Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Do More with Leftover Chicken or Turkey

posted in Meat, Poultry and Seafood by Jessica Howard


After Roasting a chicken or a turkey you often end up with some leftovers that can make for a delicious, easy lunch/dinner for tomorrow. For most recipes, you can interchange cooked chicken for cooked turkey. When making Chicken in Lettuce Cups, Chicken Salad with Wild Rice and Chicken Salad with Grapes, you can substitute the cooked chicken for cooked turkey. Cooked chicken or turkey also stars in recipes for casseroles, enchiladas and lasagna.

Here are just a few more recipe ideas:

  1. Roasted chicken or turkey makes a great addition to soup. Tear it into pieces and warm it up in either a homemade or canned soup.http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_1113.JPG
  2. Enjoy it cold, cut into chunks on top of a simple green salad, Caesar salad or coleslaw.
  3. Mix chopped pieces of chicken with avocado, mayonnaise or a favorite salad dressing and use it as a sandwich, pita or wrap filling.
  4. Add it to pasta sauces and dishes.
  5. Heat it up in a favorite ready-made sauce and serve it over rice.
  6. Wrap it up and freeze it to use later.

Tip: Cooked chicken or turkey shouldn’t stay in the fridge more than two days. It can be frozen, but not for more than a few months.

If you want to use every last bit of a roasted chicken or turkey, make homemade soup stock from the bones. Homemade stock tends to be more flavorful than store-bought, plus you can adjust the salt to your own taste.

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The Ultimate Guide to Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey

posted in Meat, Poultry and Seafood by Kathy Maister

cooking a turkey

Welcome to startcooking’s ultimate (and updated) guide to cooking a turkey!

The thought of cooking your very first Thanksgiving dinner can be a bit intimidating, but with just a bit of advance planning you can definitely pull it off. Roasting a turkey is very similar to roasting a chicken except your oven temperature should be set at 325 degrees and not 400 degrees. Go have a look at that video of mine before you begin. The USDA’s Fact Sheet on Poultry Preparation is also an excellent resource. It includes information on buying, defrosting, cooking, storing, and an emergency hot-line to call for advice as well!

This post will cover the following 10 questions:

  1. What kind of turkey should you buy – fresh, frozen, whole, or just the breast?
  2. What size should I buy?
  3. What’s that stuff already inside my turkey and do I eat it?
  4. What kind of pan do I need to cook the turkey and for how long?
  5. Is making stove-top stuffing cheating or should I stuff the turkey?
  6. Should I make gravy from scratch or just buy it?
  7. Now that the turkey is cooked, how do I carve it?
  8. Is turkey healthy and why am I so tired after eating it?
  9. Is there a turkey hot-line for emergency questions?
  10. What kind of side dishes do I need and how about some dessert?
  11. What do I do with all those turkey leftover?

1. What Kind of Turkey Should You Buy; Fresh, Frozen, Whole, or Just the Breast?

Fresh Turkey

If your guests are coming tomorrow, you will need to buy a fresh (not frozen) turkey. If you have time to plan in advance, you can reserve a fresh turkey ahead of time, from your local butcher shop (if you have one!)

Frozen Turkey

Frozen turkies need time to defrost. The fastest way to defrost a frozen turkey is to put it (in its original packaging) in the sink and let it soak in COLD water. Be sure the turkey is completely covered with water. Change the water every half hour. Allow one hour of thawing time per pound of turkey. If you have the time, typically a couple of days, you can thaw your turkey in your refrigerator. Calculate five hours of thawing time per pound.

Whole or Breast of Turkey

That depends on your own personal tastes. One year, I decided to just buy and cook turkey breasts figuring it would be easier to carve and serve. Everyone asked where the legs were! You can buy whole turkeys that are “self-basting”. They are moist and delicious and I would highly recommend them for the beginning cook.

(Note: Don’t be concerned if your turkey does not come out looking like the ones on the cover of all the food magazines. Photographers sometime use shoe polish to make those turkeys have that beautiful coloring!)

2. What Turkey Size Should I Buy?

Calculate one pound per person. So, for a group of six, a six-pound turkey should suffice. Go for one that’s bigger if you want to have leftovers.

