Spatchcock 'stuffed' turkey, easiest mashed potatoes and pecan pie bar recipes for Thanksgiving

America's Test Kitchen joined "GMA" to help simplify the holiday fare.

November 22, 2023, 7:50 AM

America's Test Kitchen offers expert advice for every cook, from beginner to expert, and this Thanksgiving, "Good Morning America" tapped the show's brass to help home cooks get three essential holiday dishes on the table with ease.

Check out full recipes below for easy mashed potatoes, a spatchcocked and stuffed turkey, and nutty pecan pie bars.

Fastest, Easiest Mashed Potatoes

PHOTO: Every Day Mashed Potatoes.
Every Day Mashed Potatoes.
Americas Test Kitchen

Serves: 4
Cook time: 25 minutes

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"You can make great mashed potatoes efficiently and any way you like -- smooth or chunky, fluffy or creamy, earthy or buttery -- as long as you start with properly cooked spuds. It's crucial to avoid overcooking, which results in too much free starch that gelatinizes and renders the mash gluey. To avoid overcooking and also make the cooking go as quickly as possible, we started by slicing the potatoes thin to ensure that they'd cook through more quickly and evenly. We also packed them tightly into a moderately sized pot, which reduced the amount of water needed to cover them and thus the time it took for the water to come to a boil. Choosing the potato variety, processing tool, and ratio of half-and-half (richer than milk, less cloying than cream) to potato allowed us to adjust the flavor and consistency to our liking."

2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
8-10 tablespoons half-and-half or milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon table salt


Before you begin: Yukon Gold potatoes will deliver buttery flavor and color; for earthier flavor, use russets. For a smooth mash, use a ricer or food mill; for a chunkier texture, use a potato masher. For lean mashed potatoes, use milk; for a richer result, use half-and-half. Slicing the potatoes while the water comes to a boil saves time. When not serving it with gravy, we top the mash with a pat of butter.

Bring 1 quart water to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Add potatoes, making sure they are fully submerged in water. (If not, add just enough water to cover). Return water to boil, then adjust heat to maintain very gentle simmer. Cover and cook until paring knife meets no resistance when slipped into center of potatoes, about 12 minutes.

Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Use potato masher, ricer or food mill to process potatoes to desired consistency. Stir in 1/2 cup half-and-half, butter and salt until combined. If desired, adjust consistency with remaining half-and-half. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

"Stuffed" Spatchcock Turkey

PHOTO: Spatchcocked stuffed turkey, flipped and flattened.
Spatchcocked stuffed turkey, flipped and flattened.
Americas Test Kitchen

"Remove the backbone and roast your bird flat atop a big pile of stuffing to produce succulent meat, crackling skin, and plenty of everyone's favorite side dish," Erica Turner wrote alongside the recipe for America's Test Kitchen.

1/4 cup kosher salt
4 teaspoons sugar
12-14-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved for gravy
1 1/2 pounds hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large eggs
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 onions, chopped
6 celery ribs, chopped fine
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine salt and sugar in bowl. Place turkey on counter breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut through bones on either side of backbone, staying as close as possible to backbone. Remove backbone and save for gravy, if making. Flip turkey over and press down firmly with heels of your hands to flatten breastbone.

Using your fingers, carefully loosen skin covering breast and leg quarters. Rub 5 teaspoons salt mixture under skin of each side of breast, 2 teaspoons under skin of each leg, and remaining mixture onto cavity. Tuck wings under turkey and place turkey skin side up on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours or up to 2 days.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 250 F. Spread bread cubes in even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake until mostly dry and very lightly browned, 40 to 50 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

Remove bread from oven and cool on sheets for at least 15 minutes.

While bread cools, adjust lower oven rack to middle position and increase oven temperature to 425 F. Whisk eggs and water in large bowl until combined. When bread is cool, add to egg mixture and toss gently so bread is fully coated but does not break apart; set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in thyme, sage, garlic and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to bowl with bread and stir gently to combine (stuffing will seem dry). (Stuffing can be refrigerated for 24 hours.)

Spray roasting pan with vegetable oil spray. Transfer stuffing to pan and shape into level 9-by-9-inch square. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Arrange turkey on top of stuffing. Tuck any exposed stuffing under bird, so all of stuffing is covered. Cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil. Roast on middle rack for 45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven and discard foil.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter and brush evenly over turkey. Return turkey to oven and continue to roast until skin is deep golden brown and breast registers 155 F and thighs register 175 F, 2 to 2 1/2 hours longer.

Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes. While turkey rests, stir stuffing well to incorporate drippings and scrape up any browned bits. Redistribute stuffing over bottom of roasting pan in even layer. When turkey has rested for 15 minutes, return stuffing to oven and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer stuffing to serving dish. Carve turkey and arrange on serving platter. Serve turkey with stuffing.

Ultranutty Pecan Pie Bars

PHOTO: Brian Franklin brian.franklin@americastk agreed to permissions. email sent to photo permissions.
Ultranutty Pecan Bars.
Americas Test Kitchen

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1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces; 248 grams) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (2 2/3 ounces; 75 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces; 149 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups (1 pound) pecan halves, toasted
1/2 teaspoon flake sea salt (optional)


Before you begin: It is important to use pecan halves, not pieces. The edges of the bars will be slightly firmer than the center. If desired, trim 1/4 inch from the edges before cutting into bars. Toast the pecans in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 F until fragrant, 8 to 12 minutes, shaking the sheet halfway through.

For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 F. Make foil sling for 13-by-9-inch baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil, first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Lightly spray foil with vegetable oil spray.

Whisk flour, sugar and salt together in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with wooden spoon until dough begins to form. Using your hands, continue to combine until no dry flour remains and small portion of dough holds together when squeezed in palm of your hand. Evenly scatter tablespoon-size pieces of dough over surface of pan. Using your fingertips and palm of your hand, press and smooth dough into even thickness in bottom of pan.

For the topping: Whisk sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and salt together in medium bowl until smooth (mixture will look separated at first but will become homogeneous), about 20 seconds. Fold pecans into sugar mixture until nuts are evenly coated.

Pour topping over crust. Using spatula, spread topping over crust, pushing to edges and into corners (there will be bare patches). Bake until topping is evenly distributed and rapidly bubbling across entire surface, 23 to 25 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack and lightly sprinkle with flake sea salt, if using. Let bars cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 1/2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 24 bars. (Bars can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.)

Recipes reprinted courtesy of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated.

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