Thanksgiving 101: Tips for the First-Time Cook

By  November 10, 2010

Stew Leonard’s Executive Chef, Chef George Llorens gives us the ultimate Turkey Day tips, tricks, questions, and answers…


How many pounds of turkey do I need to feed my family?
We recommend 1½ pounds per person, 2 pounds if you want leftovers.  So a 20 pound bird will feed 10 people with some leftovers.

What’s the difference between your Kosher turkey, your Stew’s Turkey and your Stew’s Naked Turkey?
Kosher turkeys are soaked and salted and blessed by the rabbi. Our Stew’s Turkeys are from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and have no artificial ingredients. Our all Natural free-range Naked Turkeys are never given antibiotics or no added hormones and are 100% vegetarian feed.  They have 20% more breast meat and 55% less fat than normal turkeys.

When should I buy my Thanksgiving turkey?
Buy your turkey the Sunday or Monday before the holiday.  Place your fresh turkey in a roasting pan and store in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf, in the back.  Your turkey can remain refrigerated until the use/freeze by date printed on the label.

Why does my fresh turkey feel frozen?
Fresh Turkeys by law have to be kept at 30 degrees.

My family prefers the white meat – should I buy a second turkey?
Stew’s Naked Turkey has 20% more breast meat so that may be a good option for you.  You can also buy a separate turkey breast.  And our buffets always have sliced turkey available.

Should I stuff my turkey?
We do not recommend that you stuff the turkey for both safety and quality reasons.  The stuffing takes heat away from cooking the turkey, making it less likely that the turkey will be cooked to a safe temperature.  In addition, by the time the inside is cooked to the proper temperature, the outside meat will be dry.  Our recommendation is to cook your stuffing separately.  However, we do recommend using aromatics as an alternative to stuffing when cooking your turkey.

What are “Aromatics?”
Aromatics are what we use at Stew’s to help perfume the meat and increase the flavor.  Our Aromatics mixture, which consists of: Oranges, Apples, Celery, Red Onion, Garlic, Marsala Wine, Bay Leaves, Salt and Pepper, can be put right inside the turkey cavity.

How much gravy do I need for my turkey?
For a medium turkey we recommend one quart; for a large turkey, get two quarts. And don’t forget extra for leftovers.

How many side dishes should I serve?
We recommend 3-5 side dishes depending on how many people and what kinds of appetites they have.  Children and seniors have smaller appetites; football players have big appetites.

What is the difference between a yam and a sweet potato?
Technically, yams and sweet potatoes are unrelated plants.  But in the United States the names are used interchangeable for the same thing.  In the South they are called sweet potatoes.  In the North they are called yams.  We carry the Beauregard variety grown in Louisiana.

Which potato is good for baking and which is good for mashing?
Burbank Russet (Idaho) is a drier potato and is good for baking. Yukon gold is good for mashing – it’s light, moist, and fluffy.

What is the difference between a green been and a French Bean (Haricot Verts)?
A French Bean is a special variety that is younger and more tender than a traditional green bean.