3. What’s that Already Stuffed in my Turkey and Do I Eat It?

When you remove the turkey from its wrapping you will have to reach into the cavity and remove the bag that’s inside before you cook the turkey.

(I show this in my Roasted Chicken video and — yes — there is an “ick” factor here!) The bag usually contains the neck, liver and various edible innards of the turkey. These parts can be simmered in seasoned water on the stove. They are then strained and the flavored water is used as stock to make the gravy. (Pioneer Woman shows how to do this here.) If this is the first turkey you have ever cooked, I am going to recommend tossing this bag away and using store-bought gravy.

4. What Kind of Pan Do I Need to Cook the Turkey and How Long Do I Cook It?

The Pan

A roasting pan with a V-shaped rack is your best bet – but they are expensive. The rack elevates the turkey, allowing the juices and fat to drip into the pan.

A less expensive alternative is to buy a disposable roasting pan from the grocery store.

To give a disposable roasting pan a bit of stability, it is best to place it on a baking sheet with sides.

You can make your own rack by coiling a strip of tin foil.

How long do I cook it?

Read the directions on the package of the turkey and be sure to write down the weight of the turkey. (I even cut out the cooking chart and put it on a plate for reference…just in case!)

Many turkeys come with a single use thermometer that pops up when the turkey is done. You can also use your own meat thermometer or you can buy a single use pop-up thermometer. (I prefer instant read thermometers) I explain more about thermometers here.

If you are using a regular meat thermometer, insert it about 2.5 inches into the deepest part of the turkey, without touching the bone.

The minimum internal temperature should reach 165°F.

“A whole turkey (and turkey parts) is safe to eat when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.”

Prior to 2006, (as per recommendation of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service) most cookbooks recommended that the internal temperature of a turkey should reach 170 degrees F in the breast or 180 degrees F in the thigh. If you cook your turkey that long it will end up dry and tough.

For a good visual to determine if your turkey is cooked, make a slice by the leg joint to see if the juices run clear. The joint should feel loose.

An unstuffed turkey takes less time to cook than a stuffed turkey.  Shady Brook Farms has a great site that will help you to determine the cooking time of your turkey.  Plus, they have a TURKEY HOTLINE!  Call 1-800-810-6325 for all your questions!

5. Is Making Stove-Top Stuffing Cheating or Should I Stuff the Turkey?

Bread stuffing (with gravy) is one of my favorite parts of this meal. Instant stove-top stuffing is surprisingly tasty. This stuffing uses dried bread croutons and you can add chopped celery and onions if you like. (That’s how my mom used to make stuffing!)

Make the stuffing and bake it in the oven (or on the stove top). You do not have to stuff the turkey. In fact the USFDA advises against this method for food-safety reasons. The unstuffed turkey will take less time to cook.

6. Should I make gravy from scratch or just buy it?

As I said above, if this is the first turkey you have ever cooked, I am going to recommend using store-bought gravy. Making gravy is not difficult but it can be tricky for a beginner cook. If you are considering making your own gravy from scratch, start by checking out my post on How to Make Gravy. There are several different ways to go about making gravy. Here are some additional links to really good photo tutorials and videos on making various kinds of gravy:

  • Epicurious has an excellent video on How to Make Gravy by deglazing a roasting pan first.
  • The Mayo Clinic also has an excellent video on Making Healthy Gravy. Their recipe uses cornstarch instead of butter and flour to thicken the gravy.
  • Instructables has a great photo-tutorial on a superb looking Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy.
  • For lovers of Giblet Gravy, head over to The Pioneer Woman for a very well done photo-tutorial.
  • Martha Stewarts Perfect Gravy is made with Madera Wine. She thickens her gravy by making a “slurry” of giblet stock and flour in a jar.

7. Now that the Turkey Is Cooked, How Do I Carve It?


Once the turkey is out of the oven, loosely cover it with tin foil and let it rest at least 20 minutes to 30 minutes. When carving the turkey, make sure you have a sharp knife and be sure to carve it in the kitchen – not at the dinner table. Any spills or mishaps should happen behind closed doors. Garnish the turkey platter with lots of fresh parsley and maybe even some sliced oranges. (By the way, there are about 65,000 videos on Google showing you how to carve a turkey!)

