If your Thanksgiving is anything like the ones I grew up with, there has to be a wide variety of dishes, from three kinds of potatoes (mashed, roasted and sweet) to pearled onions, stuffing, Brussels Sprouts and more. Hopefully that is enough food to keep the mouths occupied and not endlessly arguing about politics, sports or that contentious Trivial Pursuit answer. And remember, some nice wine and beer can help ease the family dynamics here a bit too.
However, if you're planning to spend your Thanksgiving on a boat, or to host the perfect Thanksgiving party on your yacht, you'll have to plan carefully how much food to make while keeping your feast's goals realistic. After all, compact boat galleys can be tough places to cook up a big meal of this wide-ranging, migraine-inducing magnitude. Below we've compiled some pro tips for how to manage the preparation of your Thanksgiving feast onboard, including the best way to cook a turkey on a boat with limited space.
The Main Course
Let's face it your boat guests may not consider it a proper Thanksgiving feast without the bird. So what is the best way to cook a turkey on a boat? We suggest the easiest way to cook a turkey onboard a yacht with a full galley, or even onboard a big day boat with a full size summer kitchen with grill and stovetop, it to use a Dutch Oven. This is hands down the easiest and quickest way to roast a whole turkey, thus making it ideal for preparing on a boat.
How To Cook A Turkey In A Dutch Oven
First you'll need to buy a Dutch Oven of course. The best dutch oven for cooking a turkey is one with a temperature gauge or digital read out, so that you can be sure you have the oven at the proper temperature for cooking the turkey properly. Williams Sonoma has a great all-clad, cast iron Dutch Oven with a digital temperature readout that makes it easier.
Next, you'll need to make sure that you buy a turkey that will fit inside your Dutch Oven. A 10-12 pound bird should fit nicely in many Dutch Ovens, and should take about 2.5 hours to cook using the manner we outline here. One of the great things about preparing a turkey in this manner is that the meat will remain very moist and the cooking time is significantly lower than baking it in a traditional oven.
Once you're ready with your turkey and your perfect Dutch Oven, here are the quick and easy steps for roasting the turkey:
- Preheat the Dutch Oven to 500 degrees
- Prepare the turkey as you wish by removing giblets, seasoning, rubbing and stuffing with desired filling
- Put the turkey in the Dutch Oven and roast at 500 degrees for 20-30 minutes
- Reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast for another 2 hours
- Remove turkey from the oven
- Use the turkey thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the turkey has reached 165 degrees
- Let stand for 25 minutes
- Serve and enjoy!
Now that you have the main course covered, next you have to come up with some good side dishes that are easy to heat and serve on your boat. Our next pro tip for cooking aboard is to prepare this three-in-one cranberry-themed and easily refrigerated recipe ahead of time, then turn it into three show-stopping dishes on Turkey Day.
Three-In-One Cranberry-Inspired Thanksgiving Recipe
Our contributor Kim Kavin came up with this space-saving, clever Thanksgiving concept during a bout of "cranberry relish hysteria" circa 2015. She already buys the rubbery canned stuff for her aunt who says, "Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without it". But Kim also cooks down fresh cranberries on the stove for her Mom, lest that classic gem’s absence be lamented in every phone call straight through Christmas. Finally she also makes a third relish recipe that involves chopping and boiling a ridiculous quantity of dried fruits, figs and more—because, well, that’s the one she likes, and after all - it’s her kitchen.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, despite her three cranberry relish options, her relatives still whined that they wanted more. So she went online and found a wonderful recipe for cranberry-pear mostarda. The mustard seeds and cayenne give it a spicy zip that sweeter cranberry recipes lack, and so she added the mostarda to the already out-of-control relish repertoire.
This mostarda can be made five days ahead. Making a double-size batch and then applying it three ways saves time, which helps get the last of the nitpickers to pipe down and perhaps even earns you the reverence of an Iron Chef. Here's the three-part addition to the meal:
- Cranberry And Brie Cheese Appetizer With WalnutsWe start with the appetizer round. Bring the above (now refrigerated) mostarda back to room temperature, add chopped walnuts to it and bake it into the middle of a wheel of phyllo-wrapped brie (you can use your Dutch Oven for this if you'd like). Any baked brie recipe will do; I’ve had success with this one, substituting the mostarda with walnuts for the suggested filling.
- Cranberry Condiment Now onto the main event, we incorporate our pre-made cranberry recipe into the next course with a relish-style condiment. That’s easy. Bring the mostarda up to room temperature and serve it with a spoon.
- Cranberry Acorn SquashAlso with the main course, we can use the cranberry dish in another great and easy side dish. Cut a few small acorn squash in half, remove the seeds, press in some butter and bake them face-down in a baking dish filled with about an inch of water, until the squash is soft. Then flip them right-side up, stuff them with a mixture of brown rice, slivered almonds, a little brown sugar and—you guessed it—the mostarda (that’s the fancy, squash-as-bowl look that gets wowzas when presented on a platter; you can also scoop out the cooked squash and turn the whole blend into a casserole to reheat at the last minute, if galley counter space is in short supply for plating).
Don't Forget The Potatoes
In my house, mashed potatoes are a necessary staple at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Of course preparing enough mashed potatoes is always an issue, and is likely to be even more of a challenge on a boat. Fortunately all you really need to create great mashed potatoes is a large pot on a stovetop. As most boat galleys and summer kitchens will have electric stovetop burners, or a grill that can serve as one, you can make this staple and satisfy those watering mouths.
Simple Mashed Potato Recipe, Step-By-Step:
- Fill the pot with water leaving enough room for the potatoes once you add them
- Add a few pinches of salt to the water
- Bring the water to a rapid boil
- Add potatoes (the rule is 1/2 lb. per person, although you will be limited by your pot)
- Boil for 30-40 minutes
- Reduce heat to simmer
- Drain excess water
- Use a potato masher or large wooden spoon to mash the potatoes in the pot (reducing dishes onboard)
- Add a full stick of butter, sliced and stir
- Slowly stir in 8-16 ounces of heavy cream to achieve the desired consistency
- Add salt and pepper to taste
Editor's Note: Portions of this article were originally written in November 2017, but were incorporated here and re-written in November 2021. For more Thanksgiving features, read our Editor's Choice: Boats We're Thankful For This Thanksgiving. Don't forget to share your own Thanksgiving recipes with us on the boats.com Facebook page.