The Butcher's Case

Fleisher's Official Blog


Following the early morning slaughter, we headed back to the shop in Kingston to learn how to transform the sides of pork we’d just seen cleaned of entrails and other very identifiably animal parts into the tasty morsels we regularly pick up at the market.

After a delectable (and yes, pork-filled) lunch of sandwiches made with a selection of Fleisher’s deli meats and dry goods, we pulled up chairs and eagerly awaited our next lesson on whole animal butchery.

Our ability to grasp the concepts Hans was instructing us on through the thick but charming German accent served as a constant reminder of the grace, skill, and wisdom of a man who has clearly become a true master of his trade. Seamlessly fulfilling the role of both educator and butcher, Hans put down his scabbard in favor of paper, easel, and pen- the better to write out what he would be showing us on the butcher block later.

He wrote out various forms of meat we are familiar with- pork (of course), chicken, lamb, beef, turkey, duck, rabbit, etc. and explained the various practices associated with the rearing of these animals under modern industrial conditions. He covered what Fleisher’s carries (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, a few seasonal poultry items) and what it does not (rabbit, venison, other game meats). He also informed us of the basic diets and anatomy of these animals: chickens don’t eat grass; there’s only one hanger steak per steer.

After a good hour or two of lecture as well as question and answer sessions, we were ready to move to the large wooden table that had been nearly ignored throughout our engrossing discussion. Hans, a man easily well into his 60s, emerged from a nearby walk-in refrigeration unit with a side of pork -nearly identical to the end product of the morning’s pig to pork transformation- casually thrown over his shoulder.

The next few hours were spent learning the various cuts of meat you can get from a pig- hands-on, step by step instructions on just where to cut, how to trim, remove skin, and debone.  When the side of pork was completely disassembled into the pork cuts we conscious carnivores have come to know well, Hans had us rearrange the various parts into the same (now disassembled) half hog we recognized from our earlier lesson.

After a brief foray into lessons on at-home sausage making (make sure the meat is very cold, guide the meat into the casing slowly and carefully the first time around) we were joined by Fleisher’s co-owner Jessica Applestone. She detailed the various processes that make the term “nose to tail” come to life: the soap made with rendered beef tallow sold in the shop, training staff to communicate with customers on rarely-seen or oft-forgotten cuts of meat, and a philosophy on using whole animals that includes writing up recipes for dishes like ‘beef tongue tacos’ and roasted liver treats for pets.

Following the discussion about sustainability at Fleisher’s we helped ourselves to the second pork dish of the day: spicy pork stew with mixed winter vegetables and a cool spring salad. Pints of Brooklyn Brewery beer proved the perfect way to finish out a long, learning-rich day in the world of sustainable, informed meat eating.

This concludes our two-part post. Part 2 brought to you by Meghan McDermott.

For more information on our classes please send an email to anna(at)

Hans Sebald at Pig to Pork

I’m not a fan of birds.  Maybe it’s Hitchcock’s fault.  Maybe it had something to do with the time I got cornered in my car on my way to work by a couple of geese nesting in the parking lot, pecking at my door, daring me to get out. So when it came time to do my first chicken slaughter, I was ready.

The pig slaughter on the other hand, I was worried about.  I am not opposed to killing animals for food; I definitely believe in that whole ‘meet your meat’ thing we preach at Fleisher’s.  But pigs, at least for me, have always been a cute, cuddly animal begging for affection. So, even though I am a bacon fan and work at a butcher shop, I was still nervous about watching the death and evisceration of a pig.

We met at a farm in New Paltz, a group of 15 aspiring butchers and bacon fans, all curious to see how their favorite breakfast side makes it to the table.   Our instructor, Hans Sebald (former CIA instructor and a master butcher) was the one responsible for turning the living, snorting animal into our butchery master class that day.  Hans was at the scene when we arrived, clad in a flannel shirt, rubber apron, knife scabbard and boots.  He introduced himself and said a few words, the kind of thing you’d expect from a man whom you know has grandkids.  “We have to remember that this animal was raised for food, and if you think about all the starving people out there, this animal’s life is not being taken for granted.”  A gentle reassurance—the accent helped.

The pig had been living a cushy lifestyle for a few days, solo in the back of a trailer (quite roomy, actually) and noshin’ on old winter squash and apples from the farm.  It was a happy pig up until its very last second of life.  Hans entered the trailer and closed the door shot the pig in the head, killing it instantly.  The door was closed and I am okay with that.