8. Is Turkey Healthy and Why Am I so Tired After Eating It?

Turkey is a great source of protein but the l-tryptophan can make you sleepy. Or maybe it’s just that you worked so hard preparing your first, utterly fantastic, turkey dinner!

9. Is There a Turkey Hot-Line for Emergency Questions?

Of course! And there are real people on the other end of the phoneline!

10. What Kind of Side Dishes Do I Need and What About Dessert?

Startcooking.com has tons of appetizers, side dishes and desserts to choose from. Here are just a few suggestions:

Pumpkin Soup


Cranberry Sauce with Mandarian Oranges


Mashed potatoes


Gravy (from a jar) or Make Your Own Gravy

Sweet Potato Casserole


Butternut squash


Steamed fresh vegetables


And for dessert how about Pecan Pie!


Pumpkin Pie


Chocolate Cheese Cake Pie


11. What Do I Do with all Those Turkey Leftover?

Cooked turkey can be substituted for any recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

Chicken (or turkey) Salad with Wild Rice and Avocados (video) can get made in the morning and dinner will be ready and waiting when you get home from work (or shopping!).

Chicken (or turkey) Noodle Soup is everyone’s favorite. This recipe takes less than 20 minutes to prepare.


Chicken (or turkey) Salad is great made with walnuts and grapes!


Caesar Salad often has cooked chicken add so why not some cooked turkey!


Taste of Home definitely knows what to do with their turkey leftovers. They have a great list of the Top 10 Things to do with Leftover Turkey.

Kate’s Global Kitchen does something really cool called:Turkey 3 Ingredients = Luscious Leftovers

I can’t wait to try this Turkey & Swiss Panini.

Good Luck and Happy Holidays!

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How to Make Gravy

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Spices and Seasonings by Kathy Maister

Adding sinfully rich gravy to either mashed potatoes, roasted chicken (or Turkey), pork or beef turns the whole meal into a holiday treat! (And it can also be used without the excuse of a holiday!)

There are many, many different ways to make gravy, using slightly different techniques and ingredients. All gravies, no matter how they are made, should have no lumps, should be smooth as silk and should have no taste of raw flour.

In this post, I am going to show you how to make two different gravies – a classic all-purpose gravy and then a really quick gravy. Then, at the end of this post, there are links to two videos which show how to make gravy with pan drippings, as well as links to three photo-tutorials on other ways to make gravy.

This post includes:

  1. Startcooking.com’s Classic All-Purpose Gravy
  2. Startcooking.com’s Quick Gravy
  3. Gravy Enhancers
  4. How to Store and Freeze Gravy
  5. Links to other photo-tutorials and videos on How to make Gravy

1. Startcooking.com’s Classic All-Purpose Gravy

This classic all-purpose gravy is made by first cooking flour and butter together (that’s called a roux – pronounced roo) and then adding cold stock and cooking it until it has thickened and is smooth as silk. This recipe makes four cups of gravy which is great for entertaining.

Ingredients needed:

  • 1/2 cup of butter (unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Making the Roux

Cut 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter into chunks and add it to a medium size heavy sauce pan. (Unsalted butter allows you to control the salt in the gravy.)

On low (to medium-low) temperature melt the butter until it is foamy.

Add 1/2 cup of all-purpose white flour to the pan.

Start whisking the flour…

…until well blended.

Keep whisking and cooking (over very low heat) until it smells like a pie is cooking in the oven! That means the flour is cooked and your gravy will not end up having a “pasty” flavor to it.

Brace yourself, as this could take anywhere from 6-to-12 minutes to get cooked!

Adding the Stock

I will be using chicken stock for this recipe, but you could use vegetable or beef stock or a combination of stocks.

Start by whisking in about 1 cup of stock. (Four cups will eventually get added.)

Keep whisking vigorously until…

…all the stock is absorbed.

Now add a bit more stock…

…whisking until the stock is again absorbed.

Pour in the remaining stock…

…keep whisking!

