinse and drain the cavities, and blot them with paper towels.
6. Rub olive oil (your hands will do, or use a brush if you’re squeamish) all over the outside of the turkey. You can also rub on other seasonings such as salt, pepper, beer, etc.

Your turkey is now ready for roasting. Normally there are instructions on the package, but just in case, here are some universal rules to follow:

1. Put the turkey in a two-inch deep, open roasting pan (there are special one-use aluminum pans available for less then $5 at most supermarkets).
2. Each pound of turkey takes about 10-12 minutes cooking time. In other words, a 10 lb. turkey will take about two hours to roast.
3. Check to see if a turkey is done by inserting a meat thermometer into the thigh. It’s done when the temperature is 175 F. A mistake often made by first-time turkey chefs (myself included) is to leave the thermometer in while cooking. Trust me, your thermometer will be ruined if you do this. 4. Once the turkey is out of the oven, let it sit for at least 20 minutes before carving it.
5. Although it can be fun to make your own stuffing out of bread crumbs, celery, onions, walnuts, etc., it’s much easier and cost-effective to buy a box of StoveTop to stuff the turkey with. And since your guests are probably also college students, they probably wouldn’t notice the difference anyway.

Now that the turkey is done, eating time is about to begin. Hopefully your friends have showed up with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the other necessities. So grab a plate and a seat on the couch and stuff yourself.

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Don’t let them spoil by sitting out to long. If stored properly in aluminum foil and plastic wrap, they can last up to five days. Chances are though, they’ll be gone by the following morning.



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