The pig was dragged out of the trailer. Hans proceeded to slit the throat so that the still beating heart could do the work of pumping out the blood.  And as the last bits of energy shook their way out of the animal, a farmhand helped Hans tie chains around the pig’s legs.

The chains helped transport the pig to the bath, where the idea is to pour boiling water over the flesh so that the pig’s bristles will come off easily.  However, on this freezing cold day in January (I think temperatures topped out at about 15 degrees Fahrenheit that day) this was no easy task.  They had been having some difficulty bringing the water up to boil in the 50 gallon drum . . .the water was close, but not hot enough.  We were freezing and decided to proceed anyways.  We dropped the pig into the bath and poured water over the animal. The water was not hot enough though, so the bristles were sticking.  Hans had to shave the pig, and without a Schick handy, it wasn’t easy. It took awhile but the pig was clean in about 15 minutes.

They pulled the pig out and hooked its hind legs to a large John Deere tractor that raised the pig to eye-level view. Hans then made a cut below the throat to pull out the tongue, paving the way for removing the head. Next, Hans made a swift incision from the crotch to neck.  The organs fell out gracefully.  With care, they are removable in one fell swoop.  I’m not sure I remember exactly how this happens, but Hans was able to remove the innards completely, efficiently.

The heart was next. Hans took out each organ and placed it on a white table.  This is how he teaches, by taking the organs out and arranging them so that we can see how the parts relate to one another. There was food still stuck in the small intestine.  We could see remnants of butternut squash, the pig’s last feast.

There was talk of how to prepare the various parts of offal, and participants calling dibs.  I am pretty Midwestern, so I let someone else go after the pork kidney.  I was holding out for pork chops, or tenderloin, if I was lucky.

Hans sawed his way vertically through the carcass, leaving two sides of pork.  It was amazing to see how fast this beast was turned into something we recognize as food.  A few incisions and I could already begin to recognize pork chops, ham, bacon, and shoulder.  Sights I see every day in the butcher shop.

Considering my anxiousness in regards to taking the life of this animal, I was astounded by how quickly I was able to see it turned to food.   In a strange way, the transition from living energy to consumable energy seemed painless. And without my even realizing it, my world was expanded multifold by allowing myself to become part of the intimate process of turning pig into pork.

Part one brought to you by Anna Carnahan- stay tuned for part two!

Cast Iron Skillet

“Do you have a black iron skillet? You are a southern mountain girl, I can’t imagine you would not. Put it on the kitchen table. Turn on the overhead lights.

Look into the skillet, Clarice. Lean over it and look down. If this were your mother’s skillet, and it well may be, it would hold among its molecules the vibrations of all the conversations ever held in its presence. All the exchanges, the petty irritations, the deadly revelations, the flat announcements of disaster, the grunts and poetry of love.

Sit down at the table, Clarice. Look into the skillet. If it is well cured, it’s a black pool, isn’t it? It’s like looking down a well. Your detailed reflection is not at the bottom, but you loom there, don’t you? The light behind you, there you are in a blackface, with a corona like your hair on fire.

We are elaborations of carbon, Clarice. You and the skillet and Daddy, dead in the ground, cold as the skillet. It’s all still there. Listen.”

-Hannibal Lector in a letter to Clarice Starling, “Hannibal” by Thomas Harris


How about you?? Got a cast iron skillet? A flat griddle you bought, dreaming about sizzling fajitas, or a spicy flat iron steak?  One that beckons to you to fry eggs; while you reach for the Teflon-coated pan, you don’t really want to use?

Most of us are guilty of it – skillet envy – whereby you covet the cast iron your neighbor seems to use so effortlessly but always use your nonstick version.  I’ll let you in on a little secret – they were scared too.  Like you, they wanted it… The heft of the pan, the slick of the perfectly seasoned surface, the slight bite of the iron in the back of your mouth when you swallow, the “I cook with cast iron” swagger, as you enter your local butcher shop – knowing that your butcher most definitely does too.  The difference is that they conquered their fears & rather than relegating their cast iron to rust & relaxation in the back of the cabinet, they work those babies.  Step inside our kitchen, and we’ll show you how.  Relax, it’s just FOOD – we’re not talking world peace - that’s another blog – Peace through PORK!

