Adulting: How the F--k Do I Cook a Holiday Meal?


(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

If you're like me, you're probably thinking Shiiiiiiiit now that you've realized just how close Thanksgiving is and just how little your cooking knowledge is going to serve you come that fateful day. You're an adult, you might think as you buy a turkey in hopes to prepare it for friends and family. You got this. But after consulting 1,341 pins, how-tos, and recipe cards from grandma (seriously, what is this handwriting? Will I ever have handwriting this pretty?), you're stumped. HOW THE HELL?

First: Stay calm. You *can* do this. Here's how.

The Breakdown

Thanks to Chef Theodore Leaf, the entertainment guru on Logo TV's Secret Guide to Being Fabulous, here is a literal CHART to get you going. Boom. (Bless you, Chef Leaf. Bless you.)

Thanksgiving prep time graph

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

Want to switch up the usual suspects for something more surprising? We got the goods from Chef Ricardo Arias, executive chef at NYC's dinnertable, who suggests, instead of a normal basting or seasoning for the turkey, trying the Puerto Rican way. "At Puerto Rican Thanksgiving, we prepare 'pavochón.' It's a turkey seasoned and treated like a pork shoulder." Sounds delicious, no?


Here's his recipe:

To make the seasoning:

Ingredients: 1tsp. salt, 1tsp. toasted cumin seed, 1tsp. dried oregano, 1tsp. annatto seed, 1tsp. onion powder, 1tsp. garlic powder, 1.5 tsp. dried cilantro, 1 slice of dehydrated lime, 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Toast all the spices and herbs separately and use a food processor to blend into a thin powder.

To make the pavochón: "This process has to be done at least two days before you cook the turkey for best results. Take the entire bird and put it on a wire rack. Dry the skin with a paper towel until you have removed most of the moisture. Dry rub generously with the seasoning mixture. In the cavity, feel free to put fresh garlic, oranges,celery, oregano and cilantro. Loosely cover it with aluminum foil and let it air dry for two days, which will ensure the crispiest skin, resembling a chicharron.

a plate of food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After the two-day period, dry the skin and season once again. Then bake the turkey low and slow at 325 degrees until the internal temperature of the thighs is 165 degrees. If the skin needs more crisping just turn the oven up to 400 degrees when the internal temperature is almost ready."

Look, you don't have to do *everything.* Use a pre-made stuffing mix (we like Pepperidge Farm's herb seasoned classic stuffing) and/or buy the damn pie. Don't want to clean up? Head to TaskRabbit and get someone else to do it for you.

Work Smarter

"You want to enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends. Prepare everything you can beforehand and organize your prep, and you will succeed in making a great dinner while enjoying yourself." —Chef Ricardo Arias

Don't Be Accountable for it All

"Delegate! Thanksgiving is a collaborative potluck, all about sharing and family—use them. Have your guests bring sides or desserts and you focus on the turkey and gravy!" —Chef Hunter Pritchett from The Chicken or the Egg restaurant

Don't Get Cocky

You might have everything figured out timing-wise but don't forget to check the small things—like whether you have the right tools (including a rack or carving knife). "Check that the pan *and* the turkey actually fit in your oven." —Chef Theodore Leaf

Finally: No one will remember a bad meal if they're drunk enough. (Haha kidding. Kind of.) Feel free to open with Champagne and then try a few of our favorite reds:

list of wines

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

1. To Be Honest by Winc x Matt Bellassai ($13): One of the easiest-to-drink red blends that you can definitely enjoy a couple glasses bottles of.

2. Charles Smith Substance Cabernet Sauvignon ($18): A crowd pleaser and the top-rated cabernet sauvignon in the U.S. Any questions?

3. SIMI 2013 Landslide Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($38): A full-bodied red that pairs perfectly with turkey and cranberry sauce.

4. Castello di Gabiano La Braja ($23): Finishes with a light spice and medium finish, perfect for meats and turkey.

5. Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir 2014 ($25): With flavors including gingerbread, cranberry, and plum, it's kind of the ultimate holiday wine.

6. Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz 2015 ($12): This slightly sweet red is great for dessert time.

7. Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero 2013 ($23): Black fruits and vanilla work well in this Spanish wine.

8. 19 Crimes Red Wine ($12): Cherry, red fruits, and an oh-so-smooth finish.

9. Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon ($11): Full-bodied with notes of black cherry, ripe currants, and roasted coffee.

Now enjoy! (And reward yourself later with a little Gilmore Girls revival viewing.)

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Samantha Leal
Senior Editor

Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.