TODAY   |  November 08, 2012

Thanksgiving 911: Solving common cooking dilemmas

Sam Sifton of The New York Times is here to help you avoid any last-minute crises for the big Thanksgiving meal, explaining how to make sure your cranberry sauce jells properly and whether stuffing cooked inside the bird is really toxic.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> "today's" holiday kitchen is brought to you by oceanspray. tastes good. good for you.

>>> this morning in "today's holiday kitchen," solving thanksgiving emergencies. to avoid a last-minute crisis on the big day , we brought in an expert. sam is the national editor for the "new york times" and that food columnist in the "sunday times" magazine. also author of "thanksgiving, how to cook it well." good morning.

>> good morning to you.

>> you've heard pretty much every problem and come up with a solution for all of them, i think.

>> i'm trying.

>> you're doing great. one of the most common before we launch into some of these others, you wake up and the turkey's still frozen. how does that happen? and what do you do?

>> you order chinese food . that's your move --

>> so there's nothing -- you open it, it's frozen --

>> it's a wrap. it's a frozen bird. it might be ready to go the day after, you can have a weekend thanksgiving.

>> re-invite them. oh, my gosh. let's get into some of the letters people have s you. she says the cranberry sauce is still not completely gelled and sat over the fridge overnight. suggestion for next year.

>> this is a common problem. we can look at one right here. this looks like cranberries in cranberry juice .

>> yeah, like soup.

>> see, what goes on here, you need to get them popping so within each of the berries comes out so that carbohydrate forms the gel you see there.

>> that's got to pop.

>> let them get popping.

>> of course the age-old gravy question. sam , i need gravy help. hold my hand here. okay, ed. little needy, ed.

>> what we've got here is the stuff from underneath the bird. we're going to take this finely milled flour. that's key, by the way.

>> put it through the sifter?

>> no, get it at a super market . you can find it and, look, we stir it into that fat, look how it's getting thick and not lumpy, because we don't want to have any lumps.

>> that's not good.

>> and then we add nice turkey stock we've made, we stir that around, stir it around and look what happens. we're going to end up with that beautiful --

>> the flour is the key?

>> the flour combined with the fat cook for a while and we've got perfect gravy every time.

>> the next one is from jim in maryland, to carve the breast, is it better to cut from front to back or across the breast.

>> across the breast every time.

>> why?

>> well, in the norman rockwell ideal, you would see dad doing that. that's a big problem. this is like surgery. you want to come back to the kitchen where you're all alone and you want to just cut into that breast, big, confident stroke and another one right here coming down, coming down, coming down and you have a big cut of the breast right there. right?

>> okay.

>> then you have this guy -- i took this one off here, and we can come in here and go across with nice, big, thick slices and that's going to make for a delicious --

>> we've been messed up by seeing images of cutting turkey the wrong way.

>> that's absolutely right.

>> come on, willie, you smell turkey. the next one from francis in massachusetts. what's the truth about stuffing? is it toxic when cooked in the bird as we've been recently led to believe.

>> hope not.

>> i hope not. it would be toxic if left in the bird for a few days and then cooked. but you almost want to cook it outside because this is how much dressing we would have if we cooked it in the bird, and look at how much we have to eat today.

>> it shrinks down?

>> no, you can't get that much in the turkey.

>> oh.

>> savannah asked me to ask that question. from savannah, does it shrink down? okay.

>> no, we want to cook it outside so we could have a ton of it.

>> i'm a better eater than cooker. sam , thank you.

>> good to see you. up next, kathie lee and hoda coming up after your local news.