There are a number of cast-iron options. Let’s run through a few.  There’s straight up cast iron (think cowboys on the range), pre-seasoned cast iron (all the rage these days) and enamel coated cast iron (fancy, Food Network, pretty colors).  Personally, I gravitate towards both pre-seasoned and enamel, and I use them in different ways.  My pre-seasoned are skillets – big and small, that often just live on my stovetop and wait impatiently for the next meal.  I use them for eggs, fried chicken, cornbread, quick sautés, and all kinds of meat – blackened, pan-fried, minute steaks.  My enamel-coated cast iron serves a different but equally important purpose–low, and sloooowww… Stews, paella, braised meats – started on the stove and finished in the oven, tomato sauces, soups (I use the same Dutch Oven for my Bubbe’s Brisket that I do for her matzoh ball soup, and stuffed cabbage).  Don’t get me wrong, you can do low and slow in straight up cast iron, it’s mostly personal preference, and the tomato thing.  The acid from tomato based sauces, soups, braising liquid, etc, can “pit” the iron and leave it flawed, while also releasing a strong iron taste into the food.  I’ll do quick things, like a chicken primavera with cherry tomatoes in my cast iron skillet, but I won’t do an all day Bolognese.  Capisce? {correct spelling?}

Once you make your choice, if you’ve gone with the NON seasoned pan, you will need to season it.  Seasoning requires only one additional product (oil, or fat) and your oven.  Preheat the pan in a low oven, around 200, once warm turn the oven up to 350 & remove the pan.  Coat the inside of your pan with either vegetable oil or shortening (personal preference) and return it to the oven to “bake” for an hour.  While still warm wipe any excess oil from the pan and let it cool completely.  If you don’t wipe the excess, you’ll get a sticky residue, which will just cook off when you use the pan.  Some recommend turning the pan upside down to avoid the potential stickiness – BUT if you do this be sure and line your oven with foil.  The first seasoning isn’t going to get you that shiny, slick surface you covet, but it will come with time. Feel free to re-season as often as you’d like to hasten the process.

So you’ve seasoned the huge skillet you found at the local flea market, or you bought yourself a nice pre-seasoned, and you’ve made a fantastic meal for family and friends.  Here’s the part you’ve been dreading… “WTF do I do with this hulking piece of iron on my stove?? I know I can’t put it in my Bosch. Soap, no soap? UGH!” Relax. A well-seasoned pan often only needs a quick wipe out and a swipe of oil.  If there’s a little something stuck in there pour in some coarse salt and scrape out the residue with a wooden spatula. Still not enough?  Add a little water to the pan and bring it to a gentle boil, scraping as you go.  Just don’t add cold water to a really hot pan, you could stress or crack the iron.  Option number three—a stiff nylon bristle brush, some warm water, even a little mild soap if it makes you feel better.  After the pan is clean DRY it – don’t let it air dry, please, that’s how rust develops.  It will discolor your drying cloth, so you may want to reserve one for cast iron alone.  Once dry, wipe it with a bit of oil or shortening and you’re done until the next day when you can’t WAIT to use it again!

Choosing, seasoning, and cleaning. The three biggest hurdles to USING your gorgeous cast iron.  Now you should understand that it’s no big deal – WAY easier than putting together those IKEA bookshelves and you accomplished that without jumping off the bridge, right?

Here are a few additional tips:

—    Don’t start your skillet on a high heat, add a thin coat of oil/shortening before you preheat & gradually bring it to temperature.  Cast iron heats a little slower but it will retain heat evenly and longer – so beware the hot handle.

—    Don’t be afraid to re-season.  If the food sticks – you must re-slick!

—    Store cast iron in a cool, dry place.  The oven is good – just remember to remove the cast iron BEFORE you preheat your oven.

—    We don’t want you to cook your meat without letting it come to room temp, and neither does your cast iron.


Now that you know what you’re doing - put that cast iron to good use! 

MmmMmm GOOD!

References and Links We Like:

Love our advice or hate it? Trying one of the recipes? Did we inspire you to dust off the old cast iron?  Ideas for future blogs? Let us know! We love to hear from you!



You have seen our salacious emails, our pun-ny, bawdy Ts and perhaps you have noticed how we try to slip a double entendre into everything we write but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Check out these vintage Valentine’s Day Cards (the link was sent to us by our friend Paul Lukas who ALWAYS knows what we like, thank you Paul!), we thought we held the title on pairing meat and love/sex until we got a glimpse of these.

Our favorite is the little butcher boy with a grinder (admit it, grinders are just good fodder for a naughty joke) because it also brings to mind one of our favorite rude blues songs by Lil Johson recorded in 1937.

You’ll understand why this is one of the great butcher songs when you read the lyrics or listen.