All of the stock will get absorbed and it will be smooth as silk again! The stove should still be set at low as you continue to cook the gravy.

After 10 minutes, my gravy was still was not quite thick enough. See below how it drips off the spoon.

At about 12 minutes, I added 1/3 cup of cream. This adds such a rich flavor and texture to the final gravy.

Within two minutes of adding the cream, the gravy was perfect!

See below how it now coats the back of the spoon.

Taste the gravy, and add some salt (if you think it needs it) and some white or red pepper.

This is ready to serve!

2. Startcooking.com’s Quick Gravy

This quick gravy is great for making small amounts of gravy. It is made with:

In terms of amounts, the general rule of thumb is 2 tablespoons of flour, plus 2 tablespoon of butter to 1 cup of broth. Broth from a can works beautifully for this recipe, although I am using strained stock from a just-cooked beef pot roast. (Waste not, want not!) The excess fat needs to first get skimmed off the top. Canned stock does not have this excess fat.

Pour the stock into the pot. (I’m using the same pot that I cooked my beef pot roast in.) Turn the heat on medium and heat the stock.

Put the flour and butter into a small bowl.

Using your finger tips or a fork, mix the flour and butter together…

…continuing to mix….

…until you have a really smooth paste. This flour-butter paste is called a “beurre manie.”

Add the beurre manie to the hot stock.

Vigorously whisk together the stock and the flour-butter paste.

Turn the heat down to low and …

…cook the gravy until it is thickened. There should be no “pasty-flour” taste to the gravy. This could take up to 10 minutes.

Taste the gravy to see if it is cooked and if it needs salt and pepper.


3. Gravy Enhancers

Sometimes homemade gravy is just not the color you want it to be, and occasionally the flavor needs a bit of a boost. In the spice section of the grocery store you can buy flavor enhancers for gravy. Names like Bisto, G Washington’s Rich Brown sauce, Gravy Master Seasoning and Browning Sauce, and Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce are available at my grocery store. Enhancers are made of a combination of vegetable extracts, caramel coloring, preservatives, salt, etc. Some people have actually added things like soy sauce or coffee granules to darken their gravies!

Many serious cooks look down on the whole idea of using enhancers. That’s their privilege, but I think beginners should be given more latitude to learn a step at a time using convenient ingredients! Even experienced cooks use these products. My mom always had a product called Gravy Master in the cupboard and I must admit I have followed her tradition!

Enhancers pack a powerful punch and should be used sparingly. They not only add flavor but they also add color to the gravy as well. Just a few drops can turn pale gravy into a color darker than dark chocolate! Be sure to read the directions on the back of the particular brand you have purchased just in case they say otherwise.

4. How to Store and Freeze Gravy

Homemade “flour-thickened” gravy should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and used within two days of making it. When reheating the gravy bring it to a boil, whisking constantly, and then keep at simmer until ready to serve.

(Note: Gravy thickened with corn starch does not freeze well at all, nor does it hold up for prolonged cooking.)

Flour-thickened gravy can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze the gravy in manageable portions. I like using zip-lock freezer bags. Be sure to squeeze out all the air and flatten the gravy. It will take up much less space in the freezer this way.

Frozen Mushroom Gravy, Chicken Gravy, Sweet Potatoes and Pureed Squash

After the gravy has defrosted it may look like it has separated or curdled. Vigorously whisk the gravy as you are re-heating it, in a sauce pan, and it should return to its original texture. You may have to add a few drops of water or stock to the pan as well.


5. Links to other photo-tutorials and videos on How to make Gravy

  • Epicurious has an excellent video on How to Make Gravy by deglazing a roasting pan first.
  • The Mayo Clinic also has an excellent video on Making Healthy Gravy. Their recipe uses cornstarch instead of butter and flour to thicken the gravy.
  • Instructables has a great photo-tutorial on a superb looking Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy.
  • For lovers of Giblet Gravy, head over to Cook Like Your Grandmother for a very well done photo-tutorial.
  • Martha Stewarts Perfect Gravy is made with Madera Wine. She thickens her gravy by making a “slurry” of giblet stock and flour in a jar.

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