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40 years of Martha Stewart on TODAY: Her top Thanksgiving tips and recipes

From the perfect turkey to the perfect pie crust, we're taking a look back at all the amazing Thanksgiving advice she's given us over the years.
This Thanksgiving, we're celebrating 40 years of Martha Stewart on the TODAY show.
This Thanksgiving, we're celebrating 40 years of Martha Stewart on the TODAY show.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images/ TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

In addition to celebrating Thanksgiving today, we're also celebrating 40 years of Martha Stewart on TODAY.

For four decades, the lifestyle expert has been gracefully leading us through the holidays with her entertaining and decorating advice, tasty turkey day recipes and cooking tips. Plus, this year, the 79-year-old rang in the 30th year of her magazine Martha Stewart Living. 2020 apparently has some upsides.

To celebrate Stewart's milestones, NBC's Harry Smith visited her in person to enjoy a few laughs and, of course, brush up on her Thanksgiving tips and recipes. Because, if you're going to honor Stewart, you've got to know how to make the perfect turkey.

"I think I probably cooked, oh, maybe, I've cooked, let me see, 60 Thanksgivings at least, maybe more," Stewart told Smith. "'Cause I got married when I was 19, and I did my first Thanksgiving … when I was 20 years old."

Martha Stewart is the reason many of our Thanksgiving turkeys have come out so well.TODAY

Turkey 101

How to avoid a dry bird

Important things to remember when roasting your Thanksgiving turkey: Always baste the bird to keep it moist. You can also use a cheesecloth to prevent the dark meat from burning. For those who don't have cheesecloth, Stewart says any clean cotton T-shirt works fine.

To keep the drumsticks from drying out, Stewart advises covering them with a little foil if they start to brown after about an hour.

Martha Stewart's Perfect Roast Turkey

"This is the most basic and beautiful way to roast a turkey — and you'll get this glazed beautiful bird that you'll be proud to have on your table," Stewart said of her Perfect Roast Turkey recipe in 2019.

Trussing

Trussing, or tying up the legs and wings of a bird, is important for keeping everything together and making sure the legs don't spread out and overcook.

"Make sure you truss the chicken right — go around the neck bone, up and around the drumsticks," Martha told TODAY in 1991. "It's real easy: just one piece of string, tie it up. "

Martha Stewart's Upside-Down Turkey

Stewart also enjoys making her Upside-Down Turkey recipe, which starts by cooking the bird breast-side-down, making for extremely flavorful and moist breast meat.

Spatchcocking

"If you only have one oven and you have to make your pies and your sides and your turkey, spatchcocking is a good idea," Stewart told TODAY in 2019.

The term refers to removing the backbone of the bird so it can lie flat while it cooks, cutting down on both time and space. Don't be intimidated: Stewart has an easy guide about how to spatchcock a turkey properly.

It's all about the gravy, baby

In 1992, Stewart revealed her secret to the best gravy on TODAY: white wine.

"If you have any white wine or Champagne I put that at the bottom of the pan and that makes the most delicious drippings for the gravy," she said.

The perfect pie

As Stewart showed TODAY in 1996, making her Perfect Pie Crust occurs when you make the dough cold and then bake it hot. It also helps to press down gently around the pie dish to crimp the edges.

Even though Lemon Meringue Pie isn't a fall classic, Stewart makes it every year for Thanksgiving. She loves the airy, delicate texture and flavor for something sweet after a heavy meal.

Martha Stewart's Lemon Mousse Cake

For those who prefer a fall favorite, Stewart's Pecan Pie can be made several hours ahead since it really needs time to cool. It will also fill the whole house smell of toasted pecans and warm spices.

Decorate a festive table with family

Stewart enjoys creating a table setting that's both personal and seasonal.

"I collect these old turkey plates and always put them on my table," Stewart told TODAY in 1993. "I just love making a colorful table that's very appropriate for the season."

Stewart said she also uses hand-crafted place cards that are decorated like turkeys, made by her granddaughter, Jude.

Express gratitude

Many families express what they're grateful for on Thanksgiving Day, and Stewart shared how her family and close friends have helping her get through this tough time.

"What are you thankful for?" Smith asked Stewart.

"Well, right now, healthy daughter, healthy grandchildren, healthy friends. Lots of work," she said. "I mean, how lucky I am getting to talk to Harry Smith, for God's sake."

Martha Stewart, during one of her early appearances on TODAY, getting ready for Thanksgiving on the farm.TODAY

Pick up new hobbies

During COVID-19 lockdowns, Stewart picked up an old pastime: knitting.

"I picked up knitting again. Knitting. I haven't knitted for years," she told Smith.

She also plans to pick up poker: "I really want to learn poker really well, 'cause I think poker's fun," she said.

Aside from her boundless energy and creativity, Stewart says her trick to staying, well, Martha Stewart, is by focusing on the future.

"I don't think back, I think forward," she explained. "And I think, you know, hopefully next year will be better for all of us … And I just hope for everybody that, that it's a whole new beginning. January, a new beginning for America, right? We want to bring people back together again … it's very important to me that we all think that way."