Got out late last night, in the rain and sleet
Tryin’ to find a butcher that grind my meat
Yes I’m lookin’ for a butcher
He must be long and tall
If he want to grind my meat
Cause I’m wild about my meat balls

A no good man but he’s so doggone stout
Before he starts to grindin’ he’s all worn out
Somebody send me a butcher
He must be long and tall
If he want to grind my meat
Cause I’m wild about my meat balls

He can clean my fish, even pick my crabs
But what I need is my meat ground bad
Yes I’m lookin’ for a butcher
He must be long and tall
If he want to grind my meat
Cause I’m wild about my meat balls

You can have your roast chicken and your good lamb stew
But for my choice them old meat balls will do
Somebody send me a butcher
He must be long and tall
If he want to grind my meat
Cause I’m wild about my meat balls

Now look here papa, don’t try to stall
If you can’t grind a long time, don’t grind at all
Yes I’m lookin’ for a butcher
He must be long and tall
If he want to grind my meat
Cause I’m wild about my meat balls


We’ve had an amazing year at Fleisher’s — we’ve published a book, opened a new store and made new friends and customers. It’s been quite a whirlwind but yet an incredible experience for all of us. As we get ready for our annual staff training, we’d like to hear from you, our loyal customers, about what you love and hate about our customer service.

This is the time of year to let it fly. If Josh took some extra time to tell you how to cook your chops and that made you happy, we’d love to know about it. If one of our staff mistakenly made a salacious sausage comment that left you gasping… please let us know. Faster service? Shorter lines? Free samples? We already know that you can’t beat our meat but if we can make your time in our shop more enjoyable, tell us how.

In fact, we take our customer service so seriously that we’ll award a $100 gift certificate to the customer with the most engaged and thoughtful recommendation about how we can serve you better — and that’s no baloney!

Submit your comments by January 5, 2012. We’ll select a winner by the end of January. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to serving you even better in the New Year!

We know you, you’re the one that always has to go that extra mile. You make your own pie pastry with lard AND butter; you make your own pumpkin pie filling (no cans for you!) and a roast that isn’t covered or smothered or sauced just isn’t a roast. So here’s a couple of recipes we like and trust. Enjoy!

Horseradish Beef Roast

We also like this recipe by Scott Peacock in Better Homes & Gardens for an Herb-and-Garlic Crusted Pork Roast with a warm plum compote. His accompanying cheddar biscuits sound divine and super easy.

Herb-and-Garlic Crusted Pork Roast

There are few things more stunning at a holiday table then a beautiful roast (perhaps with the exception of my Uncle Irv, his ties could have stopped traffic!). It is truly the centerpiece of the meal and should therefore be given the respect that it deserves. Does that mean you should gussy it up with sauces and rubs. Nope. Treat your roast just as you would a steak or a chop—salt, heat and time, that’s all you need (oh yeah, and a meat thermometer).

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Always bring your roast to room temperature before you cook it.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

3. Prepare a heavy roasting pan with a rack that fits snugly in the bottom. If you don’t have a rack, get creative: use “canoe-shaped” marrow bones (mmm, marrow butter) or layer vegetables like carrots and parsnips to form a stand for your roast.

4. Evenly coat the roast with a thick layer of coarse salt, we recommend sea salt but kosher salt works as well. Don’t get too fancy here, finishing salts like Maldon and smoked salts are wonderful but this is not their show. Place the roast on your rack.

5. Place the roast in the lower third of the oven. We suggest about 15 min. per pound (that’s standard) but keep an eye on the prize because depending on your oven, whether the roast is bone-in or boneless etc. it could cook more slowly or a whole lot FASTER. Use your meat thermometer to gauge approximate time to finish—you are looking to pull it out at 115-120 degrees.

(For bone-in roasts: if the tips of the bones are burning cover with foil, you can always tent your roast with foil as well if the top is getting too brown, just decrease cooking time)

6. When using a meat thermometer carefully insert the tip into the thickest part of the roast but do not touch the bone. It is always better to remove the roast too early than too late. You can always continue to cook a single piece for the guest that insists that they like their meat like shoe leather (their loss).

7. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

8. Discard the string and thinly slice the roast, cutting between the bones if bone-in. Pile bones on serving platter and let your guests fight over them. If you also roasted marrow bones this is a good time to pull out the bread, a marrow spoon (doesn’t everyone have one?) and pass those around as well.

9. Enjoy.

10. The unsliced portion of the roast can be refrigerated for up to 3 days (though it will not look as pretty it will still be delicious). The sliced beef can be refrigerated for 24 hours.




Quick Turkey Gravy

Makes 4 cups, about 12 servings

After the turkey has finished  cooking, remove it from the pan and carefully pour the fat out, retaining the juices and browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Set it over two burners on the stove on a medium heat. Pour in:

4 cups of chicken or turkey stock

Bring the mixture to a simmer, all the while scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to help deglaze the pan. Reduce the heat and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Mix to a smooth paste:

¼ cup of water
3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Whisking constantly, gradually pour this mixture into the simmering broth, then cook for 1 minute. Season to taste with:

Sherry, port, Madeira or white wine
Salt and pepper

Serve with turkey.

Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Nuts and Dried Fruit

Makes about 12 cups

High quality sausage is the key to this recipe. Roast nuts (pecans or walnuts) in a 350-degree oven until fragrant — 6 to 8 minutes. These burn easily so keep an eye on them!

1 pound of sage breakfast sausage (removed from casings or in bulk) crumbled

6 Tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) unsalted butter
1 large onion chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
4 medium celery stalks chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
½ teaspoon each of dried sage, dried thyme and dried marjoram
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ cup of fresh parsley
2 cups of walnuts or pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (soak in warm water until soft after roasting)
1 cup of dried apricots, currants or raisins, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
12 cups of dried or day-old French bread cubed (1 lb. or 1 loaf)
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard the fat. In the same pan, melt the butter.

Add onions and celery and cook until they are soft and translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add dried herbs and pepper and cook for another minute. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage; add the parsley, nuts, fruit and salt and mix to combine. Add the bread cubes to the bowl.

Whisk the stock together with the eggs and pour the mixture over the bread crumbs. Gently toss to distribute the ingredients evenly (use your hands).

Place the stuffing in a casserole dish, cover with foil and heat until the stuffing is hot. If you have a microwave, you can heat stuffing for 6 to 8 minutes or heat in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Spoon the hot stuffing into the turkey (usually will hold 4 to 5 cups) until loosely packed. Secure the skin over the cavity opening with skewers and roast the turkey. Using a thermometer, the stuffing should read 165 degrees inside the turkey. If the stuffing is not hot enough when the turkey is done, remove the stuffing and continue to heat it in the oven. For the rest of the stuffing, dot the top with butter, cover with foil, and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook for 15 minutes or until a golden crust is formed and it is done.

Brining Solution for Turkey

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

This recipe calls for a soak of 12  hours. Increase salt and sugar levels if you want to soak your bird for a shorter length of time. Remember brined meat tends to cook faster!

Remove the giblets from the turkey and rinse the bird, inside and out. In a clean bucket or tub, mix the following ingredients with six gallons of tap water until the salt dissolves:

2 cups of table salt or 4 cups of kosher salt (2 lbs. of salt; for Diamond Kosher, use 2 cups / Morton Kosher use 1 ½ cups)
2 cups of sugar
A few bay leaves
Some peppercorns lightly crushed
2 gallons of water

Submerge the turkey in the solution for 12 hours. Put the turkey in a very cool place for 4 to 6 hours. The turkey’s temperature should not rise above 38 degrees. If it is a warm day, place the turkey and solution in a garbage bag and place in a cooler filled with ice. If it is a cold day, a garage or trunk of a car should be fine. Do not leave the turkey unattended outside or a bear or neighborhood dog may be the lucky recipient of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Remove the turkey from the brine. Do NOT reuse brine! Thoroughly rinse inside and out, then pat the skin and cavity dry. Your turkey is now ready for roasting.

(For a more intense brine, boil ingredients with one gallon of water, then add five gallons of cold tap water. When water is cool, submerge the turkey.)

Serves 12-14

½ cup canola or olive oil
2 Tablespoons coarse salt (sea salt or Kosher salt)
1 Tablespoon of sweet Hungarian paprika
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
3 Tablespoons of fresh or 2 Tablespoons of dried herbs (we like sage and thyme but rosemary and dill are wonderful as well)
2 teaspoons of freshly ground pepper (approx.)
1 whole turkey (12-14 lbs.) for smaller birds check doneness after 1½ hours

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

Wash your bird and remove the giblets from the cavity. Salt and pepper the cavity and if you are not stuffing the bird toss some chopped onion and celery into the cavity. Let the turkey come to room temperature, which will take at least 30 minutes.


Place the turkey in a large roasting pan on a rack and generously rub the oil mixture all over the entire bird.

Roast the turkey for 20 minutes, then baste with pan juices and/or oil mixture. Tent the bird with foil and lower the heat to 350 degrees and continue to roast for approximately 15 minutes per pound of turkey.

Check the temperature at this point by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should read 150 degrees. (If you don’t have a thermometer, insert a skewer or sharp thin knife into the thigh. If the juices run clear, the turkey is done.) Check the temp every 10 minutes.

If the turkey isn’t ready after 2 hours, baste again (add water or white wine to the bottom of the pan if it is dry) and continue to check every 10 minutes. Remember to adjust the time for smaller or larger birds (or heritage birds, which cook faster) and use your meat thermometer. It is the most accurate way to tell if your turkey is done.

Remove turkey from the oven when a thermometer stuck into the turkey’s thigh reads 150 degrees or the juices run clear. If the joints show some redness, this should not be a concern.

Keep the turkey covered in foil and a slightly damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minute before carving and serving. The turkey will continue to cook up to 160 degrees — the optimal point.

I have so many dishes to make! How do I know what to cook first?

Make a list. Figure out how long each dish takes to cook and write them down in descending order, from the most time-consuming to the least. That may sound like obvious advice, but you’ll find that having a list to refer to really helps to avoid confusion.

Some recipes call for sweet potatoes and some call for yams. What’s the difference?

A true yam is a starchy African root vegetable that is rarely available in the United States. The term is often used, however, for orange-fleshed American sweet potatoes (the most common kind), to distinguish them from the less common pale-yellow-fleshed variety. Generally, American recipes that call for yams, red-skinned sweet potatoes, tan-skinned sweet potatoes, dark orange sweet potatoes, or just sweet potatoes are all talking about the same thing.

Do I have to rinse the bird before I prep it?

Yes, inside and out with cold water. Then pat it dry. And don’t forget to pull out the giblet packet that’s usually tucked into the neck cavity.

How do I tell if the turkey’s right side up?

Most recipes call for roasting the turkey breast side up. When it’s in this position, the broad, curved breast bone will be facing up and the wings will be close to or touching the bottom of the pan.

What’s the ideal temperature for roasting the turkey?

It depends on the recipe. Unless you have a standard method that you always use, it’s a good idea to follow a recipe’s instructions precisely when it comes to brining, roasting times, and temperatures. See the Fleisher’s Was roasting handout.

How do I know when my turkey’s done?

Roasting times depend on a number of factors and the traditional “until the juices run clear” test is not very accurate. For instance, if you’re cooking an organic turkey, the meat may stay pink even after it’s done. The best way to be assured of a perfect bird is to use a meat thermometer and take the turkey out of the oven at 150 degrees.

My gravy is often lumpy. What am I doing wrong?

Gravy is made by combining flour or cornstarch and fat (usually either butter or the fat separated from the pan drippings) and cooking the paste (called a roux), then adding liquid (usually chicken broth or the liquid separated from the pan drippings). Be sure to add the liquid slowly and whisk constantly to avoid lumps. To fix lumpy gravy, put it in the blender on high for about a minute.

My turkey is a complete disaster — I can’t even figure out what’s wrong!

When all else fails, you can always call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. A team of experts, available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout November and December (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thanksgiving day), will talk  you through all your struggles with the big bird.

I have the same problem every year: By the time I get everything on the table, some items are ice cold. What can I do?

This is the eternal cook’s dilemma, and there’s no perfect solution. One way to stack the deck in your favor is to prepare as much as possible ahead of time and then reheat things just before mealtime. This takes advantage of the fact that the turkey needs to “rest” after roasting for approximately 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you don’t have a microwave and you need to reheat baked items such as potato gratin, you might need to stick them in the oven during the last half-hour or so of turkey roasting. But otherwise, the resting time should probably be sufficient to heat microwave and stovetop items.

Reheat the denser items first, and start as soon as the turkey comes out of the oven. Turn the oven off (the residual heat from roasting will keep it warm). Remove the stuffing from the bird to a bowl, cover the bowl, and put it in the oven. Transfer the turkey to a platter, tent it with foil, and put it in a warm corner of the kitchen. Then start reheating items such as extra stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. When those are done, cover them with foil and put them in the oven. (If you run out of room, the top of the stove, most likely warm form the vented oven heat, can handle overflow.) Then heat the other vegetables. At the last minute, put the bread into the oven to warm slightly.

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